Tips for IELTS listening

Tips for IELTS listening

On this page are tips for listening in the IELTS test. If you have a question or a tip that you think would benefit others, let us know using the message form at the bottom of the page.

*Note that the listening test is the same for the General Training and Academic Module test


tips-for-ielts-listeningSpeaker giving the wrong answer first

One of the common traps in the IELTS listening test  is when a speaker makes a statement which is then changed. For example: ‘My phone number is 833 6634 – oh no, sorry, that’s my old number – my new number is 356 8232′. It is important to keep listening to the following sentence or two to confirm that the answer has not changed in any way.

Keeping focused on the listening

A common issue with the IELTS listening test is not staying focused on the recording so that you catch the answer when it comes. It is surprising how often, even though you are serious about passing the IELTS test, your mind can start to wander when listening to a recorded conversation, and you can easily miss an answer. One technique to help is to imagine that you are actually part of the conversation, even though you are not actually saying anything. Think about where they are, how old you think the speaker or speakers are, what they are wearing etc. By putting yourself ‘in the picture’, it is often easier to keep focused.

Always be two questions ahead

Having only the next question in your mind as you are listening means that you can lose points quickly – if you miss the answer, you may find yourself waiting and waiting, only to find that the answer has gone as well as the next two or three answers. Get into the habit of planning the next questions ahead. For example, if you are waiting for the answer to Question 3, also make sure you know what is required for Question 4 – if you hear the answer to Question 4 first, then you have already missed Question 3 (the answers come in order). You may have lost a point, but at least you are back on track.

Pre-read the questions

In between Sections 1, 2 and 3, there is a short break for you to read the questions, but at the end of each of these sections, you are also given half a minute to check your answers. Although it is worth having a quick check to make sure you have an answer for each question, this time should be spent pre-reading the next set of questions, not reading old answers. The more prepared you are for the next set of questions, the better your results. Remember that you are given time at the end of the recording to transfer your answers to the answer paper, so don’t worry about writing neatly on your question paper.

Highlighting key words

In the time you have to pre-read the questions, make sure you are highlighting key vocabulary or points that you think will help you identify the correct answers. You are given a question paper and a separate answer sheet, so you can write on, underline, circle or otherwise mark your question paper as you see fit. Underlining or circling key words will help you stay focus and be clear about what you are listening for.

ALWAYS write an answer

You are not penalised in the IELTS test for an incorrect answer in the listening or reading sections, so even if you are not sure or don’t know, always write something, even if it’s just a guess. You might get lucky, and it certainly won’t harm!

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