After an average score on the IELTS Listening test, many students ask me how I can improve my listening skills. Well, the answer is not that straight forward. I hear many teachers insisting on improving concentration or learning about phonetics. Some even advise IELTS students to listen to podcasts or watch a movie. All these are decent solutions, but they may take up ages to show any changes in your listening scores. Unfortunately, most of you must appear for the final IELTS next month.
So, after observing many students, we have observed specific steps that can help you to improve your listening scores.
In our view, almost all those students who understand the format of the Listening section and which skills are tested on it, perform exceptionally well on the test.
In other words, when you know definitely which skills are essential to score well, you can concentrate only on improving those. Needless to say, every part on the IELTS Listening, tests different skills. Let’s analyse those.
Before taking any further step, we suggest students solve a couple of practice tests. We insist that you slove tests designed by Cambridge as the format of these tests matches with what you are going to face in the actual examination.
After solving these tests, compare your answers with the answer lists. Don’t be lenient with yourself. You may realise one or more flaws in your listening skills and answering the questions on IELTS.
At the same time, we have observed that these issues can be addressed in different ways, depending on the IELTS Listening part that you are solving. So, here is a step by step analysis to improve your IELTS Listening scores.
Usually, the part 1 of the Listening section will feature a conversation between two people. The purpose of the discussion is always an enquiry about someplace or an event or services.
These conversations are usually designed to copy real-life scenarios. So, the accents of the speakers in the audio could be different from the standard ones that we may hear regularly. Most students, while listening to the conversation, cannot understand the accent of the speaker very well.
Now the simple solution is to listen to different accents. But the question is, where can you find a variety of accents at one place? In such a case, you should download the BBC 6 minutes English application on your phone. You may also access their YouTube channel to access the same content. This resource has many 6 minutes audios which have different speech styles. Listening to them will help you train your ears to be prepared for the final test.
After practicing BBC 6 minutes English audios, try to solve as many practice tests as you can. Also, focus on spellings. I have discussed a simple way of improving your spellings in the same article below.
Usually, on Part 2 of the IELTS Listening test, you will hear a monologue or lecture, explaining different changes or specifics of a place or a town. Sometimes, some of these features are planned in the future. Very rarely, IELTS may deviate from this theme; however, the structure of the lecture would remain the same.
One of the primary reasons students miss on part 2 is because they expect that every sentence that the speaker says must give them an answer. However, that’s not the case.
IELTS on their official website has said that all the audios on the Listening section mimic exactly the real-world scenarios. So, like us, the speakers in these audios may get distracted a bit or may tell us a few extra things that we do not need to answer the questions on IELTS Listening Part 2 specifically.
Unfortunately, test-takers out of anxiety get trapped into these distractors by IELTS and miss the real answer.
While solving IELTS Listening Part 2, you must know how a native speaker elaborates maps to others. Knowing these typical structures can help you to separate distractions from the correct answers quickly. Also, you must know the standard linking devices which are used to connect one idea to others. It is essential to know these things to score well.
To improve scores on this part, I would ask all students to attempt any Cambridge test. Then compare the answers to find the ones you missed.
After that, download the transcripts of the audios in the test. Read them carefully when you are listening to the same audio. Mark the position of the answers on the transcript. Rel-listening to the audio and comparing it with the transcripts will help you to separate the responses from the distractions. Once you understand the typical traps, it is easy to score well on IELTS Listening Part 2.
IELTS Listening Part 3 usually has a dialogue between the two students or a teacher and a student about a project to be completed in a college. It could be even a project that they have already completed and submitted in a university. However, on this part, your ability to follow the conversation is tested.
Needless to say, like in Part 2, you are going to face many distractions on the Listening Part 3 as well. However, to add fire to the fuel, IELTS has designed multiple-choice questions in here. They are deceiving if you ignore the question and instead get too busy with the answer-choices.
To perform well on MCQs, you must notice the way people get distracted in real-life conversations. Many times people want to agree with the other person, but while doing so, they may add their own information as well. So, it is essential to keep in mind that you must understand the difference between a distraction and the main point.
To develop this skill, you may watch good movies and even a TV series. Click here to know which TV series you may watch to improve your English Listening skills.
To improve your scores on MCQs on the IELTS Listening, I would recommend the same technique that I have suggested for improving your Listening Part 2.
Part 4 on IELTS Listening test, has a lecture by a professor or an expert on a topic. Typically, the speaker defines the topics and may explain its types or applications.
One of the major complaints we hear about this part from our students is that the audio is too fast. However, let us assure you that its a myth.
The audio is not fast, but there are fewer distractions. As a result, you may feel that you are bombarded with information. Yet, if you miss one of the answers due to distractions, you panic and so, you may lose the rest of the answers as well.
Since the format of this audio is very educational, your ability to take notes is tested here. So, while solving this section, think that you are sitting in a classroom.
To simulate this environment, you may also like to listen to some of the TED talks which are informative and finish in about 6 minutes. Also, download the transcript of these TED talks which is available on the same website.
While listening to these talks, practise taking notes. When you are taking notes, identify the key points. Don’t get distracted by unnecessary details. And lastly, compare your notes with the transcripts of the speech. You will be able to identify if you have missed any significant points.
To score well on this part, you must treat all questions on the question paper as the main points of the lecture. Then, while listening to the audio listen intently for those points and filter our any unnecessary information from the class.
Many students think their concentration on Listening is weak. Well, that could be the case for a few students. However, I can assure you that for most of you that’s not the case.
You cannot concentrate well on the Listening section because you don’t know the purpose of the test. I mean many students protest, “I am an Engineer and why I am listening about some kind of plants in Europe.” I always advise such students to know the purpose of the IELTS.
When you realise that IELTS is an English proficiency test and it wants to know whether you can communicate well in English or not, you realise the topic of the conversation is irrelevant.
And later when you find out that the IELTS Listening section tests your ability to take notes, find answers by paying attention to linking words and write correct spellings, your job becomes easy. Now, you know which skills to focus on while solving the paper. As a result, you have lesser things to worry about.
One of the significant reasons for incorrect spellings is the autocorrect feature on mobile phones and computers. We have, in a way, forgotten the correct forms of the written words.
Additionally, many non-native speakers have no idea about how these spellings are formed in the English language. Knowing more about these exciting topic can also help you to guess unfamiliar spellings.
As a first step, ensure that you disable auto-correct option on your phone and computer. That particular feature on our phones can be a significant relief otherwise but not in case of IELTS.
If you want to read more about commonly misspelt words, you may refer to this article on Wikipedia.
While answering questions on the IELTS Listening test, many students panic while answering the questions.
Here, you must be very careful since while listening to the audio, you usually write the answers on the question paper. And, then after listening to all the audios, you get additional 10 minutes to transfer your answers from the question paper to the answer sheets.
Unfortunately, many students commit errors in these last 10 minutes. To improve your efficiency, follow these instructions.
While listening to the audio, write the answers on the question paper exactly near the question itself so that later you have no confusion.
If you wish to take notes on the question papers, allot a separate space away from questions. In case your notes and questions are mixed, you may again get confused about the final answer.
Lastly, in the last 10 minutes, the first step is to transfer all answers carefully without jumping any sequence. It may sound funny, but I have observed many students losing their bands because of silly mistakes. And then, if you want to change your answers, do so.
On IELTS Computer-delivered test, you get only 2 minutes to check your answers after all audios are played. At the same time, after each section, you get an additional minute to check and transfer your answers.
On this type of IELTS, you get a blank piece of paper to take notes. After taking notes, don’t wait to transfer your answers like that in paper-based IELTS. Transfer them immediately.
I sincerely hope that you implement these suggestions to perform well on your IELTS Listening section.