How To Improve Your Listening Skills

In this post, we will take a look at the 5 main listening skills you need to have to be successful in the IELTS Listening Test.

It's a wonderful idea for you to not only practice with IELTS Listening Tests online but also to listen to talks, podcasts, audiobooks, documentaries, tv shows, the news and movies. Listening to something that you are interested in during your preparation will make you enjoy it more! 

This will not only help you to develop your listening skills but also to improve your use of general English. Non-native speakers often develop their language skills by watching TV shows or movies. For more academic content, listening to TED Talks or TED-Ed is a great way to listen to different accents and test your listening abilities.  

Take a look at the skills needed in this post and practice using the exercises, see how much information you can focus on and how much of it you can understand. There are multiple choice questions for most of the videos if you visit the TEd-Ed website. Links are underneath each section. 


1. Prediction

During your IELTS Listening test preparation, you should aim to practice predicting the answers before you start listening to the recording. Read through the questions and think about the context, what is the main subject? A teacher talking to students? Are the students asking for essay feedback? Get an idea of what the main subject is before you start to listen so that you know what you are listening out for. 

Predicting is an important skill to have because it helps you to foresee the content and this makes it easier to understand the speaker.

TIP >> Practice with IELTS test papers and also with talks from TED-Ed, where you can practice predicting answers with multiple choice questions.

Listen to the talk below from TED-Ed, and answer these questions >>

Visit the website for multiple choice questions.

  • How do kidney stones grow in the first place? 
  • Why are they so painful to get out? 

2. Take Short Notes

Taking short notes during your listening practice will help you to determine the right answers. In the test, you are allowed to make notes on the exam paper, so it makes sense to do this during your preparation too. It is particularly useful in the maps, plans and diagrams questions, where you may need to draw lines after listening to directions. 

TIP >> Listen to a talk/lecture and make short notes on the content. 

Listen to the talk below from TED-Ed, and make short notes to answer this question >>

  • How can various compounds impact the way we physically feel, think, and even behave?

Visit the website for multiple choice questions.


3. Synonyms and Paraphrasing

Being able to paraphrase and recognise paraphrasing is also very important. Many of the speakers will paraphrase - the questions may paraphrase using different words with the same meaning (synonyms). Always read the questions before you start listening to the recording.

TIP >> Practice by listening to a talk/lecture and writing down any vocabulary you do not know. Then look up the words and keep a note of the meaning. Keeping a vocabulary notebook is a great idea, to help you to learn new words. 

Listen to the talk below from TED-Ed, and make a note of any words you do not know, look for the meaning of the words and check for synonyms in a thesaurus

Visit the website for multiple choice questions.


4. Recognising Sequencing

When you hear someone talking through a process or a lecture they are about to give, they will most likely use sequencing, for example, words like; first of all, secondly, next, after that and finally.

When you hear these words you know where you are in the talk and what the speaker is going to say next. It will make it much easier for you to find your answers in the recording if you can recognise the sequence of events. 

TIP >> Listen out for the language of sequencing when you listen to a talk/lecture. 

Listen to the talk below from TED-Ed, and make a note of the sequencing words used.

  • How does the speaker talk you through the process?
  • Do they sign post certain steps with words you recognise?

Visit the website for multiple choice questions.


5. Understanding Opinion and Attitude

You should be able to understand how the speaker feels or thinks about a subject. For example, in a talk about travelling, you may hear views on certain places and how they feel when going there. This can help you to understand how they explain their opinions and views through the language they use. 

TIP >> Listen to a talk/lecture and think about how the speaker is thinking and feeling. Make notes and consider the vocabulary they are using. 

Listen to the talk below from TED Talks, and see if you can answer the questions below;

  • How does the speaker feel about allowing children to be creative in school?
  • How does he share his opinion on the subject? 
  • What vocabulary does he use to give his opinion? I think.... / In my view etc
  • How does the speaker support his opinions? with examples?
  • What kind of examples does he share?
  • What is his overall attitude to the education system?

We hope you found this post useful in helping you to study for the IELTS Test. If you have any questions please let us know in the comments below or on the Facebook page.

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