Listening Test Audio Guide Series

IELTS Lessons, written by Sam Morgan and Tom Speed

This is a guide to answer a listening test. If you would like to try sections one and two before doing section three, click the buttons below.
Click play below to start section three of the guided test.

IELTSTutors Guided Listening Test 21-30.mp3
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Complete the Notes


Questions 21 to 30 require us to fill in the gaps in the notes.
Importantly we can’t write more than three words in each gap. The section is also divided into two: First comes questions 21 to 24, then 25 to 30. This gives us a bit more time to study the notes.

Let’s review what we know about completing notes.​ 

IELTSTutor Tips:
In the time before we listen, we should think about

  • the speakers – Who are they? Where are they? What will they talk about?
  • the information that belongs in the gaps – Should it be a word, a name or a number?

We can also add that for information that can’t be guessed, we can still prepare ourselves by thinking of synonyms and paraphrases of key words around the gaps.

​Let’s follow the tips above. Try these tips yourself before you look at our notes. Pause the recording if you need to.
IELTSTutors Notes

Who are the speakers and what are they talking about?

Just from looking at the questions it is hard to say who the speakers are, but it is clear that they are going to talk about a novel. 

What information belongs in the gaps?


This must be the title of the novel, so it’s not something we can guess.


​A time period could be ‘the 17th/18th/19th century’ or ‘the 2000s’ or even ‘the Victorian era’.  


​The answer is probably a verb; maybe ‘fall in love’, but we shouldn’t worry too much about this because it is difficult to guess.


​Something that the character has could be a noun like ‘dreams’, ‘desires’ or ‘hopes’


​This is a definition of ‘Symbols’, so the answer could be ‘character emotions’ or ‘story ideas’. There are many possible answers here, so we don’t need to spend too much time thinking about them all.


​We can’t guess this one, so let’s move on to 27.


​These following gaps are difficult to guess but we can study the language to prepare ourselves.

‘Secrecy’ means ‘being secret’.

‘metaphorical’ means describing one thing using another thing: “IELTS is the key to open doors around the world” is a metaphor because we are using one thing ‘key’ to describe another ‘IELTS’.

A synonym for ‘metaphorical’ is ‘figurative’. ‘Literal’ meaning talking about something in a basic/actual way: “The tiger was orange and black”.

‘Transition’ means change/movement from one thing to another.


​‘Themes’ means ‘ideas’, ‘connections’ means ‘links’ and ‘outlook’ is the way we think about life (usually we have a positive or negative outlook). We must be ready to listen for what might link to outlook.


​‘Well-being’ is a term for happiness, so we should be prepared for what might be linked to happiness.


​This is something that we all need, so the answer may be ‘friendship’ or a synonym like ‘companionship’ or ‘love’.

Now we are ready to listen. 

IELTSTutor Tips:
As we listen:

  • When we find our answer, we should write what we hear.
  • To save time, we should write numbers as figures (“7”, not “seven”).

Try these tips as you listen, then check your answers with us.

​IELTSTutors Answers


The Secret Garden

‘I want to run over some aspects of the novel, The Secret Garden’. Note that the speaker uses ‘run over’ to mean ‘talk about’.


(the) 20th/twentieth century 

The story is set shortly after the turn of the twentieth century’. It’s good to know that ‘the turn of’ means ‘the beginning of’.



believing himself to be permanently crippled with no hope of ever gaining the ability to walk’. The paraphrase we should be aware of is ‘never be able to’ for the phrase ‘no hope of ever’. 



 ‘we get to see how all the characters feel about things, what they like and don’t like, and what their motivations are in the story.’ Our guess was close. The notes use ‘opinions’ but the speaker says ‘what they like and don’t like’ which is a paraphrase. 


abstract ideas 

Symbols are things, right? Material things – like objects – that stand for abstract ideas.’ We were close with ‘story ideas’. Notice the synonym used for ‘represents’ is ‘stand for’.



Roses are used as well – as a personal symbol for Mistress Craven’.


dark(ness) to light(ness) 

slowly the characters share their secrets and in the process move from darkness to lightness, metaphorically’. The word that helps us be ready for this answer is ‘secrets’. We didn’t guess this one, but by studying the language we were ready for the answer. We noticed that transition could mean movement, and the speaker says ‘move from darkness to lightness’. 



 ‘health can determine and be determined by our outlook on life’. We used the word ‘link’ when we studied the language of the question, but the speaker uses ‘can determine and be determined by’ to express a connection. Knowing this level of language really helps our understanding in the later sections of the listening test.



The author also examines the link between our environment and our physical and emotional prosperity.’ Here we can see the work ‘link’, indicating the answer is close (the notes use ‘connection’). A complex paraphrase for well-being is used here: ‘physical and emotional prosperity’. The high level of vocabulary means this is a question that many students find difficult.


human companionship 

This necessity of human companionship is the novel’s most significant theme’. Our guess was very close. The speaker uses ‘necessity’ to mean ‘need’.

I hope from these answers you can see how important it is to paraphrase and find synonyms of words in the questions. It’s great preparation before the recording begins.

Let’s move on to section four.