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IELTS Listening Tips and Advice


One of the challenges of IELTS Listening is the fact candidates get to hear the recording only once. It is not an option to listen to the recording again and knowing this often causes candidates to feel anxious about the Listening Module. The fear of ‘getting lost’ as they listen to the recording and failing this part of the test may cause candidates to get more easily confused and more likely to make mistakes that can affect their score.

To help you feel calm and confident as you prepare for the Listening test, we have compiled a list of useful tips and advice, so that you know how to deal with common challenges that may arise during the Listening portion of the test.

  • Use the preparation time provided to you before each section of the Listening Module

In IELTS Listening, you will be provided with some time to help you prepare for each of the four sections of the module. As such, make sure you use this time wisely by doing the following:

  • Read the instructions and questions and underline keywords. These keywords can help you to better understand the question, as well as the information you need to find.
  • Read through the tasks, and pay attention to what type of answer you need to write (e.g. a word, a number, a letter, an option from a box, etc.)
  • For certain types of question such as form-filling, the instructions will tell you the maximum number of words to use, so make sure you know this information before listening to the recording.
  • Use keywords included in the listening text to guide you

A very common task in Section 2 of the Listening test is known as labelling a map, plan or diagram. This particular task requires you to figure out where things are, how something works, or what something is made of. You may be listening to find places, buildings, stages in a process or names of parts, and you need to make sure that you’re following these descriptions carefully so that you don’t miss your answers. To help you achieve this, the listening text will always include key words such as adjectives (size, shape, etc.), compass points (East, West, etc.), and expressions of position and place (next to, above, etc.).

  • Orientate yourself to the text

In Section 3 of the Listening module, you’ll have to listen to a discussion with up to four speakers to find important facts, reasons, ideas, views, or opinions. Following a discussion with two or more speakers can be challenging – not only do you have to identify who is talking, but you also have to understand what they’re saying. To be better prepared for Section 3, orientate yourself to the text before listening to the recording. In other words, read the information in front of you and think about the speakers’ relationship (e.g. friends, co-workers, etc.) and the reason why they’re speaking. The language they use will depend greatly on these two factors, and being aware of this will help you to anticipate what the discussion will be about.

  • Use signpost words to follow a talk or lecture

In Section 4, you will be listening to a talk or lecture on an academic subject. When following a talk or lecture given by a single speaker, it can be difficult to keep track of the different stages of the talk/lecture. Good public speakers use words to indicate the different stages of their talk and prepare their listeners for the information to come. These words are known as signpost words, and some examples include ‘in addition’, ‘because’, ‘for example’, ‘next’, ‘on the other hand’, to name a few. It’s also important to pay attention stress and intonation since these features are used to highlight important information.

  • Check your spelling

Even though the Listening module of the IELTS is designed to test mainly your listening skills, correct spelling is essential in this part of the test. If your answer is not spelled correctly, it will be marked wrong, even if the information is correct. Because of this, it is very important that you take some time at the end of the test to check your spelling and to make sure that your answers are in the right place.

We hope that these tips and advice, along with practice and preparation, will help you to go into your Listening test feeling confident and ready to succeed.

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