19 Essential IELTS Listening Tips

IELTS Listening is all about testing your ability to comprehend information from conversations and monologues. It sounds quite simple but the challenge...

Indulekha Prabha Written by Indulekha Prabha · 4 min read >

IELTS Listening is all about testing your ability to comprehend information from conversations and monologues. It sounds quite simple but the challenge lies in the fact that you will only get to hear the audio clips once. However with a strategic practice you can easily nail it. Let us see how!

IELTS Listening Format

You will listen to four recordings of native English speakers and then write your answers to a series of questions.

Recording 1 – a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context.

Recording 2 – a monologue set in an everyday social context, e.g. a speech about local facilities.

Recording 3 – a conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context, e.g. a university tutor and a student discussing an assignment.

Recording 4 – a monologue on an academic subject, e.g. a university lecture.

Examiners look for evidence of your ability to understand the main ideas and detailed factual information, the opinions and attitudes of speakers, the purpose of an utterance and evidence of your ability to follow the development of ideas.

19 Essential Tips

We are here with some handy tips to make your IELTS Listening preparation easier:

  • Listen to English Songs.

Music is a great aid to memory. Rhyme, rhythm, and melody help the brain to focus on what is being said and to remember stressed words, which are generally the most important in any passage of speech.

Listen to as many songs as you can, without looking at subtitles or text, and write down what you hear. Then, check with the original lyrics. 

  • Watch films in English.

Films help us predict what will be said by providing visual cues. The body language of an actor, as well as their tone of voice, give signs of what is about to be said, so it is a good idea to watch as many entertaining films or TV shows as you can.

If you record what you are watching, you can practice by turning the sound off in a clip, imagining what has been said, and then replaying the recording to check if you were correct.

Film also exposes us to different English accents. This helps us become more skilled in understanding a wide variety of accents throughout different regions in the UK. This is important because the IELTS Listening test uses a range of English accents, not just British and American.

  • Improve your general listening skills.

IELTS Listening section tests your listening skills. Therefore, it is much more effective to do various listening exercises, listen to general listening materials (radio reports, TV-shows, documental programs etc.) than just doing practice tests to improve your score. 

  • Focus on contextual vocabulary.

Section 3 is almost always about academic context. Learn all the vocabulary you can about studying at university. This way you will understand this section better.

  • Try and predict the situation.

Before each part you will be given a short introduction: ‘Now, you will hear a dialogue between…’ or ‘you will hear a lecture on…’ This information is not written on the question paper, so be attentive. You must note who the speakers are, why are they speaking and where are they. This will make understanding the rest of the recording much easier.

  • Don’t lose attention.

You will only hear the audio once. So if you didn’t hear some words and passed over some questions, don’t worry! Leave them blank and focus on the current part. Review those questions at the end of the section otherwise you will only end up missing more questions. Remember you will need to read, write and listen all at the same time, so focus is the key.

  • Watch out words-indicators.

Listen for words-indicators, such as however, but, then, finally. They help you to anticipate what the speaker will say.

  • Don’t write answers too quickly.

A common mistake in IELTS Listening is as soon as candidates hear the needed information they take it for the correct answer. However, sometimes this information is repeated or corrected further in the section. For example:

Sam: Thank you! I’ve received your email. So it is [email protected]

Loren: No-no! You have mistaken, it is [email protected], spelled with M.

Sam: Oh, I’m sorry…

  • Check for silly mistakes.

After each section you have 30 seconds to check your answers. It is important to check spelling, plurals and word forms. Remember that only correctly written answers will gain points.

  • Transfer answers accurately.

At the end of the listening test you will have 10 minutes for transferring your answers into the answer sheet. And quite often students get confused in the numeration. As you write down your answers, check that they fit into the correct numbered space. In other words, make sure that answer for question 7 goes into space number 7.

  • Don’t leave any blank answers!

You won’t lose marks for incorrect answers, so even if you don’t know the answer it is better to write something in the answers box. Read the question again and take a shot!

  • Utilise the time to look through each section.

You will be given 30 seconds at the end of each section to check your answers and then will be told to turn over and look at the next section for 30 seconds. Make sure to use this time well.

  • Be careful with the question order.

Often you will have a table or a diagram or chart to complete. The questions will not necessarily go from left to right, so check the progression carefully otherwise you will get lost and confused.

  • Look out for paraphrasing.

Remember that what you hear will most likely not be exactly the same as is written on the exam paper as that would be too easy. The question and the question stems use synonyms so you must listen carefully for these.

  • Underline key words.

When you look through the questions first, particularly in the more difficult parts 3 and 4, underline key words (such as names, places and dates) in the question stems to help you hear the answer. Remember that synonyms are often used.

  • Take care with spelling and grammar.

Your answer will be marked wrong if it is spelt incorrectly or the grammar does not fit. So when you transfer your answers at the end, double check these. 

  • Read the instructions carefully.

The most important tip for any part of the test is to always read the instructions carefully. You will be told how many words to use. If it asks for no more than two words and you use three, it will be wrong and you must only put in the words asked for. 

  • Practice the pronunciation of alphabets and numbers.

 Often words are spelt out in the test by a speaker and numbers are read out, so make sure you can understand how different alphabets sound in different accents.

  • Enjoy what you do!

Preparation for IELTS will seem tedious like chores if you do not learn to enjoy it. Be it listening to music or watching films or just working at grammar and vocabulary, make sure you enjoy every bit of it. The more relaxed you are, the more you will fare better.

Conclusion

IELTS Listening is as important as any of the other components and only a planned preparation will help you to score well in this section. While practicing it must be kept in mind that this section does not check your knowledge in any way. It is all about finding out how skilled you are at comprehending ideas from verbal exchanges and your ability to follow developments in speech.

Written by Indulekha Prabha
My name is Indulekha Prabha. I am an English teacher and a content writer by profession. When I'm not working you can find me writing fiction, reading poetry and painting. Profile

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