IELTS Listening Tips

It’s no secret how hard the IELTS exam is. At over two-and-a-half hours in length, covering English listening, reading, writing and speaking components, it is an upper-echelon English test that puts students’ English abilities to the utmost challenge.

Each of the four IELTS components has its own challenges, but out of all of them, there are some useful tips you can learn to help specifically with the listening portion. By gaining some insight into the IELTS listening test section, you will be able to get the score you want.

Here are some key IELTS listening test tips:

Take your time

Obviously the IELTS exam is stressful, both when you are preparing and once you are seated to take the test. However, this stress may encourage you to take your time, especially in the listening portion. Upon arriving to the exam and being seated, pay close attention to the listening, and complete your answers methodically as you go. It might seem odd, but once you are in the exam room, you will be able to ease yourself into listening to instructions and soundbites before completing the answers properly.

Be careful

With the consideration of taking one’s time, there’s also the matter of care while completing the IELTS listening portion. You will have to complete the test to the specifics and regulations of the IELTS exam itself. Matters like spelling—i.e. ‘environment’, not ‘enviroment’—matter and once the listening begins in the IELTS exam, noting any instructions like ‘…write no more than three words…’ and following them to a fault are necessary. Pay close mind to IELTS listening instructions to avoid unnecessary penalties.

Listen for accent difference

Rightly or wrongly, IELTS exam students have to understand different English accents. Often the soundbites of the exam—sometimes the reading, too—are delivered in more than one English accent. It’s just what’s expected—English students learning Spanish often have to understand the Spanish of Spain, Cuba, Chile, etc. You should practice listening to English from England, Scotland, the United States, and Australia. It’s hard to predict which ones will be featured in the exam, so it is beneficial for you to familiarise yourself with as many as possible. 

Skip ahead

There are moments on the IELTS listening exam, however short, where you can read ahead to see what you might be answering. By reading ahead a bit and understanding the context of the listening topic, you may be able to guess which speech part, like a specific noun or verb, to use in your answers. For example, a passage like ‘…the engineer can show the workers how to ______ the bridge’, whereby the ‘to’ indicates a verb will have to come after it in the sentence. 


Taking the IELTS exam is like taking a driving test: you simply have to practice if you ever hope to succeed on exam day. While you may have a natural ability in English reading or writing, listening requires you to attune your ears to spoken English rhythms, inflections, and dialects. Taking practice listening tests and noting which areas need improvement are vital for overall IELTS success. 

With all of this in mind, The Language Gallery offers IELTS preparation courses that can help you improve your listening skills and your overall score that much more. There are both whole IELTS preparation and elective courses on specific listening courses for IELTS  as well, both taught by qualified IELTS exam instructors.

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