Three Tips for Scoring Higher in IELTS Listening

Most IELTS candidates find the Listening test more challenging than the Reading test. That’s probably because in the reading test, you have the texts right in front of you and you can refer to them as many times as you want. However, in the IELTS listening test, you will hear the recording only once, and if you miss an answer, it’s gone forever. So you should come up with some strategies in advance to help you reach your full potential in this test. Here are four essential tips you will find useful:

1. Analyze the questions first

The listening test contains four recordings. Before listening to each one of them, you will be given some time (around 20-35 seconds) to read the questions.

It would be best if you learned to use this time well. It might not be very long, but it’s long enough to do the vital preparation work that will enable you to answer the questions successfully.

In the listening test, you will be asked a variety of different types of questions. During this time, you must be able to quickly identify what types of questions you are required to answer. Sometimes the introduction will tell you, or it will be obvious. Other times, you will have to look more closely to decide.

It would help if you also tried to predict the answer. This means to say what type of word you think the answer will be based on the evidence that you have. Prediction is one of the most valuable strategies of the IELTS listening test because it identifies the type of information you will need to listen for in the recording.

2. Beware the distractors

The IELTS Listening test is designed to show which candidates can listen effectively and which can’t. One way of doing so is to set traps in the recording and see whether you fall into them. These traps are called distractors, and you need to know about them and how to avoid them.

Distractors are most often seen in dialogues in the listening test, where a speaker says something and is then corrected themselves or by the other speaker. That means that you will hear the same piece of information in two versions. One is correct, and one is not, and if you are not listening carefully, it’s very easy to write down the wrong one. It’s not challenging to find the answers when the dialogue is written down in front of you. But when you are listening, it is much more confusing.

There is really only one way to deal with distractors effectively, and that is to take as many practice tests as you can. Probably the best way of doing this is through taking online IELTS mock tests on

3. Be accurate

In the Listening test, you need to be completely precise when answering the questions. This means that you should write down exactly what you hear and what is expected in the question and no more or less. For example, let’s say the question asks you to complete the phrase “help with taking …….. “ and the answer is “notes”. The only answer that will be marked correct is “notes”. So if you write “taking notes” or “making notes” or “note taking” you will not receive a point (even though you know the answer and have included it).

This rule also applies to spelling. Spelling is very important, but many IELTS candidates don’t pay enough attention to it. All of your spelling must be accurate, or you run the risk of losing a mark. This applies to capitalization as well. If you fail to capitalize proper names, for instance, you will not be given a mark.

I hope that these simple tips can help you succeed in the IELTS listening test. These tips need to be practised several times before you can successfully implement them, so make sure that test day is not the first time you do an IELTS Listening test. Try to do at least four or five practice tests in advance to get used to the preparation and test time, reading and listening to the questions, and writing accurate answers.

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