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10 tips for answering map or plan questions in IELTS Listening


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Date Published

01 February 2023

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When was the last time you asked a person (not your phone or computer) for directions? If, like me, it was a long time ago, you may need help following the directions or description you hear when answering map or plan questions in Part 2 of the IELTS Listening test.

The good news is that we have 10 tips on how to answer these types of questions!

IELTS Listening map and plan questions

Let’s start by looking at exactly what IELTS Listening map and plan questions are so you know what to expect in your IELTS test.

There are in fact two different ways that map and plan questions are presented.

The first way is numbered questions on a map or plan and a list of possible answers (A, B, C, etc.) above or to the side, like this example taken for Official IELTS Practice Materials 2:

Example of IELTS Listening plan question

The second way is the possible answers (A, B, C, etc.) on the map or plan and the numbered questions below that, like this example from IELTS 15:

Example of IELTS Listening map question

This is important to know because, as you’ll see below, the way the questions are presented gives you a clue about how the information in the recording is organised.

Remember! You only have limited time to look at the Listening questions before the recording starts, so it’s important to make the best use of this time.

Tips before you listen

  1. Read the instructions and the title of the map or plan if there is one, check if the numbered questions are on the map/plan or below it, and most importantly, identify if there’s a likely starting place, e.g. an arrow and/or an entrance to a building or park like the main gate in the plan above.
  2. Circle or underline labels on the map/plan and check if there’s a compass as these will probably be included in the recording as part of the directions/description (e.g. It’s just south of the Adventure Playground).
  3. If the numbered questions are on the map/plan, check if the questions go in order from bottom to top, left to right, etc. as this tells you how the information in the recording will be organised and may indicate where the recording will start from (e.g. Questions 11-17 in the plan above go in order from the bottom left to the top and then to the bottom right).
  4. If the possible answers are on the map/plan, remember that these do not tell you how information in the recording will be organised (e.g. Location C may or may not be mentioned before Location D in the map above).
  5. Look at the list of places you need to identify but don’t try to remember them all as you can look at the list while listening or after listening if you take notes during the recording.

Tips for while you’re listening

If you follow the tips below, you’ll be less likely to get lost while listening, and, if you do get lost, you’ll be more able to quickly find your place again.

  1. Draw your place on the map/plan as you listen as this will keep you focused on following the directions/description and, if you do get lost, listen for a mention of one of the labels on the map/plan so that you know where you are again (e.g. the information point in the plan above).
  2. Listen for words/phrases that tell you the direction to move in or where something is (e.g. walk straight ahead, opposite, on the left) as these will help you follow the directions/description and identify answers.
  3. Listen for the locations given in the numbered questions or possible answers as the recording will use these names not synonyms, e.g. the recording for the map above will include ‘outdoor gym’ not ‘exercise equipment’.
  4. Avoid distractors as alternative but incorrect answers will be mentioned in the recording.

Remember! You’re allowed to draw on the Listening question paper in the paper-based test.

Tips for after you’ve listened

Here’s one last tip in case you miss any of the answers while listening.

  1. Guess any answers you don’t know as you won’t lose marks for wrong answers and you could guess right!

Good luck