IELTS Listening Tips – IELTS Listening Tips

IELTS Listening Tips

IELTS Listening Tips

General Tips for the IELTS Listening Exam

Stay focused while you’re listening and then carefully transfer your answers to the answer sheet. 

Use the time when examples are being played to read ahead through the questions – if you’re familiar with the exam you know the format, you don’t need to listen to the long example at the very beginning

You have 30 second at the end of each section to read over answers but this could be better spent looking at the next section

Practice the full exam, at home, lots of times.

The IELTS is very particular about answers. If you spell a word wrong, it’s wrong. If it asks for one word, and you write two, it’s wrong. Accuracy is crucial. However, you have time at the end to transfer your answers, so worry about spelling at that point, not while you’re listening.

The sample questions we look at are taken from the IELTS website here


IELTS Listening Tips : Section 1 

Look at the question sheet we are discussing here

A conversation, two people, usually booking or organising something

Lots of names, numbers, dates

Learn the alphabet! Especially A, E, and I.

Rob’s handy tip works really well for a lot of students – e-mail, iPhone. You can’t go wrong!

Before you listen, think about what type of answer you need (noun, verb, number, etc). Can you predict any answers?


IELTS Listening Tips : Section 2 

One speaker often giving a talk (but not a lecture, that’s section 4), welcoming a group to an area, a guided tour, etc

It’s harder than section 1 because it’s not a conversation.

You may have to complete sentences, give short answers, match sections, or label a plan/map/diagram (this one can be difficult – you need to look carefully at the picture, and orient yourself)


IELTS Listening Tips : Section 3

Several speakers, some type of academic discussion, usually between a professor or tutor and two students, discussing a project, getting feedback, etc

Be careful who says what and what exactly you’re being asked

There are lots of synonyms and distractor words in this section

Similar format to section 1 but harder answers, more complex vocab and constructions

Like all the parts of the IELTS exam, synonyms are important, because they show you understand the meaning, you’re not just picking out words you don’t understand. And so building your vocabulary is a huge part of this too. 


IELTS Listening Tips : Section 4


An academic lecture

It is very long – you really need to pay attention

There are often long gaps between answers

Section 4 is not easy. But remember you can still get several questions wrong in part 4 and get a 7 or 7.5 on the exam, as long as you have got most of the other sections right. 


More Listening Practice

If you are looking for some more listening practice, you might let me recommend my other podcast. It’s called Words To That Effect and it’s not an English language podcast – it’s a show about popular culture, history, science, and fiction. If you’re interested, and you want to practice your English with a very different podcast, I’d love if you had a listen. You can get it wherever you get your podcasts or at



Flustered (adj.) – to be flustered is to be worried and agitated, a bit confused maybe. If you get flustered in the exam, maybe because you miss an answer, you need to try to keep calm and just move on to the next question.

Rob says that in the exam they might throw around a few answers before landing on one. That is, they’ll say lots of nearly correct possible answers, before making the true answer clear.

To scribble (sth) down or to (sth) jot down – to jot something down is to write it quickly and informally, maybe in shorthand (a form of writing where you use lots of abbreviations and acronyms). 

To scribble means to write or draw on a page, but in a messy or meaningless way. Young children scribble before they learn to draw, for example.


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