IELTS Listening: Section 4 Practice

The listening exercise below is based on section 4 of IELTS listening and this particular exercise focuses on short answer questions. Read through the tips below before you start to listen.

Section 4 Tips
  • Section 4 is an academic talk by one speaker
  • Academic lectures are usually structured (introduction, main points, examples etc)
  • Notice when the speaker moves from one main point to another
  • Follow the structure of the talk to keep your place in the audio
  • Academic talks contain academic vocabulary
  • Don’t try to understand everything
  • Focus on listening for answers only
  • Predict the type of answer you need to listen for
  • Listen out for paraphrases
  • For this type of question type, answers will come in order
  • Make notes as you listen
  • Section 4 usually has 10 questions – this is a practice exercise

When you finish your listening practice, listening again and read the transcript at the same time. Answers are given below.

Section 4 Practice

Questions 1-5
Write no more than three words and/or a number.

Dolphin Intelligence

1. The lecture will concentrate on tools, communication, sonar and what other aspect of dolphin intelligence?
2. How big is the brain of the bottle-nosed dolphin?
3. What other species use tools?
4. What can dolphins copy from other species?
5. Can dolphins see out of the water?
6. What does a dolphin hear through?

Today I’m going to talk to you about dolphin intelligence and in particular their use of tools, methods of communication, sonar and also their sensory capacity.
But first let’s look at how the dolphin brain compares to the brains of other species in terms of size. The largest brain in the world belongs to the sperm whale. Weighing some 9,000 grams, it is six to seven times larger than the human brain. The second largest brain in the world is the killer whale (or orca) at 6,000 grams. The next largest brain among the marine mammals is the bottlenosed dolphin at 1,500 grams, followed by human brains at approximately 1,200 grams. Strong connections between the sensorial and motive areas of a dolphin’s brain to the body indicate that it is very much sensitive to pain and stress.
Looking at the way dolphin’s use tools, while many believe that primates, such as chimpanzees, are the only species who use tools for activities, dolphins studied in the wild have been seen using sea sponges to protect their snouts from getting scratched as they scavenge for food on the ocean floor. Dependent calves, young baby dophins, are also provided with sponges from their mothers, as research in the wild has seen infant dolphins wearing tiny sponges on their snouts while swimming close to their mothers.
With regards to dolphin communication, dolphins utilize “signature whistles” to identify themselves to others. In other words, these whistles can be seen as representing their names. Furthermore, dolphins can also mimic movements, of both humans and other animals.
Another interesting point about dolphins is of course their sonar. It has been suggested by several noted scientists that dolphins may be able to create acoustical holographic images from the interlacing of their sonic output. It is well known that dolphins can see inside the bodies of their fellow dolphins, and other animals in the water. This is because dolphin sonar evolved to pass through water and does not reflect until it hits something like bone or air sacs. Since animal bodies are more than 50% water, their sonar enables them to literally “see” inside other animals.
And finally, dolphins have fantastic sensory capacity. They have the ability to focus their eyesight due to the curvy characteristic of their lens, thus they are able to see both in and out of water. Moreover, dolphins have little more than a small hole for hearing, as having larger ears would severely affect the creature’s ability to swim. Rather, studies show that sounds are obtained through thin bones, and then are transferred to the inner ear through the fatty material that surrounds the eardrum. Adapted from here.
1. sensory capacity
2. 1500 grams / 1500g
3. primates / chimpanzees
4. movements
5. yes
6. a small hole / small hole
  • capacity = ability
  • indicate = show / point to
  • primate = monkey
  • snouts = noses (for dolphins and pigs)
  • scavenge = hunt / forage
  • infant = new born / child
  • mimic = copy



More Short Answer Questions Practice
More Section 4 Practice

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  1. of course is not written ofcourse or offcourse?

  2. Hi Liz for the last question I wrote tiny hole instead of small hole is it still correct?

  3. Hello,
    Is a transcript provided for the listening test in IELTS? Or candidates only have the recording that they listen to just once?

  4. Dear Liz,

    Can we also say “1500 GRAMMES” instead of “1500 GRAMS”

    Best wishes

  5. Dear Liz,
    Thank you for your time and these spectacular lessons. I got a question. Can I write “chimps” instead of “chimpanzees”, or is it wrong?
    Thank you!

  6. Hi Liz,
    If i write answers in capital letters, [both listening and reading] sometimes answers are given by small letters especially in multiple choices answers, what i should write capital letter or small.please help me.

  7. can we write 1500gr instead of 1500g ?

  8. Teacher Liz, I used sensor capacity instead of sensory in First blank. Is this fine or I have to be very careful with spellings

  9. Dr. Syed Iqtidar Ali Raza says:

    Dear Liz
    I have a query as always.
    Whenever we have to write timings in listening module like 9am to 5pm
    Do you recommend writing “to” in between or we can write a “-” also like 9am-5pm?????
    Kindly direct

    • You write what you hear. You only use extra words “and” or “to” if it is sentence completion. See my 25 tips lesson on the main listening page.

    • Dr. Syed Iqtidar Ali Raza says:

      Dear Liz
      In sec 4, sometimes the speaker is talking so fast that often you lag behind and the in a fraction of a second you miss some answers. This happens when you have to pick answers from a list of 7/8 possible answers
      And the answers do not come in order too
      What should we do in these questions
      Any more tips as I have gone through the list of tips already but it’s not helping me
      Kindly oblige

  10. Dr. Syed Iqtidar Ali Raza says:

    HI Liz
    I scored 6/6 in this test
    I have to appear in exam on 7th next month. By the level of this test can you expect me to score above 7 in listening module?
    Hope you would reply as your reply can do wonders to my confidence and I will feel a lot proud to get comments from a teacher like you

  11. Hi, Liz
    I am confused about the final answer. I thought the answer was THIN BONES. Could you explain why this is wrong, as the speaker mention that recent studies show sound are obtained through thin bones …..
    many thanks to you.

    • The answer is found in this sentence: “Moreover, dolphins have little more than a small hole for hearing”. The next sentence then explains how their hearing works. We are only interested in the hole not the mechanics of their hearing. The thin bones obtain sound but this is just one part of the mechanics of hearing.

  12. Hey Liz, where is the answer for “can dolphins see out of water?”.

    Since animal bodies are more than 50% water, their sonar enables them to literally “see” inside other animals. Since they see through water bodied animal, it also means they can see out of water? Does the statement imply this?

    Thank you for your help!

  13. I wrote chimpanzee instead of chimpanzees, would that be considered correct?

    • Unfortunately, it would be wrong. You must listen carefully for plurals because IELTS is testing your ability to hear plurals.
      All the best

  14. Hi Liz
    I have got 4/6 one is comletly wrong and another mistake is spelling for the word chimpanzees I wrote it chimpanses would it be considered right..?!!

  15. Hi Liz,

    I am confused because I heard the word “fantastic” in the radio at 2:57, but in the transcript, it is “fancinating”. Can you help me please ?

    Thank you for your help

  16. Hi Liz,
    If i am not sure between “signal” and “movement” for question number 4, can i write both words with the hope that i can be marked the correct one?

    • A signal is a sign which is not the same as movement. Also the answer must come from this sentence “…dolphins can also mimic movements,…”. The word “mimic” means copy so the answer must be “movement”.
      All the best

  17. Hats Off for you Liz!!

  18. Hi Liz,
    I wonder if the answer “capacity” to question 1 is Ok, because I was not sure about the spelling of “sensory”.
    Thanks a lot!

    • You need both words for the answer. Without the word “sensory”, the answer is wrong. Don’t worry if you get some questions wrong unless you are aiming for band 9.
      All the best

  19. Hi Liz,
    I did no get the answer for no. 4. Where is it mentioned?

  20. Hey, is it ok ‘mimic movements’ for no 4?

    • No, it would be wrong because “mimic” and “copy” have the same meaning. Also this calls for a noun as an answer not a verb.

  21. Rana Ahmad says:

    it is considered wrong to answer : small bones in question 6

  22. i got only 3/6 even listening carefully and
    i am afraid i did not understand the listening as much as i listen how can b improved it?

  23. Hi Liz!
    Please suggest how to paraphrase in 30 sec. I always get out of time.

    • This is about knowing immediately alternative words for the key words in questions. This comes with practice and with having a wide vocabulary. You are not expected to paraphrase every word in the question, just aim for a key word to help you. You should be practicing paraphrasing and also making lists of common paraphrases every time you do listening practice exercises.
      All the best

  24. Hi Liz,

    Is the word ‘species’ a countable none? If yes, what are the singular and plural forms?


    • Hi,

      The singular and plural forms of this word are the same. For example, “a species” and “many species”. The only way to know the difference is to look at the context and grammar in the sentence.
      All the best

  25. Sorry .. 6 /6

  26. Got 5 /5 🙂

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