IELTS Listening Using (Brackets) for Answers

In some IELTS books, the listening answers are written using brackets. Many students ask me what the brackets mean and if they can do the same in their test.

Here is an example of some answers using brackets:

  1. charity (work)
  2. detail(s)
  3. (a) reception (room)


  1. What do these brackets mean?
  2. Can you do this in your IELTS listening test?


The brackets are used in the answer keys of books to show different possible answers for one question.

For example:

  • charity / charity work (both answers are correct)
  • detail / details (both answers are correct)
  • reception / a reception / reception room / a reception room (all 4 answers are correct)

In the IELTS listening test, there might be only one possible answer or there might be others. So, books use brackets to show the options.

Can you do this in your test?

NO. Definitely NOT. This is a language test. You must choose one answer only. It is either correct or not correct. If the answer is plural and you write singular, the answer is wrong.

You can learn more about IELTS listening by clicking on this link: Liz’s IELTS Listening tips

Get my free lessons by email

Subscribe for free to get my new IELTS lessons sent to your email inbox.



  1. You are so helpful! You have had answers to all my questions till now! Thanks a lot!

  2. the answer was 10 months .instead i wrote 10 in brackets lik this (10) months .is that right

  3. Hi Liz,

    Thanks for sharing all the tips.
    I have a question . In listening test section-1, for a question the answer is a name of a person. In IELTS guide they had used hyphens between the letters (i.e.S-Y-M-O-N-D-S). Do we need to write the same way in the test ? Cant we write like this(i.e.SYMONDS) ?

    Any help is appreciated

  4. Hi Liz,

    Great work you’re doing.

    Please I’ll like to ask a question regarding listening module where the speaker used the word “outdoor” but the statement says “…pictures were taken ____”. I wrote “outside” instead of “outdoor” because I felt it wasn’t grammatically correct.

    What do you think?

    Thank you

  5. Hi Liz,
    according to you, the answers should be either The Main Word Only or it should be
    Combination of Main word and of Bracket Word.. but as per the rules, there should be not
    more than Two words or a Number.. Could you please describe more about “a reception

    • What rules? “Two words and/or a number” where is that written on this page? There are no such instructions written on this page at all.

  6. Hi Liz,

    I hear a number 34 while listening and i’m asked to write it using words. So, I should write it as thirty-four or thirty four.

    Thanks in advance.

  7. Hi, Liz,

    So for an official IELTS listening question: between 12 ____ and _____. Note “and” is already provided.

    The relevant information from the conversation is: “between Friday and Sunday”.

    Now, on the answer sheet for 12, what should test taker write exactly?

    Option 1:
    Friday Sunday

    Option 2:

    The official answer is option 2 while I chose to use option 1. What is your view?

  8. chetan patel says

    i have a query about $ symbol is given in the question in answer sheet we write $ symbol again such as $20. Is it true or false?

    • If the symbol is given in the question, you don’t repeat it. Your task is to fill a gap and the gap is a number, not a symbol. If it is not given, you must write it.

  9. I wrote ‘quality is better’ but in the answer key it is ‘better quality’. Is my answer wrong?

  10. Hi Liz,

    If you are saying that we cant use brackets or slashes in the IELTS answers, then can you please tell me that the material which we receive from the IELTS official website, there why these things are not mentioned there. We are not expected to search for the blogs in the internet to find the answer guidelines. More over in the IELTS Essential guide they are also mentioning the answers using brackets & slashes without flagging anything & it gives a candidate an impression that it is allowed.
    At first place they should be mentioned in the IELTS Essential Guide.
    From the IELTS guide it seems we are fiddeling around.


    • All people who understand English and have used English language books know that brackets are used in ANSWER KEYS IN BOOKS. It is how the author shows multiple answers to one question. You CANNOT HAVE MULTIPLE ANSWERS IN IELTS LISTENING OR READING. You must choose one answer which is either 100% correct or it is wrong. You can’t write “dog(s)”. You must decide if you will use “dogs” or if you will write “dog”. This is a language test – one answer only!! This is not being “fiddled around” this is common sense which is clear. You can use brackets in writing task 1.

  11. Hey guys! I found this topic (using brackets in Ielts) quite interesting.
    The same thing happened with me in Ielts reading where, I used “(the) roles” for answering the completing sentence question. I’m not sure if I’ll get a point for this answer or not.
    Liz, can you please through some light on this. thanks

  12. Hi Liz,
    So, if I write detail(s) in answer, would that be incorrect?
    and i need to write either detail or details?

  13. Hi Liz,

    Does this rule apply of brackets apply to reading test as well? Or limited to listening test only?

  14. Hi Liz,

    I got confused seeing this post of using brackets or not for answers 🙁

    In all Cambridge books, it’s mentioned for both listening and reading, instruction on brackets as…. “Words in brackets are optional – they are correct, but not necessary”.

    So, what I understood from above statement is… any word or number written within brackets are acceptable (irrespective of it being correct or incorrect) but main answer should be out of brackets.
    E.g. Charity (work), Charity and Charity word are correct based on instructions of word limits.

    Please clarify.

    • The brackets are used by books – that is what Cambridge books explain. They are used in their own answers keys. YOU can’t use them in your test !!

  15. Hi Liz
    I have posted many questions but never get moderated.there are many students asking the same question again and again and you do answer them all. It is not fair.

    • I have over 8 thousand comments waiting for answers. If I do not answer, it is because I am only human. You always have the option of going to another teacher who works for free.

      • Thanks for you time Liz.i do not want answer because i understand that you cannot reply everyone. I just want my comment to be posted so that other students can reply to my query.i do not want any another teacher as i do not find them as accurate and reliable as you are.i have searched many websites but not informative as they should be.i hope my this comment get posted.

  16. Shall we write letters in caps. Is it possible liz.

  17. Liz, thanks a lot for your helpful tips! I was wondering if we are given extra paper to continue writing task 2 if we need more space to complete the essay or are we absolutely limited to complete the task only on the assigned writing space just above the examiners’ comments.
    Thanks a lot for everything!

    • You can request more paper when you have completed your answer sheet. However, always check with the invigilator about this at the start of the test.

  18. Hi liz
    I think brackets must be acts as a hint for the student.anyways i am very much delighted to share my views.

  19. Harbinder Singh says

    I have 2 queries regarding IELTS listening answers:

    Query 1 : If we have a question where amount is to be written like ” The cost of ticket is $ _____” and suppose the cost is 150, then the answer should be 150 or $150

    Query 2 : If we have a question where there are 2 blanks like ” the colour of the picture is ____ and _____ “. Suppose the picture colour are yellow and Black then the answer should be Black,Yellow or Black and Yellow or Black Yellow

    Hope you will reply

  20. can we use a//c in exam (means either a or b is correct)

  21. I think there’s no problem using brackets in ielts exam provided that all answers are correct.

  22. I think it means that the answer is correct with or without the words in brackets.

  23. Eman Elshekh says

    They mean both answers are right.
    I think I can’t believe them in the exam.

  24. Respected madame
    I want to buy your writing lessons but i have confused because i m from india and i have internet banking only so tell me what is the best way for payment i want 7bands in writing and reading can you suggest me what i do for reading and writing please send me reading material my email. ..

    • You can use a credit card to purchase Liz’s writing lessons. You can also use internet banking or a debit card if you have activated international transactions for your bank account. For further queries contact your bank’s customer care or branch.

  25. You have to write either “charity” or “charity work”. The brackets used to show that both options are correct

  26. I think the words in brackets can be added to the answer .Like, for “charity (work)” ,answering “charity” is correct and answering “charity work” is also correct ,but I don’t know if adding the words in brackets gives you more points. I don’t think so.

  27. It means that if you include the bracketed words in your answer, it will still be marked as right .However this is for teaching purpose only. You can’t write your answer that way in the proper exam.

  28. AMANDEEP KAUR says

    Hi Liz,
    In my view, the answers given in brackets are used for alternatives, particularly in those cases in which we may write either any of them.

  29. vijender kaur says

    bracket mean both the answers will be write. is it?

  30. braket means to use extra words of same meaning

  31. Bracket can’t be use for your answer. It is used in sample test answer sheet for student that both can be correct in some cases. But a student can not use in their exam if used it may loose mark based on situation. Avoid using bracket.

  32. As per my understanding, both answers are correct i.e. detail as well as details.

  33. Hi Liz,

    I’m a follower of your blog since a year.. I had my exam on 9th this month..

    My doubt is I used capital letters for answers in listening and reading. Will it effect my score in anyway?? Please answer my doubt.

  34. Hi Liz,
    In writing, for task 2, while planning can i write the main points on question sheet ?

  35. Osunsanmi opeyemi says

    Brackets are only used in making schemes, but in real test you don’t use brackets

  36. Pabitra Kumar Bhattacharjee says

    Hi Liz,
    I would like to purchase your IELTS lessons.
    I’m from Bangladesh.
    However, unfortunately there is no name of my country in the payment system.
    How shall I proceed?

  37. Brackets means that we can use either any of those answers. For example details or detail. Both the answers are correct . Brackets can be use in listening test .

  38. Hi,
    Liz it’s not necessary to use bracket in listening answers. Brackets are used only for showing the answers.

  39. Hlo liz
    I want to know how we can write percentage in other way
    I think this make different to other in exam

  40. 1) what is in brackets means that it is optional
    2) no. you ca’t

    * doubt: I faced a question in Cambridge Book “One Word/or a Numer Only”. In the text it was like XX percent, and the official answer was XX%. So, should I make this adaptation? I had figured out that in reading we had to transfer exactly what is in the text”.


  41. well i don’t think we can do this as this is an inappropriate way to answer the questions. this is usually seen in IELTS answer key and this shows various alternatives to an answer.

  42. yes mam know i am tell something about IELTS one of my friend got low score ielts i don’t now how its possible because she was studied English medium of all our school and collage i thing she is good speaking but she got low score so what they focus to get high score please guide me i am real fear my exam my require band over all 6.5 how do i got this and how to cork the examiner each modal need 6.5 please tell me Thank you .

  43. John marshall says

    Those brackets are in the answer key just showing you alternatives. You cannot use them in an IELTS answer as it is like giving more than one answer. Let us say the answer can be three words. IELTS in this example would be happy with just the unbracketed word but you could add either of the bracketed ones or both: (a) (sports) bag.
    It would be correct to answer here : bag , a bag, sports bag, a sports bag.

  44. I suppose you can write it when you are not sure enough. The answer would go correct with or without it. However you are always at a advantage when that bracketed word is compulsary. Also it is always desirable to write pural forms (S) in bracket.e.g. chair(s) Pls correct me mam if i am wrong.

  45. Hi Liz
    I have a question about the speaking test if you never mind. Is it ok to be spontaneous or should I use formal words and expressions?
    Thanks in advance ..

  46. It is really cofiusing. sometimes I am not sure about the correct answer. For example I took a listening exam yesterday. The correct answer for a question was ……… ” educational centre” while I heared “extra educational centre” in conversation. So I wrote “extra educational centre” in the answer sheet. Is it a wrong answer? do you think I will lose mark for it!?

  47. Manthan Patel says

    we cant use bracket in exam -but if we use bracket word in ans that is also correct ans . if charity (work) -so in ans -of you right charity -that is true -and if u wright charity work -that is also true but -if you write charity(work) that is false .

  48. 1. Charity or work
    2. detail or details
    3. a reception room (or) a room (or) reception (or) room

  49. Harsimran Jit Singh says

    Brackets are optional.. Bt in listening test ……once had to very careful. Surely it will affect your score

  50. Hi liz,
    I gave my speaking test today
    The examiner seemed dull and not interested as she was interrupting me after every sentence. Part1 and part 2 were good however in part 3 she was cross questioning me. Would that affect my score.

    • Your speaking score is based on the English language you produced. So, as long as you produced a good range of English, you’ll do well.

  51. so what is the right way to answer Liz?

  52. Any word in bracket means you are trying to throw more light on the answer or giving the examiner different options

  53. Both way we can give answer.either ,or
    Real exam..not acceptable!!

  54. No we can not use brackets

  55. We are not allowed to use brackets in an actual test. In books it is only providing the optional answer. Either only a word which is written without the brackets is right or the combination of both words [master +(s)]will be considered as a correct answer.

  56. Osman Mansour says

    Words in the bracket to explain more about words before bracket.

  57. It means without bracket or with bracket both answers are acceptable in listening

  58. Brackets are meant only for the answer key_ they shouldnt be used in d test

  59. Words shows in brackets are optional.
    As in given example we can answer
    (1) Charity or Charity work.
    (2) detail or details
    (3) a reception/reception/reception room or a reception room

    All the answers are correct.

    But as a student we can not do this is our exam.

    Waiting for your suggestions…..

  60. Dear Liz,
    The brackets show the arbitrary options, which omitting them will not lose a point from the exam score.
    Thanks for your help.
    Best wishes


    it means both the answers are correct
    detail or detail(s)

  62. Shilvana Shaikh says

    Brackets are really useful. If we are unsure of the the word whether it comes or no, suppose if we take the word master(s) if we write the s without putting a bracket and if it is just master then you get wrong for this answer, while a bracket always helps if we put it in bracket.
    If there is an ‘s’ answer is correct, if no then too, we won’t get a wrong for that, only if it is placed in a bracket.

    • I think we cannot write two different answers keeping an alternative one inside a parenthesis. may be it is only applicable in case of the same word if it differs only in term of an American and British English system. We have to write only one answer to be secure otherwise it creates a dilemma to the examiner.
      Is that true Liz?

  63. Amar mahajan says

    Yes..this is just an indication of options only but a student can not give this option to examiner.

  64. no, the above illustration shows that both or all three answers are acceptable.

  65. Chijioke Malachy says

    It means that either charity or charity work is an acceptable answer.
    Likewise, detail or details can be an answer.
    A reception room or reception can equally fit.

    • Bhavna Talwar says

      Whenever there’s a word count limitation , you have to stick to it, so if the instructions ask you to give one word answer and you write charity work instead of charity it obviously marked as incorrect response and no marks will be given for it.

  66. 1. they are simply potential extensions to the answer as possibly the task allows writing up to two to three words in the blanks. For instance, in your examples it means that we can either write “charity” or “charity work”; “detail” or “details”; and “a reception room” or “reception”. Writing either could be considered as the correct answer.

    2. However, it does not mean that brackets can be used in the test. I think they haven’t to be used at all. Writing down any of the potential answer forms as suggested might be considered correct, excluding brackets, though.

  67. Breakets means an optional word. If we don’t write bracket word in our answer , it will be correct.

    But i think we should not use bracket in the real ielts exam.

    What you say liz?

  68. It just elaborates the word

  69. As per my understanding , the word inside bracket is optional .While answering you can write either full words including those inside the brackets or only the words except those inside the brackets. For example , both below are correct answers.

    Charity work OR Charity

  70. can we use brackets in IELTS????

  71. 1. The brackets stand for optional answers.

    2. No, we cannot do that during the exam.

  72. According to above examples are used with brackets to have a significant definition for readers. It may prevent readers to not confuse about the given words.

  73. brackets mean that you may or may not include that particular word in your answer.

  74. 1. These brackets show optional part of the Answer, means the content of the bracket can be added to answer or can be omitted.
    2. No, We cannot use brackets, these are for Marker/Examiner use only in the Answer Keys.

  75. Bhavna Talwar says

    It means either of he it; can be a synonym or plural form of the word.

  76. Brackets show variation of correct answers or possible correct answers.

    Examinees cannot use brackets as they need to give a definite answer in the listening test.

  77. Words in brackets show alternatives for your answers.
    Whether or not you write any words suggested in the brackets doesn’t affect your score unless you answer wrong.


    It means that for example charity and charity work both answers are correct.

  79. Means it is optional to put the word in the bracket

    • It is not necessary to put like this even though it is not wrong. It is just telling as the possible options of our answer.
      E.g. charity is correct or may put work both are acceptable
      we may put detail or details both are correct answers
      (a) reception (room) meaning we can put a reception room or we can leave the ‘a’ or ‘room’ we can write only reception.If it says three words we should write a reception room. But if the instruction says no more than three words we may write one or two or three. We may leave the optional ones in the brackets.But it is not wrong to write them too, as long as we are abided by the instruction.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

error: Content is protected !!