Get better at IELTS listening

Lots of people find the listening section the most difficult part of the IELTS exam. In part this is because you only get to listen once to each section of the four sections. This post will tell you a little bit more about what to expect in the test and some useful tips at becoming better at it.

What is in the listening test?

The whole listening takes about 30 minutes and is divided into four sections. You can hear it all only once and normally there are no long pauses within the sections unless there is a change in question types. The first two sections are based on general or social English; the first is usually a conversation while the second one is either a monologue or an interview. The third and fourth sections are normally more about academic English. The third usually has a few people interacting while the last one is a lecture, presentation or talk.

7 Tips and Strategies

  1. Listen to the introduction to each task as it will tell you what the listening is about. It might tell you how many speakers are involved and should tell you if it is a conversation, lecture, talk, query etc.
  2. In the exam they give you preparation time. Use this time to underline the key words in the questions.
  3. Remember these key words will probably not appear in the same form in the listening. Instead, you need to listen for parallel expressions or words that give a similar meaning. For example, the question might have the word ‘weather’ but the speaker talks about ‘rain’, ‘sun’ or ‘climate’, which are of course all words related to weather conditions.
  4. Try to predict any answers that you can, but don’t just guess. e.g. Polar Bears eat __________ (predict: a food e.g. seals/fish/meat) There were ________ bears killed last year. (predict: a number)
  5. Do remember, though, that you must listen carefully even if you think you know the answers. It is about what the listening really says and not what you think it should say!
  6. Notice the type of tasks you are asked to do because this could help you find the answers more easily:
    1. For multiple- choice, multiple matching or short answers check for ‘academic word list’ words, such as ‘leads to’ ‘caused’ ‘effect’, to understanding basic relationship between the task and the listening. Also look for language of possibility to help e.g. always, every, none. Always notice the negative words.
    2. After you have answered a multiple-choice question, always read the complete sentence to check that it is grammatically correct and it means what you want it to mean!
    3. Remember to check the order of the questions in tasks with tables, maps or diagrams as there is often no obvious chronological numbering.
  7. Take notice of how many questions you will need to answer before the next break in listening.

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