5 Ways to Better Listening, by Julian Treasure

Do you want to improve your IELTS listening skills? Well, here’s the perfect TED talk for you! It’s called 5 Ways to Listen Better, by Julian Treasure.



Extraction (noun) – the act or process of getting something by pulling it out, forcing it out, etc. : the act of extracting something

Cocktail party (noun) – a usually formal party at which alcoholic drinks are served

Discount (verb) – to believe that (something, such as information, a rumor, etc.) is not worth serious attention

Intention (noun) – the thing that you plan to do or achieve : an aim or purpose

Reverberation (noun) – a sound that echoes

Cacophony (noun) – unpleasant loud sounds

Mundane (adjective) – dull and ordinary




Watch the video below and list the five ways he suggests we can become better listeners. This begins around 04:00. (Answers below.)



Practice your listening skills by listening to the very beginning of the video and filling in the blanks below. Take a piece of paper and write the numbers 1-8 in the margin, then listen and note what fills the gaps:

We are losing our listening. We spend roughly __1__  of our communication time listening, but we’re not very __2__. We retain just 25 percent of what we hear. Now not you, not this talk, but that is __3__. Let’s define listening as making meaning from sound. It’s a mental process, and it’s a __4__. We use some pretty cool techniques to do this. One of them is __5__. So in a cocktail party like this, if I say, “David, Sara, pay attention,” some of you just sat up. We recognize patterns to distinguish noise from signal, and especially __6__. Differencing is another technique we use. If I left this pink noise __7__ a couple of minutes, you would literally cease to hear it. We listen to differences, we __8__ that remain the same.







  1. Silence – enjoy silence for a short time each day.
  2. Mixer – count the number of sounds you can hear around you.
  3. Savoring – learn to enjoy mundane sounds
  4. Listening positions – use filters to tune in to what you need to pay attention to
  5. RASA – Receive, Appreciate, Summarize, Ask


  1. 60%
  2. good at it
  3. generally true
  4. process of extraction
  5. pattern recognition
  6. our name
  7. on for more than
  8. discount sounds

Author: David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult' and the founder/editor of Beatdom literary journal. He lives and works in rural China, and loves to travel. He has worked as an IELTS tutor since 2010, has completed both TEFL and CELTA courses, and has a certificate from Cambridge for Teaching Writing. In 2018, he wrote the popular IELTS handbook, Grammar for IELTS Writing. His other IELTS website is called IELTS Teaching.

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