Useful IELTS Listening Test Strategies

During the IELTS listening test, candidates need to listen to a number of recordings with either one or multiple speakers. The conversations depicted are typical situations that occur in English speaking countries. These situations might be different from what you might expect to happen in Singapore.

Although each Listening question type is different and requires a few unique steps, the basic approach to solving each one remains the same. This article discusses the listening strategies that are important for the IELTS Listening test that you need to follow in order to answer any type of question. These include:

  • Question Analysis
  • Answer Prediction
  • Listening for Detail

Importance Of  Listening Strategies For The IELTS Test

During the listening section, you will have to multitask. Test takers must be able to read the questions, listen to the recording, think about the correct answer, and write the answers as they hear them. This can be an overwhelming task for second language learners, even more so since the speakers in the recording speak with unfamiliar native English accents

It’s important to follow a well thought out IELTS listening strategy. This can greatly reduce your anxiety levels and help you focus on answering correctly.

Question Analysis And Answer Prediction

The first strategy involves two steps which must be done during the 30 seconds before you actually hear the recording. It involves a quick analysis of the question as well as predicting the type of answer you might need. This helps to determine what you need to listen out for.

  • Reading the instructions is a must. These will tell you whether your answer should be a letter, a number or a certain number of words, etc. Unfortunately, many candidates answer incorrectly simply because they don’t pay close attention to the instructions
  • Circle or underline words or phrases that you think are important clues to finding the answer.
  • Remember that these words might not always be mentioned in the exact same way in the recording. They might be rephrased (or paraphrased). There are however certain types of words that are generally not rephrased in any way, like names, dates, and numbers. These types of words can act as guides throughout the recording. For example, the word global might be paraphrased as worldwide or employees might be paraphrased as staff.  For this reason, having a wide vocabulary range is crucial even for the IELTS listening section.
  • Try to think of what the answer might be, as in which types of words or phrases you might have to listen out for, judging by the wording of the question. If you know that you’re listening for an adjective, noun, the name of a person or a date etc., then this will be useful to help you find the correct answer.

Since 30 seconds is quite a short amount of time, it’s important to practice this strategy until you are satisfied with the speed at which you can perform this task.

Listening For Detail

Listening for detail means focusing all your attention on the information required to answer each of the questions section of IELTS Listening. It’s important to note that the answers for the listening test appear in order during the recording. You need to successfully use the information gained from analyzing the question, to determine where your exact place in the recording is. Pay special attention to questions that require numbers or difficult spellings, such as names of people or places, or any information that may help you understand what’s going on. As you listen, you should focus on the question you’re trying to answer as well as the next question. This listening skill becomes easier when you get better at analyzing the question.

A proper understanding and mastery of these three skills can greatly improve your Listening band score.

Jonathan has been teaching students to prepare for the IELTS and PTE Exams for more than 10+ years. He's taught English to students in various countries in the world including Singapore, China, Australia, Canada and Colombia.