IELTS Listening lesson: Maps

Labelling a Map in IELTS listening.

Listening to directions for a map can be quite tricky for some people. In IELTS listening you often get a map where you have to listen to someone giving directions and then label that map. This lesson should help you when you are faced with this in the exam.

The main language you need here is location language and prepositions of place.

This kind of task comes up usually in part 2 of the listening section but you could also get it in other sections of the listening test. Nearly always it is one person speaking, such as a tour guide or someone showing people around a building.

Sometimes you will be given a list of words to match the gaps with. Other map tasks just have a gap, so you will need to pick up the words from listening only.

There are 7 steps to consider here

1. Read the instructions such as:  ‘ Write no more than 2 words’ or Write no more than 3 words’  or ‘Write the correct letter A to G next to the questions 17 – 20’

2. Notice clues on the map –  There might be a compass icon showing where ‘North’, ‘South’, ‘East’ and ‘West’ are. This means it is likely that these phrases will be used in the talk.  You are often given your own location – ‘You are here’

3. Notice things close by –  For example, in the map below ‘I’ and ‘G’ are next to your location so they might be mentioned first (but not always!). Note that some maps will have more labels than you need, so you will have some left over.

4. Listen for context – Before the speaker gives directions he or she will mention what the map is about and where you are right now. In some maps you do not get a ‘You are here’ label so listen out for where you are exactly.

5. Become familiar with the language of location and direction, see more detail on this below.

6. Be careful of your spelling, -Make sure you label the map with the right spelling, especially if you are not given a list of words where you can only listen out for the words for each gap.

7. Listen out for signposting language such as: ‘We are now at the beginning of the main path…. ’ /  ‘If you look ahead of you, then you will see….’ /  ‘ Now can you see the bridge crossing the fish pool…? ‘   / ‘And the last thing to mention is…..’  This helps you understand each stage of the talk.

Example Task

Click below to see an example of a map in the listening section. (this is from IELTS Cambridge 11. I advise buying the latest one which is IELTS 14)

Source: Cambridge IELTS 11 Listening test 1

Language and phrases showing location and direction

  • On your left / On your right /Turn right / Turn left
  • At the front of the building / At the back of the building
  • Go through the doors and turn left
  • In the corner / On the corner
  • Around the bend / Around the curve
  • Go straight on / Walk up this road
  • Walk past the …../ Just past the…. /Just before the…..
  • You will see ……. to the left / You will see ……. to the right
  • Opposite / In front of
  • Over there on the right / Over there on the left
  • Go over the bridge…
  • Next to / alongside / adjoining
  • Between A and B
  • Enter via the rear of the building / Enter via the front entrance
  • To the North / To the South / To the West / To the Northeast / Northwest …etc
  • Just before you get to the ……. you will see it.
  • In the middle / In the centre of…
  • The river runs alongside the…..
  • On the ground floor / On the first floor / At the entrance / In the reception area

Lets Practice

Have a look at the map again below. Play the audio and answer these questions.

Click the Audio below.

Source: Cambridge IELTS 11 Listening test 1


  • 15 Scarecrow: F
  • 16 Maze:  G
  • 17 Cafe: D
  • 18  Black Barn: H
  • 19 Covered picnic area:  C
  • 20 Fiddy House:  A

E, I and B were not mentioned.

Any Questions? Leave a comment below.

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