6 Easy Ways to Improve Your IELTS Listening Score

Achieving a fundamental improvement in Listening takes time, work and patience, there’s no doubt about that. But I find that people often overlook some quick steps they can take to significantly raise their IELTS score. And for some test takers, that increase in score is all they need! So, by all means work on your Listening skills, but do these steps first and see your score go up:

1. Watch your spelling!

Even if you heard the correct answer but misspelt it, you won’t get a mark for that answer. The easiest marks you can ever get in Listening is by watching your spelling. A ‘Commonly misspelled words’ list can help you learn the words you are most likely to misspell (you can find it here in free trial of ‘IELTS Success Formula’ book)

2. Learn to write while listening

Writing while listening is a skill that needs developing. If you have trouble with it, writing your answers at same same time as listening to the recording will feel a lot harder. Find out early whether or not you can write while listening, and develop/improve that ability by listening to any kind of lecture or talk, and making notes at the same time.

3. Read questions and try to predict answers

When you are given time at the beginning of every Listening section, go over the questions in that section, but don’t just read them – try to predict what kind of answer they require. It makes a big difference to your listening, when you know you are listening for a date, or a time, or a dish on the menu and so on.

4. Develop unbreakable concentration

From the moment the Listening recording starts playing, don’t let your mind wander. A single thought that takes you away from the recording can cost you an answer. All your attention should be on the recording, and you need to actively shut down any other thoughts. This takes practice, but you can easily do that at home – just put on a Listening test recording and practice ignoring any distractions for the next 25-30 minutes. You’d be surprised how good you can become at blocking things out!

5. Avoid getting stuck on a missed answer

If you followed suggestion #3 and predicted what kind of answer you’re listening for, you can recognise when the topic of conversation switches to another subject and realise you missed that answer. At that point in time you need to move on, read the next question, predict the answer type and start listening for it, to avoid a chain reaction causing you to lose multiple answers. Your worst case scenario here can be losing all the answers from the first one you missed and to the end of that section. But your best case scenario can be losing just ONE answer, quickly recovering and saving the situation.

6. Get familiar with accents commonly used in IELTS

IELTS Listening test recordings feature different accents: they use British, Canadian, American, Australian, New Zealand speakers, etc. You can’t afford to be in a situation where you are hearing one of these accents for the first time in your life during an actual IELTS exam, because the pronunciation of some words really differs from one accent to the other. You can and should expose yourself to these accents by doing Listening tests with them – such as these practice tests here.

IELTS Speaking Band 8.5 Full Test with Examiner’s Feedback

The video you are about to watch features a Swedish student, Joanne, who is answering questions from Speaking Test 16 in “High Scorer’s Choice” IELTS Practice Tests book series.

Joanne is doing a full simulated IELTS Speaking test with an examiner, who is asking her typical IELTS Speaking test questions. This video shows you what happens on the test day in the real examination room.

IELTS Speaking Test has 3 parts.

In Part 1 you should expect personal questions on familiar topics, for instance about your job or studies, your home, your family, etc.

Part 2 is different, because you receive a single topic to talk about for 1 to 2 minutes, with 4 bullet points you should cover in your speech. Another difference between Part 2 and the other parts is that in Part 2 you get 1 minute preparation time and you can write down some ideas to talk about. This doesn’t happen in Part 1 or Part 3.

Part 3 is a longer discussion where the examiner asks you questions related to Part 2 topic. You are expected to give longer, more elaborate answers and talk in-depth about the topics your examiner brings up.

Here is how you can learn from this Speaking test video

1. Get familiar with everything that happens in the Speaking test. It will help you feel prepared when it’s your turn.

2. Listen to the questions the examiner asks and how Joanne answers them. Then think about what YOU would say in response to these questions.

3. Spot Joanne’s mistakes and avoid them when you speak.

4. Go over Examiner’s Feedback below to learn how he rated Joanne’s performance and why (he also points out some of her mistakes!)

5. You can even use this as a Listening exercise, and switch on subtitles on YouTube to understand every word on the recording.

Watch the video on YouTube here:

Examiner’s Feedback

This section shows you what goes on in the examiner’s mind when he rates a Speaking test. Make sure you read this before looking at the scores he gave Joanne in every criterion, because this explains the reasons she got those scores.

Speaking Test, Part 1 – 0:22

Joanne spoke fluently and confidently in her section 1, showing that she was perfectly comfortable speaking in English. Joanne had an excellent range of lexis that she used and her vocabulary choices were natural and appropriate; there were only rare instances of her using a mildly awkward expression, i.e. “that goes to a certain extent.” Joanne’s grammatical range was always appropriately varied and there was excellent accuracy. Joanne had no discernable Swedish accent and even had a slight U.S. accent. This allowed her communication to be excellent. One criticism of Joanne is that she provided quite short answers and she was short on the required amount of time for section 1. She naturally spoke quite fast, but fuller answers would have put her in a better position.

Speaking Test, Part 2 – 3:28

Joanne was again very fluent and confident. She communicated well and had no problem with the vocabulary and grammar needed for what she had to say. One issue again was that she spoke very fast and frenetically, and she only managed around 38 seconds of speaking, when she needed to produce between 1 to 2 minutes. Slowing down would have helped her and maybe a bit more calm would have allowed to her to realise she had not addressed all the points on the answer sheet – she didn’t really talk about the type of food served (a lot could have been said on this) and the restaurant’s atmosphere was only touched on by saying that it was “open and friendly”. Joanne’s lexis were well chosen and mostly appropriate, with only one slightly awkward collocation, “so much effort”. The grammatical range and accuracy were excellent and again, Joanne’s pronunciation was extremely good, creating the feeling of a native speaker.

Speaking Test, Part 3 – 4:55

Joanne delivered a good section 3 and she provided some intelligent and thoughtful answers. This time, even though she spoke quite fast again, she managed to give fuller answers to the more demanding questions and speak for the required amount of time. She was not quite as fluent as before and she occasionally got a bit tongue-tied (this could have been down to nerves) and she tailed off a bit at one point. In Joanne’s case, the greater difficulty of the questions actually allowed her to show that she had a greater lexis range than was apparent earlier, i.e. “rooted in the history”, “it impacts”, “specific dietary needs”, “lactose intolerant” and “glucose intolerant” are some examples. She also knew some specific scientific vocabulary, i.e. “allergens”. Together, this showed Joanne had an accomplished English vocabulary. Joanne also produced an excellent and accurate grammatical range and was accurate all the way through. Her pronunciation, as before, was of native speaker standard.

Joanne’s IELTS Speaking score

The marking of the IELTS Speaking Test is done in 4 parts.

Fluency and Coherence 7
Lexical Resource 9
Grammatical Range and Accuracy 9
Pronunciation 9

Estimated IELTS Speaking Band 8.5

Need more Speaking tests with Examiner’s feedback? Find them in High Scorer’s Choice book series.



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