Lesson 2 of 10
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Introduction to the listening test

In this lesson, we look at what you need to know about the listening test.

9 Tips

You only get to listen once, so if you lose concentration, you might miss the answer. Some students like to “activate their English skills” by having a conversation or listening to a podcast before the test starts. Some students even like to meditate before their test. Also, make sure that you sleep well in the days before your speaking test- you want to be well rested before the test begins. You may also want to drink a tea or coffee before your test to be alert and have your brain functioning at its full potential. 

Between the different parts of the test, you’ll hear instructions. You can use this time to read and underline key words in the upcoming questions. By doing this, you’ll feel more ready when the recording starts. 

I’ll instructions often say something like “Write no more than one word and/or a number”. Make sure you know what this means!  Remember, hyphenated words (old-fashioned) and compound words (boyfriend) count as one word. Also, numbers with a symbol ($20.10) count as one number. 

If you make a spelling mistake, you don’t get the point. 

The most effective way to get familiar with different accents is to do the Official Cambridge Practice Tests. This will prepare you well for understanding a range of different English-speaking accents. You may even hear the same actors in your real IELTS test. 

The answers come in order. You should always be one question ahead in case you miss one. Also, this will help you to be prepared when the answer for two questions come in a short period of time. 

There are many distractors in the IELTS Listening test. One of the most common distractors is when the speaker corrects themselves. So they might say “Could you deliver the parcel at 7:30? Oh wait, make that 8:30, please”.

One of the most effective ways to do this is to watch English-speaking series with English subtitles. 

In your preparation period, it’s important to do a lot of practice tests. I recommend that you divide your preparation period into three stages. 

Stage 1 (2+ months before your IELTS test)

  • Do one question at a time (e.g. multiple choice questions, form completion questions)
  • After you have tried to get the answer, read and listen to the tapescript.
  • Focus on the questions you got wrong.
  • Work on your weaknesses.
  • Keep a record of new words.

Stage 2 (1-2 months before your test)

  • Do full IELTS listening tests.
  • Afterwards, read and listen to the tapescript.
  • Learn from the questions that you got wrong.
  • Keep a record of new words.

Stage 3 (less than month before your IELTS test)

  • Do full IELTS tests (listening + reading + writing) on the same day. This will build up your stamina. 
  • You can always do the tests that you did in stage 1 to see if you have progressed. 

Frequently asked questions about the listening test

Yes, in the answers come in order.

Yes. You will have a short amount of time (usually 30 seconds) to read the questions. The instructions will tell you how many questions to read. Use this time to underline keywords. 

Yes, it is very useful to make notes on the question paper. Remember, these will not be seen by the examiner so make sure you write all your answers in the answer sheet before the end of the test. 

No, you should write all your notes on the question paper. 

Yes. We recommend that you do this. It is clear for the examiner to read and you don’t have to decide if the answer should start with a capital letter.

For the listening and reading test you have to write with a pencil. You should bring an eraser with you. 

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