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5 Things You Can Do Today to Raise Your Listening Score [by Hamid, Band 9 in IELTS Listening]

Hamid is a 30 year old IELTS test taker, who got an Overall Band Score of 8.5 with two straight 9’s in the Listening and Speaking sub tests. When we asked Hamid what his advice would be to other IELTS candidates trying to raise their score, he invested a lot of effort and put together the following tips. Have a read, and see what you can change about YOUR Listening practice today, to get a big improvement:

Band 9 in IELTS“It’s generally believed there’s nothing candidates can do to elevate their score in a short period of time. I beg to differ and do believe that with enough dedication, practice, time allocation and directed guidance, getting a higher score in Listening is not so far-fetched.

Here are some tips that might help with this section.

1. First and foremost, make sure you LISTEN to the recording, do not just HEAR it. A simple distinction between LISTENING and HEARING is that the element of ATTENTION is missing in hearing. When answering questions, learners must listen thoroughly to the recording instead of reading the questions. Simply put, do NOT READ and LISTEN at the same time. Before the recording is played out for you, focus ALL your attention on your booklet. While listening to the recording, on the other hand, direct ALL you attention to the recording with a question in mind, in other words, LISTEN. I even sometimes ask my students NOT to look at the question, and instead to JUST LISTEN to avoid distraction.

2. Another important point you need to keep in mind is that you don’t need to answer ALL the questions to get a good score. If you manage to answer even 30 out of 40 questions, you can still get a 7, which is a high score. Remember that the level of difficulty of questions vary in the IELTS Test (in both Listening and Reading sections). As far as Listening is concerned, for instance, FIVE questions are so difficult that only those candidates aiming for a band 8, 8.5 or 9 can answer them. The tricky part is that these challenging questions are RANDOMLY and of course CLEVERLY distributed in order to distract test takers. A smart and successful candidate is one who does not let a difficult question make him/her lose the track of the audio. My point – if you miss one question, even two, do not PANIC. They are most probably WAY above your level. IMMEDIATELY RECOVER so you don’t miss the questions you are capable of dealing with. Don’t let difficult questions have a DOMINO EFFECT on your general performance.

3. In order to maximize your score and better your performance, you need to minimize your errors in Section 1. Many candidates, even with an acceptable level of listing ability, perform poorly in this section, simply because it is the VERY first section of the Listening test. To manage your anxiety, and in turn maximize your performance, do PLENTY of practice tests and mock tests. Practice NUMBERS and DICTATION. Develop a system. Find a list of words that are frequently used. I’ve come up with a fantastic and sure-fire system: PDM (Pronunciation, Dictation, Meaning). If you find a word challenging in terms of PRONUNCIATION, mark it P. In this case, when you later on refer to it, the P reminds you that you had difficulty pronouncing that word right. The same thing can be applied to DICTATION (D) and MEANING (M).

4. An insurmountable problem for the vast majority of candidates, regardless of their listening ability, is indeed Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs), which frequently appear in Section 3 of the IELTS Test. This type of question appears to be challenging for a number of reasons.

First of all, candidates do not have time for reading all the questions and their options. This gets even more challenging with questions with long answer options. The solution? MAKE TIME. Instead of wasting your invaluable time REREADING questions in Section 1 and Section 2, budget your time so you have enough time to read and re-read questions in Sections 3 and 4. Be at least one or two steps AHEAD of the recording, if you will. Use the time you are given at the end of each section to prepare yourself for questions in the following section.

A second reason why MCQs challenge candidates has again to do with LISTENING and HEARING. A colossal mistake many candidates make while answering this type of questions is that, while the recording is played out, they keep RE-READING the options. They feel they are listening to the recording, while, in reality, they are not; they are HEARING. Do NOT make the same mistake. Make sure you have already read, understood and underlined the key parts of each option. Wait until the speaker(s) is/are finished talking about a question and THEN decide which option fits better. A classic mistake is that candidates try to decide on the correct option, while the speaker(s) is still giving information about a question. Wait till he/she is done and then decide quickly.

Remember that a sure-fire way to arrive at the correct answer is by eliminating other options. The options that we do NOT want are

  • the ones which are too obvious and easy. Do NOT choose any option simply because it contains a word you heard on the recording. Most questions in Section 3 are INFERENTIAL, meaning that they are not DIRECTLY mentioned. So watch out for too easy and obvious options. They are most probably the ones you won’t need.
  • the ones which are in direct contradiction with the recording. In almost all cases, one or even two options out of three are REJECTED, so by being on the lookout for such options and eliminating them, you can maximize your chance of finding the correct answer.
  • the ones which are mentioned at the same time. More often than not, two out of three options in MCQs are mentioned in the recording, using a connector (AND, ALONG WITH, etc.) Just be aware of the fact that when it happens, for example answers A and C are mentioned one after the other with a connector, be sure that neither of them is the correct answer.

5. One more thing: watch SERIES and LISTEN TO ENGLISH music. It WORKS WONDERS. The instructional value of watching series is far more than that of watching movies for some simple reasons:

  • Many movies contain a lot of background noise, which some learners find distracting.
  • There are more dialogues in series compared to movies.
  • Watching series creates a feeling of SUSPENSE in the viewer, which encourages learners to follow the other episodes of their favorite series. This will in turn result in more learning opportunities.
  • After watching a specific series, viewers develop a sense of empathy with some characters and get accustomed to their state of mind. This feeling of understanding and bonding can result in better comprehension.

I hope you find these few tips useful. I’m sure with enough dedication, active listening, awareness and guidance, your listening score can easily be improved.”

10 thoughts on “5 Things You Can Do Today to Raise Your Listening Score [by Hamid, Band 9 in IELTS Listening]”

  1. Thanks Hamid for sharing, listening tips with us. I found them very helpful, and I really hope it will improve my listening score. Thanks once again.

  2. This is going to be a rather long review/comment but I hope it inspires those who were in a similar situation like me. Spolier Alert – I got a band 9 in listening and all credits to this one blog post.

    The story:
    No matter how many tests I took I always ended up with a band 7, test after test the score would not move. Needless to say, my frustartion was through the roof. I stopped taking listenning tests, instead I started listening to BBC podcast and other audio files that have nothing to do with IELTS. A month passed by and I took one test and I was back to square one. Listening was the only section I needed the highest score and it was the only section I would score less month after month. I was wiling to do anything to improve my score, my life depended on it, quite literally I was getting kicked out from the country due to visa issues. IELTS was my way in to another country. I was devastated!

    A few days later, I summoned up some courage and started with a google search on how to improve listeing and with some divine intervention I stumbled upon this post. Points 2 and 3 hit home for me. I read them over and over again until they registered in my brain. Before I was ready to take another IELTS listening test I practiced the stratergies discussed in the post on the sample audio files from here – They are just regular audio files with interesting topics and have no use for IELTS formats per se but I used them to get in the habit of using the techniques.

    Another month passed by and mind you I had spent almost 3 months by now just get my listening improved. The stakes were high and I needed this to work. I took and test and lo and behold, it worked! I got a good 38/40 in my very first attempt. There was nothing holding me back now and I took the actual test within a week.

    For those who are reading this, thank you for taking the time. I can tell you these techniques work. Practice and witness the results yourself.

    Finally, thank you Hamad. You have made me realize the power of writing and sharing knowledge. I am forever indebted to this post of yours.

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