LISTENING: Preparation Tips in Depth

LISTENING MODULE: Preparation Tips in Depth

In General

The Listening Test is probably the one people get most scared of. To help yourself overcome that fear, start watching TV programmes in English. These are better than radio or audio books, because you also see images that help you understand the words you hear.

Listening – a skill, not a gift!

In general, Listening is the least developed skill. So if you feel especially weak in this area, pay attention to the following tips, as they will help you improve your Listening ability. Remember – nobody is born with it, it’s just a skill and you learn it.

Teach yourself the words

The only way to improve your Listening ability is to train your ears to separate and understand the words you hear in the flow of a sentence. Often what you hear is a ‘Blablablablablabla’, which you can’t break into words, and for that reason it makes no sense to you when training, make a recording of the news, a lecture, a television programmed, a movie or an actual IELTS Listening teat and work with it using an MP3 player or your mobile phone.

First, listen, remember what you heard and stop the recording after each phrase. Even if you didn’t understand the phrase, play it in your head a couple of times, like a broken record – “tonight we have a special guest”.

Then say it out loud. If you understood that phrase at first, his exercise will improve your pronunciation. If you didn’t understand the phrase the first time, this repetition will give you more time to hear it better, break it into words and make sense out of them. If it is still difficult, you can always rewind and hear the phrase again.

There is a big difference between seeing a word printed on paper while reading, and hearing it. If you saw a word, it doesn’t mean you will recognize it when you hear it.

This is why you must hear every word you have seen at least once.

Instructions will keep you safe

Every task in IELTS Listening test has specific instructions. It may sound simple, but you really need to read them carefully. Why? Because they will tell you exactly what to do with the information: how many words you can use to answer questions, whether or not there is a table you must fill in, whether there is a list to choose words from, how many items you must name, etc. remember too, that if the answer must be in 3 words – write EXACTLY 3 words, because writing 4 or 2 words will get you 0 score.

To make the point clear, let’s take the following scenario as an example:

The speaker on a recording says:

“Well, if you are dieting, try to avoid fruits with lots of fructose like watermelon, mango, peaches or grapes.”

The question in the booklet is:

“Name 2 fruits a person on a diet should not eat”.

The answer may be “watermelon, mango” or “mango, peaches” or any combination of two items, but never three or four! Anyone who may white “watermelon, mango, peaches, grapes”, just to be on the safe side, may receive a score of 0 for that question.

Note: when counting words – “a”, “the” or a number (e.g. 159) is considered a word.

When instructions say “a maximum of 3 words” or “no more than 3 words” – you can write one, two or three words, but never more than three.

Divide and conquer!

The recording divides questions into groups, so for every group you are instructed to answer 4-5 questions. There are 20-30 seconds of silence before each group.

The first thing you should do when the recording starts playing, is understand which group of questions you need to answer.

For example, the recording says: “look at questions one to four”. It means that you have about 20 seconds to look at those questions. Go over the questions, read them and underline keywords. Keywords are the words that contain the main idea of the question. They will help you guess what you will hear – numbers, opening hours, manes, locations, etc.

Draw a line under the fourth question, so you won’t look further before it is time to do so.

Next you will hear a piece of spoken language and “answer the questions one to four as you listen”. It means that you should be able to write one answer and listen to another.

After that, the recording will say the numbers of the questions in the next group. Repeat the same process, include drawing the line. This dividing technique is very efficient because every time you concentrate on a limited number of questions, it makes you more focused and in control.


Do not get confused by all different voices you are going to hear. The recording uses several different voices – of young and older people, men and women. You may also hear different accents – Australian, British, American, Japanese, etc.  The background noises also very. They can be from an airport, a coffee-shop, a street, a university lecture hall, you name it. Be ready for it and do not let it distract you – because that is exactly what they want. Ignore the noises and listen for the answers.

Listen for specifics

When you are Listening, look for descriptions and details, such as dates, places, telephone numbers, opening hours, years (1995), transportation (car, bike, train), etc.

If you hear them, but do not know where to place them yet – write them in the margins of the listening question booklet. Later you will have some time to check your answers. Going over the questions that you could not answer during the listening passage, you might see if what you have written in the margins felts.

Answer as you listen

The reason you have to “answer as you listen” is that you immediately forget the sentences after you have hard them – because of stress, foreign language, constant flow of information, etc. after hearing the third sentence you won’t be able to repeat the first. It means that when any part of the listening is over you won’t able to remember any of the answer. So write as you hear them, leave nothing for later.

Keep moving forward

A worst case scenario is you “losing the sequence of answers” – so you miss one answer and then you miss another one and so on. To prevent this for happening, always look one or two questions ahead. It sounds confusing, but after a little practice it becomes very natural and helps a lot.  Even if you have missed the answer to a question-admit it and move to the next one, otherwise you may lose it too.

Eliminate wrong answers

When you deal with multiple –choice questions, elimination is a good strategy. Usually only one answer is correct, unless the instructions say something else.

This task can be approached in a similar way to true/false/not given questions that appear in the reading test. Multiple choice questions consider each option and task you whether it is true, false or not given according to the recording. Of course the one option that is true is the correct answer! Any other answer is obviously incorrect.

Keep in mind that there are cases when all tee choices are correct or none of them is correct. Read the instruction carefully and you will know what to do in such cases.

Check the grammar

If the answer you write it’s grammatically incorrect- it cannot be right one. Checking the grammar of your answers will give you an idea whether your answers are correct or not, especially in tasks like:

  • Gap -fill
  • Sentence completion

Use your time wisely

During the test, you have a little time between listening during sections. Use it to check and complete your answers.

Copy answers smartly

 After 30 minutes or so of the listening test, there are 10 additional minutes. During the test you have written all of the answers in the listening test booklet. These 10 minutes are given to you to copy your answers onto the answers sheet and you should use this time smartly.

The answer sheet has two sides, one for the reading test and other for the listening test, so make sure you are writing on this listening side. Included in this book is an example of an answer sheet so you can get familiar with it and use it for practicing. First, copy all the answers from the booklet onto the answer sheet, and pay attention to the following guidelines (as simple as they sound –they are BIG time savers):

  • For multiple choice questions and picture selection questions –just copy the letter of the correct answer, do not circle it.
  • For sentence completion-just copy your answer, not the whole sentence
  • For true/false/not given questions-just copy T, F or NG, whatever your choice is
  • For gap fills- just copy the word you have chosen for the gap
  • For answers written in short (like prof. advice)- write the full version ( professional advice)
  • Check that all the answers are clear, understandable and in a legible handwriting.

Now, if you missed some questions –it is a good time to guess.

LISTENING: Preparation Tips in Depth

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One thought on “LISTENING: Preparation Tips in Depth

  1. Thanks. I got lots of helpful tips from this. I will start practicing with them. I am sure it will improve my listening skill scores.

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