In the IELTS listening test, you might be asked to complete a map while listening to someone talking about a particular place. Today, we are going to explore this part of the exam and I will show you how to develop your listening skills in order to excel at it. This article will explore the vocabulary and skills you need to do this sort of question.


First of all, why do you need to fill in a map for IELTS listening? Well, this deals with a specific kind of language that is quite important when you are learning and using English. Being able to follow instructions, pick out important information, and keep track of a conversation are all utterly essential when it comes to using English. As such, they will be tested in IELTS.

Let’s look at this example from an IELTS listening test:

ielts listening map

There are no tricks here and this is not intended to fool you. You are required to simply follow a spoken description and then point out the right places. This sort of ability will help you a lot when you move to an English-speaking country one day!

This type of question could occur at any point in your IELTS listening test but it is more common in section two than other sections.


This sort of task is often referred to as “map labelling.” That is because you will listen to someone talking about an area and then you will fill in certain blanks with a list of potential places, like this:

ielts listening map

You can see from the two examples we have already seen that there are at least two variations of this question. In one case, you have places on a map that are marked by letters. You need to connect them to a list of place names. In the other, you have a map with blank spaces and you need to choose the best answer from a short list of names. Both versions are very common.

This is how you should answer IELTS map labelling questions:

  1. Read the instructions carefully.
  2. Look at the map to get an idea of what you will hear.
  3. Listen and note down the answers as you hear them.
  4. Take a guess for any answers that you did not hear.

Remember that there will be plenty of words you do not need to pay attention to, so try not to feel overwhelmed by the audio recording. If you miss an answer, just move on to the next part.


We are going to do some practice today but first I would like to introduce you to some IELTS listening map vocabulary. This is because the language here is very important. It is what we call functional language and it is quite essential for daily living in English-speaking places.

Of course, the most important vocabulary to know for map labelling is location vocabulary. This includes a lot of prepositions but you also need to know adjectives and verbs and other parts of speech. To be honest, it is better to learn these ideas as phrases rather than individual words.

In addition to location vocabulary, you also need to think about directional and instructional vocabulary – ie the words that tell you where to go or what to do.

IELTS Vocabulary for Location and Direction

Here are a few more:

Turn left/right…Go straight for/on…Head south on…
Keep going…When you get to…Across / kitty corner from…
Next to…Behind…At the corner of…
On the left/ right of…It’s hidden behind…It’s about 100 metres from…
Near to…A little before/after…Clockwise/anticlockwise…


Finally, it is also important when labelling maps that you know the different names of places. To be honest, this is not quite as vital as the location/direction vocabulary because many of these places will be listed on your test paper. However, it is still an advantage to know it. Here are some words that might help.

Traffic signRouteJunctionBlock
MapOne-way streetSide roadRoundabout
CrosswalkApartment buildingIntersectionEntrance

If you want to learn more vocabulary about maps, you can also check out my lesson on describing maps for IELTS writing.


When doing this sort of test, you should be careful of a few things. Here is some general advice about IELTS listening and maps:

  1. Read the instructions carefully before you begin.
  2. Look at the map and imagine what you may hear.
  3. Don’t worry about every single word.
  4. Visualise what you hear.
  5. Check your spelling (after listening).
  6. Take a guess for each answer you missed.
  7. Listen for clues (“We are now approaching…” etc)


Ok, let’s actually do some listening practice now!

Instructions: Look at the map and then listen to the audio recording. You should label 1-5 with no more than TWO words.

Press ‘play’ to listen to the audio.

  1. _______
  2. _______
  3. _______
  4. _______
  5. _______

You can see the answers and transcript below.


Hello and welcome to the free Kampot walking tour. This morning, we are going to take a thirty minute walk around the middle of the town and I will show you some of the landmarks and other places that you might need to know while staying here.

Do you all have your maps? Good.

Right, I’ll begin. We are starting off at the Kampot fish market, which is where we are right now. Well done on finding it, by the way. So to our east is the (1) OLD MARKET. This is where many of the shops and restaurants are located. In the evening, this can be pretty lively so it is great place to get some food and have a drink.

From the old market, we will head further east, past the Milano pizza café. There is a long park there that many old people like to use for exercising. This park will intersect with the main road through town. We will see a (2) SUPERMARKET on the right once we reach the main road, but actually we are going to head left and follow the main road towards Kampot’s most famous landmark… the big durian! This is a huge statue of a durian in the middle of a large roundabout.

Just off the roundabout, we will stop at a (3) CURRENCY EXCHANGE for you to change any money that you need. This place has pretty good rates so it is a good opportunity if you need it. From there, we will head back west in the direction of the river. We will take some side streets because the French colonial architecture is really fascinating. I’ll show you where the (4) BUS STATION is because most of you will go there when you leave town. It’s between the Sinet phone shop and a restaurant called Jetzt.

Finally, we will end our short tour at the (5) OLD BRIDGE. This is another major landmark. Open only to motorcycles and bicycles, it was built in 19…

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