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IELTS Listening

Time: Approximately 09 minutes


  • Answer all the questions.
  • You can change your answers at any time during the test.


  • There are 10 questions in this test.
  • Each question carries one mark.
  • There are four parts to the test.
  • Please note you will only hear each part once in your actual test. However for familiarisation and practice purposes, this familiarisation test will allow you to listen to each recording multiple times.
  • For each part of the test there will be time for you to look through the questions and time for you to check your answers.

Do not click 'Start test' until you are told to do so.

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IELTS Listening Part 1

Road congestion and market failure

Questions 31-35

Complete the sentences below. Write NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS for each answer.

  • - Road congestion, carbon emissions, and commercial
    are example of market failure.
  • - The lecturer defines market failure as the inability of the free market to develop or allocate
  • - The lecturer gives the example of
    as a market failure due to not seeking profit within those markets.
  • - Markets fail partially in many ways, one of which is
    when too many goods or services are produced.
  • - Customers and producers cannot get other
    to be responsible for the consequence of their actions.

Questions 36 - 40

Choose the correct answer.

36 The speaker's story about London traffic in 1916 is
  • an amusing story.

  • a relevant digression.

  • an entertaining apology.

37 What connection does the lecturer make between public transport and wealth?
  • like alcohol and vacations, there are fashions in public transport.

  • as public transport becomes more convenient, more people use it.

  • use of public transport declines as wealth increases.

38 Road traffic was reduced in central London from 2011 to 2014 by more than
  • 10%.

  • 30%.

  • 60%.

39 How does the lecturer evaluate new road building and congestion charging?
  • congestion charging is less effective than road construction.

  • they are equally ineffective.

  • road construction is less effective than congestion charging.

40 The lecturer thinks most drivers who contribute to congestion are
  • unconcerned.

  • unaware.

  • undecided.


Question Your Answer Correct Answer
31 fishing
32 resources
33 street lighting
34 over supply
35 parties
36 B. a relevant digression.
37 C. use of public transport declines as wealth increases.
38 A. 10%.
39 B. they are equally ineffective.
40 A. unconcerned.


You will hear a lecture on road congestion and market failure.

Before you listen, you have 45 seconds to read questions 31 to 40.

Narrator: Sorry I’m late- the traffic was unbelievable. However, my lateness is pertinent to today’s topic: road congestion as an example of market failure. Next weeks’ examples will be carbon emissions and commercial (31) fishing.

But what is market failure? Broadly speaking, it’s when the free market fails to develop or apportion (32) resources efficiently. A market may fail completely or partially.

In the case of complete failure, resources cannot be allocated to satisfy need or want because there are insufficient incentives for profit-seeking firms to enter the market. Take (33) street lighting: without state intervention, there probably wouldn’t be any, as it’s unlikely private individuals would pay for it themselves. With no revenue generated and no profit earned, no firm would enter the street-lighting market either. That’s why taxes are set aside for public goods.

There are many ways in which partial market failure occurs, but I’d like to focus on (34) over-supply, which is when markets produce too many goods or services. It commonly occurs with demerit goods, like alcohol or tobacco, and with negative externalities.

What are negative externalities? Well, the inability of consumers or producers to account for the effects of their actions on third (35) parties. Road congestion is a classic case.

(36) Oh, let me tell you something I read last night. The speed of traffic in central London has remained fairly constant over the past 100 years. Really? How can that be? Wasn’t most traffic horse-drawn in 1916? Indeed, it was. But the fact remains: in central London, giant four-wheel drives and sleek sports cars travel about as fast as wagons pulled by horse!

Back to business. There are four main ways of dealing with congestion. One, a city increases the amount of road space. Two, it improves public transport. Three, it reduces the demand for travel. Or four, it increases the cost of private travel.

In the case of London, the first measure is counter-productive. There are enormous costs associated with construction, and a long delay between planning and availability. Once built, more roads only encourage more driving, and very soon, congestion rears its ugly head again.

On the surface, improving (37) public transport seems a great idea, but even when it’s reliable, cheap, and convenient, (37) it’s viewed as an inferior good. As incomes rise, most of us leave inferior goods behind. I mean, we used to drink beer; now we drink boutique beer. We used to holiday, locally, at the seaside; now we fly to Thailand!

What about reducing the demand for travel? Unfortunately, no one seems to know how to do this.

The fourth option, raising the cost of private travel has also had limited success. In London, we’re experienced higher vehicle and fuel taxes, more expensive parking and license fees, no-parking routes, and a raised driving age, but we’ve kept on driving. Other big cities have taken a different approach. Some Chinese cities limit drivers to four days a week, based on the final number of their license plate; but, the rich just buy two cars. Sydney and Singapore have tolls on bridges and tunnels, yet people pay up, or drive longer routes to avoid tolls, creating traffic jams elsewhere.

In 2003, London opted for a congestion charge in the central city. Back then, the charge was £5 a day; it’s now £11.50. From its inception, there was a discernible decrease in traffic. Estimates in 2004 by Transport for London, or TFL, were that traffic flow was reduced by almost 20% or 50,000 cars per day. Journeys were 15% faster. The number of bus journeys rose by 15%, and cycle usage by 30. (38) TFL stated that road traffic reduced a further between 2011 and 14. However, a recent report had concluded that, by 2031, (39) congestion will have worsened by a staggering 60% even if strict measures are adopted immediately. It seems as though the cycle is similar to building more roads- a sharp initial improvement, a slower improvement over time, followed by stasis and decline.

So, to conclude: part of the reason for road congestion is an unquantifiable negative externality, exemplary of partial market failure. The free market is incapable of allocating resources efficiently. No matter what authorities do, people continue to drive. On some level, we all know congestion leads to more noise, pollution, accidents, and slower travel times, but cars are cheap and their outlay is fixed. Principally, we drive because we don’t consider our actions in relation to anyone else’s. (40) And, even if we did, I’m not sure most people would care!

Narrator: That is the end of the Listening test.

You now have ten minutes to transfer your answers to your answer sheet.