IELTS Listening Using (Brackets) for Answers

In some IELTS books, the listening answers are written using brackets. The common question I am asked is:

Question : Can I use brackets for my answers in IELTS listening?

Answer: No, you can’t use brackets in your IELTS listening test. Read the information below to understand why.

What are brackets?

Here is an example of some answers using brackets:

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

Brackets are used to provide optional answers ( more than one answer).

Why are brackets used in IELTS test books?

The brackets are used in the answer keys of books to show different possible answers for one question. It is a quick easy way to show multiple answers. For example:

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

Even though the answer key in books show different possible answers, you cannot do that in your test.

You must choose ONE ANSWER ONLY. You can’t give two possible options for your answer. If you think the answer is “detail”, then you must write it like that. You must decide if the answer is plural or singular. If the answer is plural, your answer will be marked wrong. So, take your time deciding if you need to give a plural answer or not. Or if you need to use an article (a/the) or not. 

Can you use brackets in your test?

No, not for IELTS listening or IELTS reading. However, if you are taking Academic writing, you can use brackets in your writing task 1 to present data. See the writing section of this website for examples of this.

Want to learn more about IELTS Listening?

If you want to know more about counting words, writing answers and improving your score for IELTS listening, click here: IELTS Listening Free Tips & Lessons


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  1. Sujon Miah says

    Hi Mam, I have to know one thing in listening and reading both parts.
    If the answer is a plural number(students) and I write a Singular number(students) is it right or wrong?

  2. Hey liz
    In Cambridge test series test 9, peculiarly in reading section where in answer for not more than words have indicated in brackets, for instance “ (the/only) rich “ what if it write the answer as “rich”?

    Kindly reply

    • The words in brackets are only optional and are not actually required for a correct answer.

    • I have acadamic ielts exam tomorrow ,
      Last minute i have a doubt about the listening and writing answer sheets

      So can i use all answers in captial letters for both reading and listening answer sheet?

      • Sure you can, unless the audio recording on the listening test says specifically “lower case”. You can use all upper case for both reading and listening tests. But you should use normal letters for the writing test because the correct use of capital letters is part of your marks for Grammar. Good luck tomorrow!

  3. Abdul Anique says

    Thanks liz you are great 😃

  4. syed adnan omer ahmed says

    Liz could you please help me out because i am making this mistake consistently. The answer is (a) Silence in the answer booklet and i have written silence and the answer is (the) splash ride and i have written splash ride. Will the answer be marked as right or wrong ?. I really appreciate that.

    • As explained on the page above, the brackets show other possible words that can be included in the answer. These are words that can be included or omitted for a correct answer. Please read the page above again. I wrote this page specifically to explain all this. Thanks.

  5. Peter says

    Hello Liz. Thanks a lot for your good works. Please am I allowed to use brackets in my writing task 2 ?

    • Brackets are used in IELTS Writing Task 1, Academic Test, as a way to present data. You should not use them in IELTS Writing Task 2. Try to use a variety of clauses instead to boost your grammar score.

  6. Hi Liz, Thanks for your wonderful support.

    Is it allowed to use symbols in the listening/reading answers ? for example. “20%”

    • Accepted sybmols such as for percentage (%) and currencies ($) can be used. But cannot be used in the same way as texts – you can’t write (&), you must write “and”.

  7. If one question of Reading/Listening part has two answers then how to write it on the answer sheet?

    • Do you mean if one single question requires two words as an answer? In that case, write the two words in the same box for the answer.



  9. 1. True
    2. Not given
    3. Not given
    4. True
    5. False
    6. False
    7. False

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