In this study guide, we will share with you our best tricks and tips to score band 7+ on IELTS Listening. You will learn about the test format, task types, time management, successful strategies and tips to achieve a high score. Check out the bonus IELTS Listening resources at the end for further practice!
What you will learn:
The IELTS listening paper is worth 25% of your overall IELTS score. You have 40 minutes to complete four different sections, which consist of one piece of audio and 10 questions each. You have 30 minutes of audio in total with 10 minutes at the end to transfer your answers onto the answer sheet. Please note, you can only listen to the audio once (more tips for this later!).
This format is the same for both Academic and General IELTS.
The audio is slightly different for each of the sections. Look at the table below to find out more.
|Section||Type of audio|
|1||A conversation between 2 people in an everyday situation, e.g. booking a hotel room.|
|2||A monologue in an everyday situation, e.g. making a complaint.|
|3||A conversation between 2-4 people.|
Academic IELTS – a teacher helping a student with an assignment.General IELTS – something work-related, e.g. a boss holding a meeting.
|4||A monologue on an academic or work-related subject, depending on the type of exam you are taking.|
Please note, sections 1 and 2 are the same in Academic and General IELTS, but 3 and 4 are different.
You also need to know how many marks you have to get in order to achieve a band 7 or above. For listening, aim for 30 marks and above.
|Band score||Score out of 40|
To reach a high score, you must demonstrate to the examiner that you understand the opinions of the speakers, the main ideas and any detailed information that is given.
You will also be assessed through a number of different tasks outlined in the next section.
In total, there are 6 tasks for the IELTS Listening paper. They are the same for academic and general IELTS.
Like with IELTS Reading, the number of questions you are required to answer for each task cannot be predetermined. Sometimes the examiner likes to write 6 questions for one task and 5 questions for another. Sometimes there can be as many as 3 tasks in a section or as few as just 1 task. You should acquaint yourself with all the possible tasks that can come up and their focus so you feel 100% prepared for your exam.
|Task type||Task description||Task focus|
|1. Multiple Choice||There is either a question followed by 3 answers, or the beginning of a sentence with 3 ways to complete this sentence.|
You must choose one correct answer – A, B or C.
Sometimes you are given a longer list of options and can choose more than one. You should always read the question carefully to check how many answers are needed.
|You are tested on a wide set of skills from listening to specific points to listening for an overall meaning.|
|2. Matching||You must match numbered items from the listening paper to the questions.||You are assessed on listening for detailed information and on your ability to follow a conversation.|
|3. Plan, map and diagram labelling||You are given a plan, map or diagram and must label it with the options given. Examples include: a plan of a school building, a map of a city centre or a diagram of a watch.||You are tested on your ability to link listening with visual representation and on your ability to follow directions and instructions.|
|4. Form, note, table or flow chart completion||You are required to fill in gaps in different sources.|
It could be a form used for factual details, a set of notes used for summarising something, a table used for organising information or a flowchart used to show a process.
It will be clear from the task question which type of source you need to complete.
|This focuses on your ability to record important information.|
|5. Sentence completion||You are asked to fill out sentences.||This focuses on your ability to identify key areas of the audio.|
|6. Short answer questions||You must read a question and then answer it in writing.||You are tested on how well you remember audio information and apply it to questions.|
Please be aware that tasks 4, 5 and 6 each have a limit to how many words and numbers you can write. You can find the limit in bold text in the task instructions and it usually looks something like this ‘write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER’. Read and underline the instructions before you begin.
Make sure you use all these tips and tricks to ace your IELTS Listening exam!
Before the audio begins, you are given up to 1 minute to look at the tasks. Use this time to read through and underline any instructions on exactly what you need to do. Not only will this make you feel less flustered whilst doing the exam, it will also enable you to listen in a focused way to the most important points that relate to each specific task.
Much like the Writing and the Reading parts of IELTS, any words that are not spelled correctly will hurt from your overall score. To test yourself with spelling, write down a list of new words and test yourself by rewriting them five times without looking at the first list. Repeat this daily to develop your spelling accuracy.
If you are doing a sentence completion task, read back what you have written aloud. Does it sound grammatically correct? If so, then good! If it does not, then find a way to fix it or rephrase it so it sounds right to you. Reading your answers aloud is a great way to double check that your sentences feel right in terms of grammar. Simplify a little if you need to.
The equation is simple: more vocabulary = higher marks! In preparation for your IELTS Listening exam, make sure to learn 10 new words a day for several months. A good way of ordering words is to put them into alphabetical lists and memorise them through writing the definition and an example sentence for each. Read this example sentence aloud and get a friend or private English tutor to test you regularly.
On top of this, try to expand on your knowledge of synonyms. Adjectives are used a lot in the IELTS Listening test. Write down at least 10 basic adjectives (such as big) and try to find synonyms for them using a thesaurus.
During the audio, it is common that the speakers change their minds. Always look out for when they do this as it may influence the answer you write down in the tasks. If you hear an ‘erm’, flag it in your head that the speaker is correcting the information given in a previous sentence. Make sure to write down the correction only!
Do not expect to only hear posh English accents or standard American accents you find in films: the IELTS audio clips have a wide variety of different accents. Familiarise yourself with them before the exam by watching clips from Youtube.
Australian is often considered a difficult accent to understand for a person who speaks English as a second language, so make sure you watch something with at least one Australian speaker, e.g. soap operas like Neighbours or Home and Away. You will no doubt get a better mark if you acquaint yourself with English accents from around the world prior to your IELTS exam.
As the audio goes by very quickly and you can only listen to it once, make sur you note down your answers on a separate piece of paper from the answer sheet. It is a lot easier to cross out mistakes on scrap paper. However, remember to transfer your final answers from the scrap paper to your answer sheet in the 10 minutes at the end of the exam!
This one seems obvious, but you should surround yourself with English. It should be part of your daily routine and lifestyle. Listening is one of the most important skills in English and it can be done both passively and actively.
You can practise your skills by listening to a radio show, film or television programme while you are cleaning the house or commuting to work. Train your brain to understand English speech by listening to various media for an hour each day. Even if this audio is on in the background and you are not fully concentrating on it, you will still learn over time through passive listening.
This should also be complemented with active listening. Active listening can be done through test practice and listening to podcasts or the radio in short bursts each day. Start with active listening for 2 minutes a day and then go up minute by minute as your comprehension improves. TV news can be useful when trying to improve your listening comprehension speed as newsreaders tend to speak quickly and delivery lots of information in a short time.
Remember, being interested in what you are listening to when preparing for the test will help, particularly with building vocabulary. Select interesting sources, not boring ones.
Once all these skills are practised, time should be your primary concern. Remember, you have 1 minute before the audio starts playing in each section to glance at the tasks and underline key instructions. Utilise this time wisely!
When the audio is playing, write down your draft answers on the scrap piece of paper, but remember to write them down with labels such as “Q1”, “Task 2” etc. This will make it much easier for you when you transfer your answers from the scrap piece of paper to the answer sheet in the 10 minutes at the end. You can also use shorthand (short note format) or your own short forms of words to save time – e.g. smth (something), + (and), cos (because).
Make sure to read through the final answers on your answer sheet 2 minutes before submitting them.
The exam is either paper or computer-based. During the paper-based exam, you will be given the listening papers and a separate answer sheet numbered 1-40. Bring 2 pencils, a sharpener and an eraser. Make sure to use a pencil when filling in the answer sheet (not a pen!), so you can erase an answer if you change your mind. Also be aware that you can annotate the listening papers and write answers on the scrap paper before you copy them over to the answer sheet.
During the computer-based exam, make sure to use a pencil, a sharpener and an eraser to draft answers before typing them out on the computer. A spare piece of paper should be available at the exam centre upon request.
Use these listening sites and practice papers to boost your score.