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.