How To Improve Listening Skills In IELTS

How To Improve Listening Skills in IELTS

Their are two main ways to improve your IELTS listening score:

1. Improve your exam technique – covered here.

2. Improve your general listening skills for IELTS.

Once you know how to do the listening test and have good technique, the only thing left is to actually improve your listening skills. That is what this article will focus on, how to improve listening skills in IELTS.

The two listening exercises below are based around the news and educational lectures of your own choice, this will develop your own ideas and thoughts on topical issues, which will give you plenty of ideas and examples for your essays and speaking tasks too! As well as improving your vocabulary and even your pronunciation!

Two Ways To Improve IELTS Listening Skills

Method 1: Close listening practice

This involves selecting an online video or audio of your choice to listen too. It must fulfill the following requirements, it must:

Have a transcript with it (all the words typed out). You will see why as you read further.

♦ Be of a native English speaker from Britain, North America, Australia or New Zealand. The reason for this is IELTS listening test are of accents from those countries.

♦ Be about one of the 10 most common IELTS topics or related to a topic you are studying for university, school or work. You need to be smart and build your vocabulary in the areas that it is most likely to impact your band score.

♦ Have clear audio. On test day the audio will be very clear so that’s how you should practice.

IELTS Listening Practice Procedure 1

A great place to find these is You can find the transcript by clicking view interactive transcript’ under the main title.

IELTS Next, you need to look at the transcript and find a paragraph of text from somewhere in the middle of the talk/audio.

Do not read this section in detail or try to remember it, but do look to make sure there are some unfamiliar words and vocabulary.

Secondly, you need to listen to the introduction of the talk to get a feel about what it is about, get your ears used to the pronunciation of the speaker and the pace at which they speak.

Next, search through the audio to find the place where your selected paragraph starts and make a note of this time e.g. 3 mins 42 seconds.

Now, play the video/audio, (the transcript should not be in sight now) and  write down every single word you hear, that’s right everything you hear! Don’t think write!

You will not catch everything the first time so you will need to replay this paragraph over and over again from 3 mins 42, just kep clicking the timer bar at the right place.

Don’t listen to more than 30 seconds as people can say a lot in that time. You will need to listen to this section between 10 and 20 times in order to write down most of what you think is said.

It is unlikely you will understand every word or spell all the words correctly and sometimes you will just hear a group of sounds and have no idea what is being said. This is normal, and all part of the learning process.

It is really important that you listen closely and apply yourself to this task as this is very active listening which will help improve your listening skills overall.

When you have done your best, which will normally be after about 10 minutes, you can go back to the transcript.

Now, look through the paragraph you have written and compare it to what has actually been said in the transcript.

1. Are they the same?

2. What did you miss out or mishear?

3. What new words have you found?

4. Can you guess what they mean from the context of the paragraph?

5. If not can you look in a dictionary and find a definition and synonyms?

6. Can you paraphrase the meaning of the entire paragraph?

This is where your learning takes place, don’t miss any of those questions!

Improve Your Speaking Score Too!

Once you have answered all of the above questions, finally play the section of video/audio again, with a full understanding of its meaning and context, and read the script out aloud at the same time.

Doing this and copying the tone of voice of the speaker with their intonation will help you to sound more natural in your pronunciation.

You will also be learning what words and phrases go naturally together (collocation) and also you may come across idioms and phrasal verbs which are features of how native speakers speech – bonus!

Doing this exercise every day, for 15-20 minutes a day is one of the fastest ways I know of for improving your listening skills, and as you can see, it helps with your vocabulary and speaking skills too, which will all help boost your IELTS score.

Why not have a go now!

Method 2: Listening For Detail Practice

Next time you listen to or watch the news, simply write down all the numbers that you hear AND the unit of measurement that goes along with it. Try one minute world news here form the BBC.

bbc 1 min world newsYou might hear about an earthquake which is 6.5 on the Richter scale, a 2 ton elephant on the loose, a 50 miles per hour road crash and so on.

Remember, if a word is spelt wrongly in IELTS you do not get the mark and as numbers often come up, especially in the listening section, you’d better know how to spell the units/words that go along with them.

The second part of this exercise it to answer the ‘Wh’ questions in relation to what you are listening to. This simply means listening for:

What happened? Why did it happen? When did it happen? Where did it happen? How did it happen?

Make a written or mental note of these answers and then when you get time, find a corresponding (matching) news article on the internet.

I suggest listening to/watching BBC news programs as there will always be a written format of the story on their web-site. You can then check your understanding and comprehension of what you heard.

What makes this exercise great is that the news programs are played over and over again throughout the day, and possibly for the next few days, giving you plenty of chance to listen again and again to what you have read about recycling the new vocabulary in your head.

New words and phrases can be added to a vocabulary notebook, but be sure to include a sentence that shows the word being used in context, you can take it straight from the article you just read.

So, there we have it, two of my favorite ways to highly effective IELTS Listening Practice Techniques. As ever, it is up to you to go and try these exercises! You might also wish to take an online IELTS mock test, this will tell you what types of IELTS listening question types you are not very good at so you can improve your technique for those question types – a fantastic way to improve your band score.