Category Archives: Listening

What’s the best way to do a practice IELTS Listening Test?

9cp9AxocEWhen I give students a practice IELTS Listening test, I follow a certain procedure in class so that students get maximum benefit from doing the practice test.  I also advise students to follow this procedure at home.

Before we start, we have to think about why we do practice IELTS tests.  One reason is to get an idea of what the test is like and of the different task types etc.  The other is the same as any other activity you do in the English language; to improve your English.  Before I talk about my guidelines, I cannot stress the importance of doing as many practice exercises as possible in order to improve your English.

Over the years, I have taught from many different IELTS books and I always recommend that my students purchase Adams & Austen IELTS books. These books contain so many useful practice exercises for IELTS, which help you improve your English, and also IELTS practice tests.

OK, so on to my guidelines for doing practice IELTS Listening tests.

The IELTS Listening Test

  • First of all, you have to find a test to do; either from this site or from Adams & Austen.
  • Next, get yourself in ‘IELTS examination’ mode.  You may be at home, but we have to make this as authentic as possible; turn the TV off, turn the phone off, make sure you won’t be disturbed by your flatmate or your kids, have a couple of pens ready.  As well as the practice test, I suggest you also have the answer key, the tapescript an IELTS Listening Test answer sheet.  Remember, no dictionaries allowed!
  • Now sit down, start the audio, and do the listening test exactly as instructed (it’ll be about 30 minutes long), writing your answers on the question sheet.  Make sure you remember your listening prediction skills. At the end of the test, give yourself 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.

Now, grab a cup of tea or coffee and get your dictionary ready; this is where the hard work begins!

  • Mark your answers against the answer key.
  • Listen again to the parts where you got an incorrect answer; see if you can hear why it’s incorrect.
  • Listen to section 1 of the test again, while reading the tapescript for that part.  Again, make sure you now understand why your answer was incorrect.    Look up any vocabulary you don’t understand and write it in your notebook.  Note how the new vocabulary is used in context.   Look for other word forms (noun, adjective, verb etc) of the word in your dictionary.
  • Repeat this last point for sections 2, 3 and 4.  Take short breaks between analysing each section.

My students have always found this method very useful both for practising IELTS and improving their English.

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!

What do I have to listen to in the IELTS Listening Test?

9cp9AxocEI hear the above question a lot from my students, so I’d like to address it in this post and hopefully dispel any myths you’ve heard from other people.

The IELTS Listening Test consists of 4 sections and each section has 10 questions.  You will hear the audio only once (this may be different from what you are used to in English Language classes but is more similar to real life situations).

Each question is worth1 point.

So what are the sections?

Section 1

Section 1 is usually a conversation between at least 2 speakers.  The conversation is based on social or life situations.  Some examples of these situations are:

  • Travel arrangements
  • Giving personal details required for an application form
  • Making arrangements t go out
  • Visiting a new city

Section 2

Section 2 is usually a short speech or presentation with only 1 person speaking.  As in section 1, it is based on social of life situations.  Some examples of what you might hear are:

  • A news broadcast
  • A presentation from a radio programme
  • A description of university facilities

Section 3

Section 3 is a discussion between up to 4 people It is usually concerned with education or with training situations.  Some examples are:

  • A conversation about what someone’s job entails
  • A conversation about what someone’s academic course entails
  • A group of students planning a project
  • A tutor and a student discussing career options

Section 4

Section 4 usually has one person speaking formally and is also based on education and training.  Some examples are:

  • A lecture of general academic interest
  • A talk of general academic interest.

Some points to note

1. You need to familiarise yourself with the different types of IELTS listening question tasks:

  • Matching tasks
  • True/false tasks
  • Multiple choice tasks
  • Sentence completion tasks
  • Gapfill tasks
  • Diagram labeling tasks
  • Chart/table completion tasks
  • Short answer question tasks.

The questions test your ability to understand the general topic, specific information and details, spoken opinions and arguments.

2. Be careful with your handwriting so that your answers can actually be read!

3. Spelling is not always important as long as your meaning can be understood.  For example, if you wrote ‘meening’ instead of ‘meaning’, you wouldn’t lose the point but if someone spelt out a word for you A-L-A-N-N-A  C-A-R-Y-S-F-O-R-T-H and you spelt it wrong, you’d lose the point.

4. Some questions will specify how many words you can use in the answer.

For example ‘Fill in the gaps with NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS

Please follow this instruction carefully; one-word answers, two-word answers and three-word answers are okay.  Four-word answers and five-word answers are not!

Don’t be one of those candidates who throws points away over silly things.

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!


IELTS Reading and IELTS Listening Band Scores.

reader-310398_1509cp9AxocEI always advise my students to do practice IELTS tests at home so that they have an idea of what to expect when they actually sit the IELTS test.

Every reading or listening paper has 40 questions and each question is worth one point.

The list of marks to IELTS band scores below gives you an idea of your IELTS level.

Continue reading IELTS Reading and IELTS Listening Band Scores.

Best IELTS Last Minute Tips for the Listening Test.

9cp9AxocEI often receive emails from readers of this site saying something on the lines of ‘Help, I have my IELTS Test this Saturday, what can I do?’

Now, I think I always make it quite clear that I believe in starting your IELTS Test preparation way in advance of the test but I’ve over these next posts, I’m going to give you my last minute tips for the test.

This is the first post in the series ‘Best IELTS last minute tips’ and has my last minute tips for the IELTS Listening Test.

  • Read the instructions carefully.  In particular, I suggest that you underline the instructions regarding the number of words you are required to use in your answer.

Do this all throughout the test as the instructions usually change throughout the exam.

  • Remember that every second counts in the Listening Test; you only hear the recording once so you must use your time profitably.  Before each section, you are given time to read the questions before listening.  Use it!  At the end of each section, you are given 30 seconds to check your answers; as soon as you’ve finished checking your answers, move on to reading the questions for the next section.When you read questions, look for key words and then underline them.  This will help you to focus on exactly what you should be listening for.
  • If you are required to write information on a diagram, flow chart or a table, take note of the question numbers.  You will hear the information in the order of the questions.
  • When the question is a short answer question or a gap fill; you should try to predict an answer; is it a colour, a number, a noun, an adjective, a verb?  What tense is the verb? etc.
  • In multiple choice questions or questions where you need to choose from a list, underline the keywords and try to think of any synonyms or different ways to phrase the keyword.  It is very possible that you will hear synonyms of the keyword on the recording.
  • Again, in multiple choice questions, if you hear something that tells you that one of the answers isn’t possible, cross that answer out immediately so that you have less to focus on.
  • At the end of the test, you are given 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. You should be aware of two things here:-

1.    Make sure you write your answer in the correct space; I have seen too many students make this mistake when we do practice tests in class.  The Examiner will NOT think, ‘Oh, this candidate has obviously put the answers in the wrong space, I’ll make allowances’.  No, you will be in danger of losing your points!

2.    Don’t forget basic grammar. For example, it your answer is a name, remember that the first letter is a capital letter (upper case).

3.    What answer form is required?  If the answer is a letter; A, B, C etc, write the letter, no the word from the listening.
If the answer requires you to write ‘true’ or ‘false’, don’t write ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

  • Don’t forget that the IELTS Listening Test gets progressively more difficult

(Section 1 is the easiest, Section 4 is the most difficult).  Many of my students require a band score of 7.  In order to get 7, you need to score 33–35 out of 40.  This effectively means you need to get 100% on Sections 1 and 2, 80% on Section 3 and 50% on Section 4.

Finally, good luck on Saturday!

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!

Best IELTS Listening Test Tips.

9cp9AxocEI always give my students this list of IELTS Listening Test tips to help them get the best IELTS score possible in their test.  These are the things that I think you should absolutely do!

Listen carefully to the invigilator’s instructions.  This may seem really obvious but whenever I’ve conducted practice tests, I’ve seen so many students who don’t listen and open their question paper too early etc.  So, don’t switch off.

1.      I’m going to say it again!  Listen carefully to the invigilator’s instructions.  He/She will tell you how to fill out the answer sheet.

2.      When you have been given the question paper, you should read the instructions on the front but DO NOT open it.  When the invigilator starts the audio, you will hear the instruction to open the question paper.  If you open your question paper before you are told to do so, it may be considered as cheating.

3. The invigilator does a sound check of the recording before the test.  If you have any problems hearing, tell the invigilator immediately.  (Don’t wait until the test has started to say something.  Once the listening test has started, the audio cannot be stopped.)  Everybody might be having the same problem or it you are at a Test Centre that uses headphones; it might only be an issue for you.


4. Listen carefully to the audio; you really must concentrate and not let your attention wander.  Remember you only have one chance to hear the listening.  You should also make use of every second of the test; if you are told that you have half a minute to check your answers, check your answers, if you are told that you have half a minute to read through the questions, then read through the questions.


5. There are four sections in the IELTS Listening Test and you are given time before each section to read the questions.  I suggest that you also do this when you’re doing practice tests at home so that you get into the habit of reading the questions carefully but quickly enough before the recording starts again.


6. As well as reading the questions in the listening test carefully, you should also read the instructions carefully.  Let me give you an example, if the instruction says ‘WRITE NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS’, you can write one, two or three words but not four!


7. Be aware that the listening test questions follow the order of the recording.  This means that as you are listening, you should both listen for the answer to the question you are expecting AND be aware of the questions that follow.  In this way, if you miss the answer to one particular question, you won’t get lost and miss the answers to the next two!


8. Just as in real life, the speakers in the listening test often give answers that are vague or that they are unconvinced of.  Always make sure you keep listening; you may get clarification or the speaker may change their mind so that the answer to the question is actually the opposite of what you thought.  (I have seen so many students fall into this ‘trap’.)


9. When you are writing your answers on the question paper, you must find the balance between writing quickly and writing clearly enough for you to read your answers when it’s time to transfer them to the answer sheet.  Remember that nothing you write on the question paper will be seen by the examiner but it must be clear enough for you to understand.


10. Remember to use every second profitably; if you still have time over after checking your answers, start reading the questions to the next section.  Use every second!


11. After the final section, you are given ten minutes to transfer your answers.  Keep listening (keep your headphones on if this applies to you) as you are given time checks.  When you hear the instruction to stop writing, make sure you do so.  If you don’t stop writing when told to do so, it may be considered as cheating.


12. When you are transferring your answers, make sure you transfer them to the correct number on the answer sheet.  Check your spelling and write clearly.  Use these ten minutes sensibly; transfer all the questions you have answered first and then use the remaining time to review the questions you didn’t answer/weren’t sure of. Once you’ve transferred all the answers you are sure of, you’re now left with time to review the others.  I highly recommend that if you don’t know the answer to a question, you make an intelligent guess.  Don’t leave it blank; if you leave it blank, it’s definitely wrong.


These tips really are just common sense but when we’re under pressure, we often forget our common sense.  Keep these tips in mind to help ensure your success in the IELTS Listening Test.

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!

Best IELTS preparation -The IELTS Listening Test.

9cp9AxocEIt has happened to me on more than one occasion that a student arrives at my IELTS Preparation class looking despondent.  When I ask why, they give me the answer that they ‘spent hours practising for the IELTS Listening Test’ and didn’t understand what they were listening to.

So, my first piece of advice is ‘Don’t try to do too much in one go’. If you were training to run a marathon, you wouldn’t run 40km on the first day, would you?!

Initially I suggest only listening to passages that are 2-3 minutes long so that you don’t get lost and become depressed.  Listening to a recording is harder than having a conversation as you cannot ask for clarification/repetition and you cannot read the other person’s body language.

Once your listening improves, you can gradually extend the length of the passages.  In my opinion it’s a waste of time listening to passages that are longer than 7 minutes.  Think about it, the IELTS Listening Test lasts around 30 minutes and there are 4 sections so each section lasts around 6 minutes as you are given some time to read the questions and write your answers.

So what should I do? you ask.  Well, here are my tips and suggested strategies.

  • Listen to English language news on TV, the radio, or the internet. The most useful broadcasts are those from English speaking countries so you get used to some of the accents you will hear in the test.

News items are usually the ideal length for practising your IELTS Listening skills.  It’s a good idea to record these news items.

  • Don’t just listen and try to understand every word; set yourself a task.  For example
  1. Just listen for numbers or dates.
  2. Then, listen for names
  3. Then, start listening for the general meaning (gist) of the news item.
  4. Finally, you’d listen for more difficult information, for example the opinions and attitudes of the people who are interviewed.
  • Make your listening practice ‘little and often’; it is much better to listen to 1 or 2 short passages frequently (daily if possible) rather than long passages once every two weeks.

Of course there are many other sources of listening materials. Over the years, I have taught from many different IELTS books and I always recommend that my students purchase Adams & Austen IELTS books. These books contain so many useful practice exercises for IELTS.

Don’t forget that if you buy these books here, I will mark an IELTS Task 1 Writing and an IELTS Task 2 Writing from the book you have purchased.

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!