The Best IELTS Listening Tips & Tricks – How To Improve IELTS Listening

Aug 31, 2019 | IELTS Test

Looking to conquer the IELTS Listening section? Our comprehensive guide offers the most effective IELTS Listening Tips to help you navigate and succeed in this part of the exam. 

Many candidates find the Listening component of the IELTS exam particularly challenging because it requires a different skill set to the other sections. One of the main reasons that the Listening section can be so challenging is that it’s difficult to prepare for. There are very few experienced teachers who are familiar with this part of the test.  

Unlike reading or writing, listening skills can’t be honed simply through textbooks or traditional study materials – they need to be taught in a much more immersive way, a way that few schools have access to. 

Limited online resources are available that provide practice materials of sufficient quality to significantly enhance candidates’ performance in the actual exam. This is because producing that material necessitates the use of professional recording studios. These are something that most professional teachers do not have access to. 

IELTS Listening Tip 1: Mastering Spelling

image of an english spelling list

Perhaps this is a tip that you might not expect to be at the top of an IELTS Writing guide. However, in the IELTS Listening section, accuracy is paramount, and this extends beyond simply understanding what you hear. Spelling is a critical component of your response. Even if you have grasped the audio content accurately, a misspelt word will result in your answer being marked incorrect.

Here are some of the best IELTS listening tips that can make sure you enhance your spelling…

1. Practice Typing As You Listen: Open a Microsoft Word or Google Docs file and go to Tools > Spelling and Grammar > Hide Spelling Errors. This will allow you to write without words being automatically corrected. Play an IELTS listening practice clip and type the words you hear. Once you’ve finished, you can turn the spell check back on and see your mistakes. 

2. Repetition is Key: Once you’ve pinpointed the words you frequently misspell, employing the time-tested method of repetitive learning is highly effective. Practice writing these words multiple times until their correct spelling is firmly etched in your memory. This approach will help in retaining their spelling for future use.

3. Learn General Spelling Rules: Memorising general spelling rules in English can be beneficial in avoiding common errors in IELTS Listening. It might be useful to review these general spelling rules from How To Spell.

Enhancing your spelling is a critical component of any successful IELTS listening strategy. Practise by listening to various accents and speeds; different pronunciations might cause you to make errors. Keep in mind that regardless of the accuracy of your answer, incorrect spelling will render it incorrect. 

IELTS Listening Tip 2: Understanding Different Accents

image of australian flag

Many candidates find the most significant challenge in the Listening section of the exam to be comprehending different accents. The majority of the test consists of British accents, accounting for around 65%, followed by a significant proportion of Australian accents, roughly 25%. The other 10% comprises a variety of native and non-native English accents.

British and American accents are commonly recognised by many due to their prevalence in popular media sources such as the BBC and Hollywood. However, Australian accents are not as widely familiar. Consequently, candidates tend to make more errors in the IELTS Listening section when it features an Australian accent. 

Why Understanding Accents Matters 

Grasping various accents is essential for accurately interpreting each Listening section – especially Part 3, which can feature several accents. The IELTS exam mirrors the global use of English, encompassing the diverse range of accents found within the language. Therefore, during the time-restricted Listening section, candidates frequently struggle to adapt their listening skills to the different accents presented in the recordings.

2 IELTS Listening Strategies To Master Different Accents 

1. Focus Your IELTS Practice on Various Accents: Enhance your self-study routine by including listening materials featuring British, Australian, and other native and non-native accents. Given the likelihood of encountering the Australian accent in the test, it’s particularly beneficial to familiarise yourself with it. To make this process more enjoyable and engaging, explore the Urban List’s selection of Australian podcasts across various topics here. This provides a more fun and engaging way to get accustomed to the accent.

2. Active Listening Exercises: Practise active listening by focusing intently on the pronunciation, intonation, and rhythm of the accents. A good way to help you better understand the way certain words are pronounced in different accents is to shadow their pronunciation. When you do this, you’ll better understand how the word changes based on dialect, and this will keep you much more familiar with them going into the test.

IELTS Listening Tip 3: Keep to the Word Limits 

image of typewriter with word instructions

Many candidates need to pay more attention to the importance of carefully reviewing the instructions, which can vary significantly from one question to another. Key elements in the instructions include the word count limit and whether numbers should be used in your answer. 

With every new question type or task, there will be fresh instructions specifying the maximum number of words you are allowed to write. Adhering to these word limits is crucial, as deviating from them can lead to incorrect answers, regardless of the correctness of the information. For instance, if the instruction specifies ‘no more than three words’, an answer with four or more words will be marked incorrect. 

Sometimes, your answer might include a number. However, it’s important to note that your answer will only include a number if the instructions mention one. 

Not carefully listening to and sticking to the instructions for the IELTS Listening test can mean you input information that, whilst accurate, will be considered incorrect and will result in you losing marks. 

IELTS Listening Tip 4: Exercise Caution with Online Resources

image of caution tape

The availability of quality online IELTS Listening tests is limited. Even those adept at creating Listening test questions frequently lack access to professional recording studios. Paradoxically, it’s often the less skilled who have better resources, leading to a prevalence of poorly produced IELTS Listening tests online.

The only IELTS Listening practise test that we would recommend is this one, published by the British Council.

The quality of your study resources is crucial. Practising with subpar materials can leave you unprepared for the actual IELTS Listening test. Remember, effective resources aren’t limited to practice tests alone; podcasts, radio shows, TV shows, and films can be equally beneficial. The key is to choose resources that mirror the level of English spoken in the IELTS test, even if they aren’t specifically IELTS-focused.

However, it’s important not to rely solely on one type of material. Diversify your practice with various resources, and remember to follow the second IELTS Listening tip from this list by including a variety of accents in your study routine. When selecting new resources to enhance your IELTS Listening skills, always assess their quality. Where possible, find resources with transcripts to accurately gauge your comprehension and listening accuracy.

IELTS Listening Tip 5: Effective Time Management 

image of a stopwatch

Managing time effectively is important throughout many sections of the IELTS test. However, in the Listening section, it is especially important to have good time management strategies in place. The section is not just about understanding what you hear but also about being able to process and record information within a limited timeframe. Good time management, therefore, can be the difference between a good and bad performance in IELTS Listening.  

Some IELTS Listening Tips And Tricks For Time Management 

1. Learn The Test Structure: If you are not already familiar with the IELTS Listening test, then you’ll need to learn its format! Understanding this is the first step in managing your time effectively. If you’d like some more detailed breakdown of the format of the Listening section of the test, you can read our page here

2. Use the Pre-listening Time Wisely: Before each recording is played, you are given some time to read through the questions. Use this time to quickly understand what information you need to listen for. This can help you anticipate and identify answers more rapidly.

3. Practice Transferring Answers Quickly: If taking the paper test, you will have 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. Practise this transfer process to ensure you can do it quickly and without errors. Make sure that you pay careful attention here to avoid any careless mistakes. NOTE: you will not be given this extra time with the computer based test!

4. Any Practice Tests Should Be Done In Exam Conditions: Regularly practise under timed conditions similar to the actual test. This will help you get accustomed to the pace of the test and improve your ability to manage time during the actual exam.  

IELTS Listening Tip 6: Understand The IELTS Listening Scoring System 

IELTS band score Calculator 2

Our final tip for the IELTS Listening exam is to develop a clear understanding of the scoring system for this section.

The IELTS Listening section comprises 40 questions, each marked by clerical markers (and these days maybe a computer!) where every correct answer earns one point. Your total score (out of 40) is then converted to the IELTS 9-band scale using a computer algorithm.

It’s important to note that the specific number of correct answers needed to attain a particular band score may vary between different tests , due to varying difficulty levels. However, as a rough guideline, achieving a score of 6, 7, or 8 out of 10 is generally indicative of the corresponding band score you can expect on the actual test day. 

However, this is just an estimate, and the actual score needed for a specific band can fluctuate. 

Understanding the scoring system and knowing what is required to achieve a certain band score in the IELTS Listening test can help you set realistic goals and focus your preparation effectively. Remember though, consistent practice, familiarity with the test format, and a strategic approach to answering questions are what matter most when you’re looking to improve your IELTS Listening ability.  

For some more detailed information on how parts of the IELTS test is scored you can see our IELTS Band Score Calculator here. 

Build On These IELTS Listening Tips With Online IELTS Lessons 

If IELTS Listening is the section that you’re struggling most with, then it’s clear from all that we’ve discussed above that focused practice and expert guidance is the only certain way to improve. At English With An Expert we have a range of different IELTS Lesson Packages available that have helped thousands of students just like you master the IELTS exam and begin their journey to a new and improved life, at home or abroad!

Our tailored lessons are specifically crafted to align with your unique strengths and improvement needs. From perfecting your understanding of diverse accents and improving spelling precision to refining your time management abilities, our seasoned tutors offer comprehensive guidance. In addition to their expert advice, they will share exclusive IELTS Listening tips and provide feedback in other areas such as Writing, Speaking, and Reading. Our tutors are dedicated to customizing your learning experience, focusing intently on areas where you need the most development.

So, if you’re serious about achieving your desired band score in the IELTS Listening section, our online lessons are the perfect solution. Book a demo lesson today and gain the skills, confidence and knowledge you need to pass the IELTS exam the easier way!