How to improve your IELTS Listening skills.

9cp9AxocEI always advise my students to take absolutely every opportunity to listen to English.  Many of the activities that you might consider ’wasting time’ in your own language, such as watching TV, are actually very useful for your English study.

Listen to everything in English; watch TV programmes and films in English (it’s so easy to change the language setting on a DVD), listen to radio programmes and music in the English language.  If you live in an English speaking country, listen to announcements at the train station, in shops, special events, anywhere.

Have as many conversations in English as you can, especially with native speakers of English but also with your non-native English-speaking friends.  Get an IELTS study group together and speak only in English.  Get to know people from all over the world on this blog and talk to them via skype.

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.

It’s a good idea to do different exercise to practise these task types.  Over the years, I have taught from many different IELTS books and one of the best I have found for self study is 202 Useful Exercises for IELTS ~ Academic & General Training Module.


So why do candidates often find the Listening Test the most challenging part of the test?  Well, I think it’s because you have to do a few things at the same time.  You have to:

  • Read the instructions and questions
  • Listen for general information
  • Listen for specific information
  • Write the answers as you listen

I believe that a valuable skill for any listening test is the skill of prediction. So let’s see how this works in the IELTS Listening Test.

You are given time to look at each section before each listening passage and you should use that time to predict information that you will hear.  For example:

  • How many people are involved?
  • What are these people doing?
  • What are these people planning?
  • What do you think these people might say?

Learning to better predict what you might hear will help you work out the meaning of what you hear.

A good way to practise this is to record TV programmes, the news, radio programmes etc and to pause the recording every few minutes and ask yourself what the speaker will say next.  You need to think about the type of information you’re going to hear next; will it be a number, a place, a colour, a person etc.

Continued practice of this kind will help you learn to predict what people are going to say.  You already do this in your mother-tongue, you just don’t think about it consciously as you’re an expert in your own language!

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!

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