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IELTS Listening Tips

The IELTS tips on this page will help you get the best possible score in the IELTS Listening module.

You will be given this first bit of advice over and over again but it's still worth repeating: listen carefully to the invigilator's instructions. We are always amazed by the number of people who fail to heed this advice. We often notice candidates not paying attention to the invigilator and these are the ones who get told off because they open the question paper before being instructed to do so. We appreciate that it is difficult listening to someone speaking in your second language but candidates really need to concentrate very hard on what the invigilator says.

Before discussing these IELTS Listening tips it is worth mentioning that if there are any problems with the conduct of the test you should make a mental note in case you do not get the result you need - see the section "After The Test" on the IELTS Tips page.

Examples of possible problems include faulty equipment or being distracted by noise inside or outside the exam room. The invigilator should not be wandering around during the IELTS Listening test as this can be distracting or even cause interference if wireless headphones are in use.

Listen to the invigilator's instructions. Fill out the answer sheet as instructed. When the question paper has been given out, read the instructions on the front but DO NOT OPEN IT. The instruction to open the question paper is recorded on the tape.

The invigilator will check the recording before starting the listening test. They will do this by playing the first two or three sentences. (These are not part of the test, just introductory sentences.) Listen carefully so that you know if you can hear OK. If you have any problems say so immediately. If there is a problem with the CD or equipment it will be apparent to everyone, but at some Test Centres headphones are used and if your headphones are faulty others may be able to hear fine while you cannot.

Do not wait until the test has started before saying something. Once the test has started the tape cannot be stopped!

Do not open the question paper until instructed to do so. You will be instructed to open the question paper on the recording. Opening the question paper before being instructed to do so may be considered to be cheating.

Listen carefully to the tape and don't let your attention wander. The tape will be played once only and there will be no repeats. All instructions and pauses are recorded on the tape so, if you are told you have half a minute to check your answers, there will be half a minute of silence on the recording.

The listening test consists of four sections. Before each section you will be given time to read the questions for that section. Read them carefully but not too slowly - when your time is up the recording will start, whether or not you have read all the questions. Be sure to read the instructions, as well as the questions, carefully and follow them. If it says write no more than three words, do not write four!

As you listen to the recording don't just listen for the answer to the question you are expecting. Be aware of the questions that follow the one you are expecting. It is easy to miss the answer to a particular question and then find yourself lost.

Quite often the speaker will provide an answer that is vague, or that they are not sure about. Always keep listening for clarification or a change of mind.

Write your answers in the question booklet quickly and clearly enough for you to be able to read them when you come to transfer them to the answer sheet. You can use some form of shorthand to save time if you wish, even your own language, as nothing you write in the question paper will be seen by the examiner. Just be sure you can still understand it when you come to transfer your answers.

After each section you will be given chance to check your answers. If you finish checking your answers to a section in the time available give yourself a head start and begin looking at the questions for the next section.

After the final section you will be told that you have ten minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. If you are wearing headphones be sure to leave them on as you will continue to receive timechecks and instructions from the recording - including the one that tells you to stop writing! Failure to stop writing may be seen as cheating!

During this time carefully transfer your answers using pencil. Make sure you transfer your answers to the correct number on the answer sheet. Also, check you have followed any instructions correctly. If your spelling is incorrect or if the examiner cannot be sure if you have answered the question correctly because it is not written clearly, it will be marked incorrect so try to get your spelling right and write clearly.

10 minutes is sufficient time to transfer your answers as long as you don't waste time. For example, if you have not been able to answer all the questions be sure to transfer all the questions you have answered before reviewing those you haven't. Although the IELTS Listening test gets progressively more difficult, you get the same mark for every correct answer regardless of whether it was easy or hard.

Once you have transferred the answers to all the questions you managed to answer, review those questions you were unable to answer. Now is the time to guess. For some questions it might be obvious which are definitely wrong answers, perhaps leaving you with two possible choices. Guess which is correct and move on to the next question. You will not lose marks for incorrect answers but have every chance of gaining marks by guessing. Even for questions where you don't have any idea what the correct answer is, try to guess. A correct guess might be enough to push you up a band. Your target should be to have an answer for every question - try not to leave any blank.

Take note of these IELTS tips and you should have a much better chance of reaching your potential in the IELTS Listening test.

For information on how to prepare for the IELTS test, check out our IELTS Listening Preparation and IELTS Resource pages.

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