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Changes to the IELTS Listening Exam – January 2020

Changes to the IELTS Listening Exam – January 2020

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Starting from January 4th this year, Cambridge have made THREE changes to the paper-based Listening test format.

What are the changes?

1. There will no longer be any page numbers on the question paper.

2. The word “sections” will be changed to “parts”.

3. There will no longer be an example played at the start of Part 1.


How do these changes affect me?

The first two are very minor, and are just about the language in the instructions.

For example, before, you would hear: 

‘Now turn to Section 2, on Page 4.’

But in the new test, you’ll just hear 

‘Now turn to Part 2’

That’s literally all that’s changed, so nothing to worry about there! 


But the third change, removing the example in Part 1, is a bit more significant.

Firstly, in the past, you could use the example answer to check the volume on your headset, but now you’ll need to do this while you listen to the test instructions.

If you have any problem with hearing the recording clearly, you should raise your hand and ask for help.

Secondly, in the past, while listening to the example, many students used the time (around 30 seconds) to look ahead at the questions later on in the test. 

But now without the example, you’ll need to start listening carefully for the first answer as soon as the instructions finish. 


Fortunately however, the rest of the test is exactly the same, and these changes mean the paper-based test now has the same format as the computer-delivered test.

So, the changes shouldn’t affect your score at all, but it’s good to be aware of them because many of the practice tests you see will still use the old format.

For more detailed information, instruction, and strategy for the Listening Test, check out our IELTS Explained video course here.

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