Monday August 22nd, 2016 Nicoletta

IELTS Listening Guide

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Academic Director at English One
Nicoletta is the co-founder of English One. She holds a Dip. TESOL (licentiate) from Trinity College, London. She is a passionate teacher and teacher trainer with well over a decade of EFL experience.

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The Great IELTS Listening Guide

For those of you preparing for the IELTS test – you no longer need to worry about the Listening section! We are happy to share our professional tips and advice to help you get the best possible result from the Listening section of the test.

listening2A quick overview of what you can expect from the Listening section:

  1. This part of the test is the same for both the Academic and General IELTS tests.
  2. There are 4 sections, totaling 40 questions.
  3. The recording in the test can be dialogues and/or monologues and/or conversations.
  4. The test is 30 minutes long and you have 10 minutes at the end to transfer your answers to the correct page.

Here are 15 useful tips for IELTS listening:

  1. If you cannot hear the audio clearly, speak up immediately.
  2. Answer on the question paper and use the 10min after the test to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. The time given before each section is not for transferring answers, it’s so that you can look through the questions and read the instructions.
  3. Read/follow the instructions carefully; they may be different to practice tests or previous tests that you’ve done.
  4. Listen for the specific information you want.
  5. Try to predict what the speaker will say.
  6. Do not worry if there is a word you do not understand – you may not need to use it.
  7. If you do not know the answer to a question, try to answer it. But do not waste time – move quickly onto the next one. Don’t spend more than 1 minute on it!
  8. Be careful with your spelling and grammar.
  9. Do not panic if you think the topic is too difficult or the speaker is too fast: just relax, let it go and just do it.
  10. Read, write and listen at the same time.
  11. Focus precisely on what you are asked to do in completion type questions.
  12. Pay attention to the word limit. For example: if you are asked to complete a sentence using no more than two words, and if the correct answer is ‘leather coat’, the answer ‘coat made of leather’ would be incorrect
  13. If the question asks you to complete the note ‘in the …..’ and the correct answer is ‘morning’, note that ‘in the morning’ would be incorrect! The correct answer is ‘morning’.
  14. Attempt all questions – there are no penalties for incorrect answers
  15. Check your answers after you have gone back to the guessed ones.
IELTS Listening skills

IELTS Listening skills

Dealing with distractions in the IELTS Listening test

The background noises you’ll hear in the test can be of an airport, a cafe-shop, a street, a university lecture hall, you name it. Be ready for it and don’t let it distract you – because that is exactly what they are testing. Ignore the noises and listen for the answers.

What you can do is install one of these IELTS Listening apps and try do a practice test in a café or coffee shop. This will train you to tune in on the task at hand and zone at any distractions.

Preparing for different accents in the IELTS Listening test

In the Listening section of IELTS, the recording uses several different voices: younger and older people, men and women. You may also hear different accents: Australian, British, American, Japanese, etc.

Of course, the accent you hear the most is British. So obviously the more British English you listen to the better. One of the best places to hear natural British English is from the BBC – I recommend this site to my students. You can listen to the news (and read the transcript) as well as learning the news vocabulary.

A very good site to use for listening exercises in American English is VOA News.

Answer as you go

What I mean here is that you need to listen and write the answer at the same time!

Make no mistake – this is not a very natural thing for you, so you have to practice doing this a lot! The reason you have to “answer as you listen” is that you immediately forget the sentences after you have heard them. After hearing the third sentence you won’t be able to repeat the first. It means that when any part of the Listening test is over – you won’t be able to remember any of the answers.  So write them as you hear them, leave nothing for later. There actually are some students who have tried just listening and then answering. I don’t recommend it at all!

A few more tips:

  • You can use headphones while practicing, but make sure to do a few practice tests without the headphones. This will help you to be prepared to listen to the recording through a loudspeaker.
  • Doing many practice tests within time limits will help you a lot in the real test.
  • Proper hand-eye-ear coordination can work miracles in the Listening test.

The British Council offers plenty of FREE Listening practice tests, go here to get started.

If you need more ideas on how to improve your English then contact us. By joining one of our specialized English courses you can develop your English skills quickly. And if you don’t feel like travelling you can have private online lessons. We are here to answer your questions!
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About the Author


Nicoletta is the co-founder of English One. She holds a Dip. TESOL (licentiate) from Trinity College, London. She is a passionate teacher and teacher trainer with well over a decade of EFL experience.