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Synonyms in IELTS Listening Answers

by Aziz Ch.
(Baku - Azerbaijan)

Dear Sir or Madam,

I would highly appreciate if I could get a definite answer about using synonyms as an answer in the IELTS Listening test.

In sentence or note completion questions such as:

(word limit only one word)


- songs learned by birds exposed to mercury are less _________________ .

In the answer key it says: complex / complicated

In the recording, students hear the word "Complex" but not the word "Complicated".

Is the answer "complicated" accepted as true in the real ielts listening test or it is not accepted as true?

Cambridge IELTS books 10-11-12 (authentic past papers), in their answer key, they accept as true.

For example, the answer for the blank in sentence completion / note completion is "cost (s)" . but "price(s) / bill(s)" are given also as true and accepted answer although there is NO mentioning / or uttered word of price/bill in the recording.

Do they really accept some synonyms as true answers in the listening section of the ielts test? If not, do you think Cambridge official books provide a wrong answer by adding synonyms for some questions?

motorbike/ motorcycle (in the recording motorbike)

complex / complicated (in the recording complex)

cost / price / bill (in the recording cost)

If other answers are not accepted, why do they add these synonyms in the answer key , then ? (listening - note / sentence completion questions)

I would be eternally grateful if you clarify this for me.
best wishes

Comments for Synonyms in IELTS Listening Answers

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Mar 10, 2018
Synonyms in IELTS Listening Answers
by: IELTS buddy

Hi Aziz,

I think it's very unlikely that the official books will be giving the wrong information as they are taken from real past tests. So those other answers must have been accepted.

The thing is IELTS are unlikely to officially say whether they will accept synonyms because that could just get confusing for those studying for the test.

If the listening says 'complex', and 'complicated' fits, which means the same thing, then yes it looks like you would get the point.

But what if you put down a synonym that IELTS didn't think of and so was not in the answer key that the marker is referring to to score you? It will get marked as wrong.

Or what if you use a synonym that is not quite right. It will also be marked as wrong.

So the rule for you should still be to write down exactly what is said if at all possible.

If you miss an answer then yes write down what you think it was. If it's a synonym you end up writing down and it fits and is accepted in the marking key then great as you get the mark.

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