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IELTS ListeningHow to prepare for your IELTS listening test? (Target band score 8+)

How to prepare for your IELTS listening test? (Target band score 8+)

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What is the IELTS Listening test? 

First of all, you need to understand the purpose of this test.

The IELTS Listening test assesses your ability to truly understand the meaning of a dialogue, the speaker’s perspective and the speaker’s ideas.

There are a total of 4 parts in the IELTS listening exam, approximately 30 minutes to do the whole paper with 40 questions in the paper. There are 10 questions in each section with each part recorded ONCE. An additional 10 minutes will be given to candidates to tidy up their answers.

Part 1: A two-person conversation related to everyday life, for example, conversation about an apartment rental process.

Part 2: Monologues related to everyday life, e.g. a speech given in the school.

Part 3: A multi-person conversation related to a event, with no more than four people in the recording, e.g. a conversation between students discussing a group project

Part 4: Monologues on academic topics, e.g. Science related topic

You will listen to 4 recordings done by native English speakers and then answer a series of questions based on that recording. The test will be divided into 4 main sections that range from an easy level to difficult. 

Although the monologues and dialogues are recorded by native English speakers, each recording may be done in different accents to test your ability to adapt to different national accents like the American accents, British accents or Australian accents. 

Here are some tips and tricks to help you get a higher score in your IELTS listening test:

While listening to the recording, you should concentrate on understanding and remember the key information that is needed for your answer. A common mistake that people do is they force themselves to understand every word in the recording or they might get hung up on certain words or phrases. 

Secondly, take advantage of the time that is given to you when the recording explains the instructions for each section of the exam. Use that time to carefully read the requirements and question types for that section. Circle any key words and use that to try and anticipate the topic and scenario of the recording. If you are doing the computer based IELTS exam, just quickly write down the key words that you need. 

Third, pay attention to the number of words required for your answer in each question. This is because questions usually require one or two word answers, and more than that will result in a deduction of your marks.

To summarize from the past papers provided by British Council or IDP, there are 5 general question types in the exam, this includes multiple choice, fill-in-the-blanks, word fillers, matching answers and short answer questions. Try your best to prepare for your IELTS exam before the actual test by getting familiar with each question type, this way, your chances of getting a band score of 8 or more will be higher.

Now, let’s go through each section one by one and see how we can improve your IELTS exam skills. 

Tips on Section 1:

Section ONE should be the easiest section in the IELTS listening exam. It is usually a conversation between 2 people and it is mainly about everyday, basic, communication. For instance, confirming a reservation, requesting a service, department rental negotiations, etc.

The questions are pretty straight forward. It tests your ability to listen to and focus on details such as credit card numbers, telephone numbers, addresses etc. You don’t need to worry about the spelling of the vocabulary as the complicated words will usually be spelt out for you.

Just make sure you know what examples like these are:

3658-8666 = Three six five eight, eight triple six.

6003-7121 = Six double O three, seven one two one

Remember to listen to this part carefully as the recording will only be played ONCE.

Tips on Section 2:

Section will be slightly more complicated as it usually focuses on asking about the causes and consequences of certain actions or events, the purpose, the solution and details about it etc.

Just like section 1, the theme of section 2 is based around everyday situations but instead done in a monologue form. The length of the monologue is around 5 minutes and you must always stay focused during that time. 

Common questions include traveling, table completion, flow charts, diagram labelling and matching headings. The vocabulary used in the monologue is relatively simple and easy to understand so you shouldn’t be too stressed about that in this section. 

Tips on Section 3:

Section 3 of the IELTS listening exam is where things start to become harder. Not only does the vocabulary become harder, the content of the discussions also becomes more complex which makes it harder for you to distinguish between the views and attitudes of different speakers.

Some advice for you is to try to identify clearly who is speaking and who is involved in the conversation. You can write down some notes in your question booklet to remember who said what, only then will you be able to distinguish the intentions of each person, the questions they ask and the solutions they offer, so you can find the context of that conversation. 

Another IELTS listening exam tip is to try and predict the word of the fill-in-the-blank. This means, apart from trying to predict the topic and scene of the recording, you should also be able to time and judge the word’s nature that you are trying to fill in the blank. This makes it easier for you to notice the key word when listening to the recording. 

Let me give you an example:

“The craft is shaped like a _____”, the word that follows that preposition should be a noun, an object that can be used to describe the craft. With this information, you are then able to pinpoint that the associated word could be a BALL or a CUBE.

Another example is: “Helene from _____ helped in the event ….”. You are able to infer from that preposition that the word that needs to be filled in is referring to a place, indicating that this may be the country or city that she is from. 

Tips on Section 4:

Section 4 being the last section is undoubtedly the most difficult section of the IELTS listening exam. It will again be presented in a monologue format and it will be done with academic topics. This means, the vocabulary is once again hard to understand and it requires you to know how to spell hard words and understand those hard vocabs.

In summary, the structure of this kind of academic monologue is very similar to an academic essay. It consists of an introduction, the main point in the body paragraph and examples etc. The monologue is mainly in the form of a lecture with a speaker speaking at a slightly faster pace with only a few seconds to pause in between. This is just like the first lecture at university where a professor introduces the foundation of the course, meaning it can be very broad and complex in its subject matter.

To prepare for the listening section in Section 4, you can use BBC, Discovery Channel, TED-Ed, or simply news to help you with this. Not only is this to help you familiarise yourself with different knowledge backgrounds, but you can also familiarise yourself with the structure of their explanatory style, like their sentence patterns. This can also help you improve your comprehension and listening response speed. 

(YouTube reference video embedded)

Extra resources for improving IELTS listening:

To be frank, continuously listening to the English language through different channels is the best way to improve your English. To be familiar with the British Accent, you may try to use the BBC Learning English website

There are plenty of resources on there including grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation exercises. There are also tons of articles to help you improve your reading, listening, speaking and writing skills. 

This can also help you learn the difference between British English and American English.

BBC Global News is also another FREE mobile app that can help you practice your advanced English listening skills. It may be a bit challenging at first but you will notice that you can start to understand clearer more after a few tries. 

Last but not least, Netflix is a great platform not only for your entertainment but to help you practice for your IELTS listening exam.

You can turn on the subtitles when watching your TV show and mark down the words that you don’t understand or couldn’t hear clearly. You will discover that each TV show can help expand your vocabulary bank when discussing different topics that might be a topic in your exam.

However, you will need to choose a specific show for a specific purpose. For example, the famous sitcom “F.R.I.E.N.D.S” will definitely help when you want to listen to more daily conversations; “OUR Planet” can help you widen your horizon on natural and scientific areas, and it’s also a hot topic in the IELTS reading exam too; the famous drama “The Crown” is also worth watching as not only is it a great show, but it is also a good practice when familiarising yourself with the native British accent.

I hope that through this lesson, you got a better direction and path on how to prepare for your IELTS listening exam. Feel free to leave any comments or questions or share this to your friends if you find it useful. 

Good luck~


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