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3 Top Problems in IELTS Listening With Solutions

3 Top Problems in IELTS Listening On Computer With Solutions

When you are taking the Listening test on a computer, even if you are a reasonably confident English listener, chances are you will experience at least one of these problems.

Today Robert Nicholson, a former IELTS examiner and co-author of the “High Scorer’s Choice” IELTS practice book series, shares a way for you to deal with these problems. Make sure not to miss the Bonus Tip at the end!


Short on time? Here is a quick summary:

Problem 1 – Losing track of the recording and missing several answers in a row

How to avoid losing track of the recording

Keeping up with the recording is a problem for many people. It’s easy to get lost and miss a few answers in a row. To prevent that, always read not one, but TWO questions ahead and keep thinking of the two things you are listening for.

For example, there is a form to fill in. In question 2 a house number is missing, and in question 3 a year is missing. You should keep thinking: “I need to hear a house number and then a year”. Even if you miss the house number, when you hear a year you will know you are up to question 3. It will stop you losing more than one question’s answer. Be selective about things you are listening for.

How to move between questions in the correct order, to avoid skipping questions by accident

Make your eyes zigzag from left to right when answering multiple choice questions. This is because the first question appears on the left side of the screen, and the next one is on the right side. Then, the following question is on the left again, and the one after it is on the right. Many people automatically look only at the questions on the left, and don’t notice the questions on the right until it’s too late, the recording has moved on, and they missed all the answers to questions on the right side.

How to move your eyes in the IELTS Listening test on computer

Problem 2 – Rushing and choosing the answer too soon

Listen until the very end, because the answer might change. Often you hear the speaker mention one answer option, but then they decide on another. For example. Sandra and Roger are talking about the platform where their train stops. Sandra thinks her train stops at platform four, but then Roger says it’s changed to platform seven. If you select the answer too early, you may select four, when the correct answer is seven.

Problem 3 – Lack of time to read all the questions before the recording starts.

At the start of every part of the listening test you are given some time to read the questions. This time feels very short. To give yourself more time, here is what you can do. When Part 1 ends, you get some time to check your answers. Instead of checking your answers, skip to Part 2 and start reading the questions there. It doubles your time! Do the same when Part 2 ends. Instead of checking your answers, skip to Part 3 and start reading the questions there. What about checking your answers? At the end of the Listening test, you get 2 minutes to check your answers, and that is when you can do it.

Visit IELTS Online Prep platform to practice for IELTS on Computer

Bonus Tip – How to Check Your Answers

At the end of the Listening test everyone gets two minutes to check their answers, but not many people know how to do that, to maximise their score. Checking whether or not you’ve chosen the correct year, house number, amount of money or person’s name is not easy, because you probably won’t remember them. By the time you get to Part 4, what you heard in Part 1 has evaporated from your memory. But there are other important things to check for in your answers. These things, if not fixed, can cancel a perfectly correct answer. So, when checking your answers, look at 3 things.

1. Word count. Check the instructions to see how many words are allowed, and make sure that your answers do not exceed that limit.

2. Spelling. It is important, because a correct answer that is misspelled will be marked as incorrect.

3. The answers you left blank. You don’t lose points for incorrect answers, so it is better to guess than leave anything blank. If your guess is correct, you’ve gained one mark, and if it’s incorrect, you’ve lost nothing, so it makes sense to do that in the final two minutes of the Listening test.

A very special thank you to Jessica Beck from the IELTS Energy podcast for having Robbie as a guest on the show.

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