Ok, so technically the IELTS exam is not PASS/FAIL but you know what I mean… You want the best grade you can get, right? And when you don’t get it, it feels like you failed. So here’s how to succeed in the IELTS Listening Exam.

Predicting the Material

This is the most important thing that you can do. Good listeners are the ones who carefully predicted the material. I don’t mean they knew what exactly would be said. Rather, they researched the exam to guess what might be included, and then they carefully scanned the questions for an idea of what would be included in the recording.

Pre-reading the Questions

When you sit down to the IELTS Listening Exam, look carefully at the questions. Think about the following important things:

  • What do you actually need to do?
  • What vocabulary is used?
  • How will you answer these questions?

You should guessing whether you will expect a conversation or a lecture. Is it about education or sports? When you have a gap-fill exercises, how many words do you need to write? What sort of words? Noun? Adjective? Adverb? Name? Address? Verb? Date? Telephone number?

Write Fast

Note down your answers and move on to the next one quickly. You can always come back and change it later. If you hear a word and you’re not sure exactly, write down an approximation of the sound. Later, when you read the sentence, you can figure out what the word really was. Think carefully and logically. If you really, really don’t know, then take a guess at the end. Never leave an empty space on your answer paper!


Practice is absolutely essential to IELTS success. In fact, it’s essential to learning any language. There are lots of different kinds of practice for IELTS, but one way is to actually do exam questions.

For the listening exam, you can do some general practice like listening to news reports, TED talks, and podcasts. But sometimes it is better to actually get some exam practice. Check out this video, which gives you questions from IELTS listening section 4: