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In the IELTS Listening test, recordings are only played once. But there is no need to worry because here, we will look at common mistakes made in the IELTS Listening test and tips on how to prepare for you for it.

Follow our IELTS Listening tips to avoid common mistakes

If you wish to be fully prepared for your IELTS Listening, here are some tips to help you achieve your goal.

Following instructions and understanding the questions

The Listening test consists of 4 parts with each part containing one or more sets of question types. Instructions for each part of the Listening test are given to you before and after each audio recording. You will have some time to prepare for each set of questions.

It is difficult to concentrate on what you hear while trying to read the questions at the same time, so make sure you:

  • Read the questions first before you listen to the recording.

  • Check the type of answer you have to write (e.g., a letter, an option from the box, etc.)

  • Use a pencil to underline or circle keywords in the instructions and questions to help you focus on what to listen out for in the recordings.

  • Check your answers after the audio clip is played and use this time to prepare for the next part of the test.

Understand specific information

Sometimes it is difficult to determine exactly which information you should use to answer the question. For certain question types like form-filling, you must listen carefully to fill in particular information such as a name, date, time or other details.

To help understand the question, make sure you:

  • Read the question carefully, so you know what information you are listening for.

  • Spend some time studying the information given to you and then listen to the instructions.

  • Think of synonyms for your keywords (words with similar meanings) as the recording will use different words or phrases to the wording in your question booklet.

Following a description

Part 2 of the Listening test may involve tasks like labelling a map, plan, or diagram. Here, you will need to figure out where things are, what something is made up of or how it works. You might have a task that requires you to identify places, buildings, parts or stages of a process.

There will be some keywords in the recording to help guide you. These keywords may be:

  • Verbs, adjectives (size, shape, quality)

  • Directions (north, south, east, west)

  • Prepositions of position or place (in front of, next to, behind)

If you are unsure of which side is left or right or where north or south is, a simple hint is to write L and R and draw compass points on your question booklet. This will make it easier to follow directions while listening.

Understanding a conversation

In Part 3 of IELTS Listening, you will have to follow a discussion with up to four speakers talking about a study or business-related topic. You will be asked to listen for important facts, ideas, reasons, views or opinions.

It can be hard to identify who is talking and what they are saying, so always:

  • Read the text before listening to the recordings.

  • Note down information about the speakers, their relationships and how it relates to the situation.

This can help you anticipate which speaker is about to talk and what the speakers are going to talk about.

Following a lecture/talk

Because the level of difficulty increases as the Listening test progresses, Part 4 is often regarded as the most challenging in the Listening test. In Part 4, you will listen to a talk or a lecture on an academic subject (e.g., a university lecture).

Make sure you listen for signpost words that the speaker uses to indicate the different stages of the talk. These signpost words, for example, can include:

  • firstly

  • on the other hand 

  • although  

  • because 

  • to name a few  

  • finally

These words signal what information is coming next and can help you follow what the speaker is talking about.

Make sure you also pay attention to stress and intonation as the speaker will use it to highlight important information.

Word count

The Listening test instructions will tell you how many words are needed for an answer. For example, the instructions might say: ‘Write no more than ONE word for each answer’, or ‘Write no more than TWO words and/or a number for each answer’.

Read the word-count instructions very carefully to avoid adding in extra words and remember:

  • If the instruction says ONE word and you write ‘the bus’, the answer will be marked as incorrect, even though ‘bus’ is the correct word.

  • If you write a number in words and not numerals, that is acceptable. For example, ‘three hundred and twenty’ is ‘320’ and counts as ‘a number’.


Correct spelling is essential in the Listening test. If the spelling is incorrect, then it will be marked as wrong. Make sure you can spell commonly used words correctly, like library, environment, street, avenue, professor and so on.

If you are planning to take the IELTS on Paper test, you will be given 10 minutes to transfer your answers from the question booklet to the answer sheet. Remember to check the spelling, listen carefully to the instructions and make sure you put the right answers in the right place.

Look at the 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 the script. After that, compare your notes to it. 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 keywords. Notice how the keywords are pronounced clearer and louder.

Check your answer twice

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



The answer was plural, not singular



No unit given



Spelling mistake

He went to the restaurant


answer sheet said "one word"


Have you tried an IELTS preparation class? If yes, you probably know synonyms are important in all parts of the test. In the Speaking and Writing tests, you have to show you know how to use synonyms. In the Reading and Listening tests, many of the questions use synonyms. For example:

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

Listening test question:

  1. Who is the princess? Duchess

    Duke Not given

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

As with all tests, the key to success is to practice and be prepared. With practice and preparation, you can put yourself in the best possible position to succeed.