One of the main purposes of this website is to provide you with an interesting (and free) way to improve your IELTS score. By using TED talks you can learn some useful vocabulary and practice your listening at the same time. But there’s more to preparing for the listening exam than just practice. You’ll need to remember the following things to get a high score in the listening exam.


1.      Pre-read the questions

I always tell my students that they need to pre-read the question. They complain because they think that they don’t need to, but when they do their answers are far better. Even native speakers of English will slip up during the IELTS exam if they don’t pay attention! The key is to focus and make sure you read everything carefully before the listening track begins. If it’s a true or false question, ensure you know the meaning of each statement. Once it’s internalized, you’ll find it much easier to determine the answer. For gap-fill questions read the passage and guess at the answers. Are you listening for a verb? A noun? An adjective? A name? A number?

Even asking yourself what a topic will be helps. Look at the material on the paper. What can you tell about this listening passage? Once your brain is prepared, it will be much easier.

Furthermore, when the audio track is played, sometimes the answers come quickly with little time between them. If you’re anticipating the material, it will be easier to hear each answer and note them done. If you’re not prepared, it can be overwhelming.

2.      Don’t leave any question unanswered

This is really important. You don’t get any points deducted for a wrong answer, so there’s no good reason to leave any space empty. Even if it’s a completely wrong answer, you still get zero points, so why not guess? This is particularly true for multiple choice questions. If you have no idea what the correct answer might be, you should take a guess and hope for the best.

3.      Look for clues in the question

When you’re reading the question, read it carefully. Pay attention to words that might give you a clue to the answer. Think of key vocabulary, words that illustrate meaning, and synonyms for important words. Then when you’re listening, you’ll have a better chance of getting the correct answers. If, for example, the question asks about a job, remember that in the listening passage they might say “work” or “career.”

You might be presented with a map or a table, which are partly completed with blank spaces for answers. Look at the information that is already there and it will help you determine what you should listen for.

4.      Pay attention to spelling

This one seems easy, but it’s a part of the exam where far too many students slip up. It’s ok to write words down quickly as you listen, but later, when transferring your answer to the answer sheet, you must ensure that words are written correctly. If there are words you commonly misspell, practice writing them frequently. Have a friend or a teacher check them. Find ways to incorporate them into your everyday English use.

Also, watch out for TRUE and FALSE. It sounds incredible, but so many IELTS students write “TURE” and “FASLE”.

5.      Don’t answer too quickly…

It is important to note down answers quite quickly. After all, information often comes fast and you have to make choices quickly so you can move on and avoid missing an answer. However, sometimes information is given and then changed. A man might say, “Let’s meet at six o’clock.”

His friend might reply, “Could we make it seven?”

And the man would reply, “Alright, then.”

If you wrote down six and moved onto the next question, you’ve just written down the wrong answer.

6.      Pay attention to repetition

English speakers hate repetition. We try to avoid it unless it’s necessary, so if you hear us saying something repeatedly, you know it’s important. People often repeat key details such as numbers or places to ensure that the other person understands. In the IELTS exam, important information might be repeated, so if you hear something twice, it could be important.

7.      Ignore words you don’t know

Don’t panic if, when listening, you hear something you don’t understand. If it wasn’t in the questions, you probably don’t need to understand it. In the listening passage there will be information you need to know, and information that’s unimportant. Part of listening skill is differentiating between the two. Don’t get frustrated and learn to move on. Even if you do miss one answer, stay calm and pay attention to get the next.

8.      Don’t worry about writing on the question paper

The only thing that the examiners mark is the answer sheet. You make all sorts of notes on the question paper and it doesn’t matter. Just do whatever helps you.

9.      Prepare for accents

The IELTS is a test of your English skill, and English is an international language. That means you’ll need to understand all sorts of English accents, including American, British, Australian, and South African. However, the most commonly used accent in the IELTS exam is a British accent.

10. Transfer your answers carefully

Last year I marked an exam paper by a girl who’d made a mistake near the beginning of her answer paper and skipped a question. As a result, all her answers were in the wrong place. For example, the answer to question 10 was where question 9 should have been. It was heartbreaking because she’d done so well, but this mistake cost her so much. You put so much effort into preparing for the exam and listening for the correct answers – don’t make careless mistakes in copying from the question paper to the answer paper. Check your answers again and again until you’re finished.