5 Tips to improve your academic IELTS listening score

1. Familiarise yourself with the listening test

Sounds obvious but nothing should be a surprise. This is basic exam technique. The key points to be aware of in the IELTS the listening exam are:

Timing: Approximately 30 minutes (plus 10 minutes’ transfer time).

Questions: There are 40 questions. A variety of question types are used, chosen from the following: multiple choice, matching, plan/map/diagram labelling, form completion, note completion,table completion, flow-chart completion, summary completion,sentence completion, short-answer questions.

There are 4 sections: Each section is heard ONCE only which differs from other official exams. You can expect the listenings to increase in difficulty and spelling is also important. You may have the correct answer but spelt it wrong, which means that you don’t get any marks for that question so you should practice saying and listening to the alphabet and spelling out words.

A variety of voices and native-speaker accents are used so if you can only understand your teacher and a particular variety of English then you will not score highly as you won’t understand the dialogue.

Marking: Each correct answer receives 1 mark.

2. Become an active listener

Expose yourself to spoken English. Including different varieties and accents. You need to listen to different genres of English too. Meaning, films, TV shows, podcasts, news, Ted Talks, university lectures, webinars and YouTube videos. Ensure that you are listening to different registers of English i.e. both informal and formal.

You need to develop good listening habits and listen to English everyday as part of your daily routine. You may have a favourite YouTuber that you like to watch which is fine but you also need to listen to academic material too.

Don’t watch with subtitles on the first watch as this won’t develop your listening skills. It may be difficult at first but persevere and with this type of training you will notice that you comprehend more each time you listen to something.

3. Focus on keywords

It’s unrealistic to think that you will understand everything you hear. Learn to recognise keywords and content words. They are usually nouns, verbs and adjectives. Also, study about intonation, word stress and sentence stress. You should learn about connected speech and changes in sound and pronunciation when words are next to each other in a sentence or utterance.

4. Use predicting skills

Read the instructions and questions before the recording starts and try to predict the scenario, and what the speaker may say. Also synonyms for the words you hear in the recording as different words may be in the answers. Remember, this is a test of your English comprehension and ability.

5. Beware of distractors

If the answer is too easy or obvious it probably isn’t the right answer. The first thing you hear may not be the right answer. Sometimes the speaker says something to then go on and negate it or change their mind. The speaker may say all the options with minimal differences in meaning. Stay focused for the full 40 minutes and pay attention to small details.

For more tips and dos and don’ts for the IELTS listening test visit the Official IELTS Website

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