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“What did she just say? Oh no, I totally missed that!” Does this sound like you? Do you need to improve your score on the IELTS listening test? If you said yes, then this blog is for you. Below are eight ways to improve your listening skills.

1. No surprises: know the test

As you might already know, all IELTS listening tests are the same. They are in the same format. They are thirty minutes long. The academic and general tests are exactly the same. In terms of each part of the test, check the table below:


Types of Listening

Example Topic


Everyday English Conversation

Want to go to the movies?


Monologue (one person talking about a specific topic)

The benefit of public transport


Conversation of 2-4 people in an academic setting

The best way to give a presentation in class


Monologue on an academic topic

University lecture: Marketing Online

2. YOLO! (You Only Listen Once)

It’s like real life. You only have one chance to listen. Many of us would love the chance to listen again, but IELTS won’t give you that. Here are a few tips for doing well with just one listening:

  • When you do practice tests, only listen once. Get used to it.

  • Try and identify your listening weaknesses and work on improving those areas.

  • On the question sheet, underline key words. Prepare to listen for those exact words and their synonyms.

  • Practice different types of listening situations (lectures, conversations, chatting, etc…).

3. Follow your heart

When practicing, choose interesting topics. Interesting for YOU. If you love professional tennis, listen to podcasts about professional tennis. If you love Roman history, listen to stories about Roman history. It is well known that we listen better to things we want to or enjoy hearing. If you really want to motivate yourself and get the best out of each and every listening practice, try this approach. You might even have fun doing it!

4. Audio scripts

When choosing or searching for practice tests, try and find ones with scripts. Scripts are the word-for-word written texts of the audio you listen to. There are many activities you can do with scripts. Here are a few:

  • Accuracy check:

     First, take notes without scripts. After that, compare your notes to the script. Check for accuracy, spelling, and misunderstanding.

  • Read aloud: 

    After you read aloud, listen to the audio. How accurate were you? Did you sound the same as the speaker(s)?

  • Listen and read along:

     Follow the text while you listen. This will make strong connections for you with respect to pronunciation and understanding key words. Notice how the keywords are pronounced clearer and louder.

5. Synonyms

Have you tried an IELTS preparation class? If yes, you probably know synonyms are important in all exam parts. In the speaking and writing exam, you have to show you know how to use synonyms. In the reading and listening exam, many of the questions use synonyms in the questions. For example:

Listening text: “Duchess, who is the only King’s daughter...”   

Listening test question:

  1. Who is the princess?

  2.  Duchess

  3.  Duke

  4.  Not given

*Synonyms are words or phrases that have similar or the same meaning.

6. Get real – real life listening

English isn’t just a test. It is a language. IELTS tests your knowledge and skill in this language. One of the best ways to learn a language well and to do well on the test is to use English in real life. Every day you don’t have a conversation is a missed opportunity. So next chance you have… chat, text, call, email, discuss, and laugh in English!

7. Check it twice, be precise!

Little mistakes can count big. A few silly mistakes can be the difference between scoring a 5.5 and a 6. The following are just a few examples of how small errors can cost you:

Test taker's answer

Correct answer

Type of mistake



Answer was plural, not singular



No unit given



Spelling mistake

He went to the restaurant


answer sheet said "one word"

8. Think in English

Many language experts agree on one key rule. Thinking in a specific language helps you learn that language. Many students of English often try and translate everything in their heads.

Don’t do it.

Translating has two main problems. First, it's slower. Second, you remember your language and forget English.

On the listening exam, you won’t have time to translate. Also, you’ll have to remember key English words. So, when you’re practicing English… think in English!