IELTS Listening: Form Completion
Updated: Apr 21
Form completion questions are one of the easiest types of IELTS Listening questions to answer as long as you know how to recognise and write the vocabulary they typically contain.
You also need a good strategy to follow.
Form completion questions are common in Section 1 of the test and the recording will often be a telephone conversation between two people.
The two most common types of form you’ll see are:
An application form
An order or quotation form
Here are examples of both to show you what your question might look like.
The recording for this sample question is a telephone conversation between the Youth Council administrator and a young man who wants to apply for election to the Youth Council.
The recording for this sample question is a telephone conversation between a customer and an agent at a company which ships large boxes overseas.
Strategy & Tips
You will have a short time to prepare before the speakers begin talking. Use this time to familiarise yourself with the question and focus your mind on what you need to listen out for.
1) Read the instructions
Read the instruction carefully, paying particular attention to how many words you are allowed to write for the answer.
The instructions for our sample question state that you must,
Write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER for each answer.
If you write more than three words, your answer will be marked incorrect even if the information you give is correct. Don’t lose marks over silly mistakes like this.
2) Look for a title
Not every question will have a title but if there is one, it will tell you the context of the question. Our sample question has the title ‘PACKHAM’S SHIPPING AGENCY – customer quotation form’.
Knowing the context gives meaning to the information in the notes. This will help you to understand the question and give you a big clue as to what sort of information will be contained in the recording.
3) Predict the answers
Try to predict what the answers might be. This will focus your mind on what to listen out for in the recording.
Occasionally, you’ll be able to predict the actual word but mostly it’s one of these things that you’ll be able to determine:
The type of information required, e.g. surname, place name, date, phone number, postcode, percentage, price.
The type of word required, e.g. noun, adjective, verb.
The answers to form completion questions will usually be factual information such as that listed in the first bullet point above.
Any clues you can get will help you to understand the recording and identify the information needed for the answers.
Have a go at predicting some of the answers in our form completion practice question. There are 8 answers to fill in. Then have a look at my predictions below.
Here is the form again.
1 – a surname
2 – the college name
3 – a postcode made up of letters and numbers
4 & 5 – numbers of measurement
6 & 7 – nouns (items in the box)
8 – numbers written as a price
Answers 1 and 2 will be proper nouns so, the first letter of each word must be a capital. If you don’t use capitals, your answer will be marked wrong.
If you're concerned that you'll forget, write all your answers for the Listening test in capital letters.
4) Problematic vocabulary
There are 6 types of vocabulary that can cause particular problems for students and some of them will definitely be present in form completion questions, as we've just seen. The 6 types are:
You must be able to recognise them in speech and to write them correctly in your answers.
I’ve written a whole lesson on this topic, including 8 listening exercises to help you recognise & learn these types of vocabulary.
5) Synonyms and paraphrasing
In all types of Listening questions, you need to listen out for synonyms and paraphrasing. These are something else that you may be able to predict.
If you have time before the recording starts, scan the question to identify key words or phrases that are likely to be replaced by synonyms and think of some that might be used. For example, the word ‘box’ might be used instead of ‘container’.
As you’re listening to the recording, remind yourself that you are not only looking for the exact words as are used in the question but words and phrases that have the same meaning.
We’ll look at some synonyms that have been used in this question when we review the answers
6) Watch out for distractors
The examiners will try and catch you out with distractors. A distractor is a word or a phrase that changes or corrects the original piece of information given. So, you may be given an answer and then have it taken away again.
Here are some sample sentences containing distractors. I’ve highlighted the relevant words.
I really like the blue blouse but I think I’ll go for the red one as it will match my skirt better.
The package contains clothes, toys and five books. However, I’ll take out the books if their weight makes shipping too expensive.
I’d like to order two, please. No, wait a minute. I’ll have three so that I can give one to my mum as well as my sister.
‘But’ and ‘however’ are particularly common distractors but there are many different words and phrases that can be used to change or correct a piece of information so be alert for them.
7) Answer order
The answers will come in the same order in the recording as they are listed in the question so, you will hear answer 1 first, then answer 2 and so on. This makes it easier to pick out the answers than if they were in a random order.
8) Guess if necessary
My final tip is to never leave a blank space on the answer sheet. If you miss an answer, take an educated guess. This gives you at least some chance of getting it right. Don’t stress about a missed answer or it will affect your ability to answer the next set of questions. Just make your choice and move on.