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IELTS Preparation - The IELTS Listening Test

This IELTS preparation page gives you tips and suggestions on how best to study for the IELTS Listening test. For information and tips on taking the IELTS Listening test please see our IELTS Listening Module page.

Many people think the IELTS Listening module is the most difficult of the four tests. It is very easy to become despondent when preparing for the IELTS Listening test and this often results from trying to do too much in one go.

Unless your English is already very good, don't try to listen to passages of longer than 2 - 3 minutes. You will find that you quickly become lost and will feel very depressed about not being able to follow what is being said. Listening to a recording is not like having a conversation. When you have a conversation you can question what has been said or your partner can see from your body language that you have not understood something and will repeat or rephrase it. A recording will just continue on regardless. Once you start to improve you can gradually extend the length of passages you listen to but there is little point in listening to passages of more than 5 or 6 minutes, certainly not more than 10 minutes. The IELTS Listening test has 4 sections lasting 30 minutes so the average length of time of each section will be around 5 - 6 minutes as some of the 30 minutes is allocated to reading the questions and writing down your answers.

Recommended:

An excellent book to help you improve your listening skills is IELTS Preparation and Practice: Listening and Speaking, Second Edition by Wendy Sahanaya and Jeremy Lindeck. You will also need the set of 2 cassettes that goes with it.

A suggested strategy

A good strategy would be to listen to English language news, either on the TV, radio or the internet. We would recommend listening to news broadcasts from English speaking countries as the accents are likely to be similar to those you will hear during the IELTS Listening test and won't be extreme. Also, there will not be the pronunciation and grammar mistakes common to English broadcasts from non English speaking countries. If you can record these onto audio tape, so much the better as you will then be able to review what you have listened to.

News items are ideal as they are often quite short. Before you listen, set yourself a task. Don't just listen to the news items and try to understand everything that is said - this could be particularly difficult where uncommon language is used as will happen in some news items. To start with, just try listening for numbers or dates. Once you start to improve you can then listen for names, which are more difficult to hear. When you can successfully listen for these things start listening for the gist (general meaning) of the news item so that you have a basic understanding of what it's about. The next step would be to listen for more difficult information such as the opinions expressed and attitudes of the people interviewed.

Of course there are many other sources of listening materials. We suggest the news because it is free, widely available, the nature and length of the news items makes it highly suitable and, for most people, it is interesting.

Listening to short passages frequently is much better than listening to a long passage occasionally. Perhaps listening to just one or two news items every day would be ideal until your listening ability allows you to listen for longer without strain.

For further materials and other resources to help you prepare for the IELTS Listening Test check out our IELTS Resources pages.

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