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The IELTS Listening test seems deceptively simple - after all, it’s just simply listening to a few recordings and then answering a series of questions right? 

However, if you dive deeper into the test format, you’ll quickly understand you will have to answer 40 questions in just 30 minutes. You’ll have to be a master at multitasking while maintaining your concentration. 

But that’s not all, the questions will be split across 6 uniquely different tasks that will challenge every facet of your listening and reasoning skills! 

Not only will you be scrambling for time, but it will also be ultra-easy to slip up and make costly mistakes that will affect the band score you need. 

In this article, we will go through the top mistakes you must avoid and what you can do to prevent them from happening in the first place!

Seven mistakes to avoid when sitting for your IELTS Listening test

1. Trying to predict the answers

Perhaps the biggest mistake you can make is to try to preempt answers before you fully understand the text.

It can be as simple as focusing on the question and fixating on an option while you listen to the passage. This is dangerous as you might miss out on the real answer as you are too focused on waiting for your pre-determined option.

Ideally, you want to understand the type of audio and question being presented by having an open mind to what the answer might be. Let the audio guide you to the right option.

2. Ignoring the instructions given

With six different types of questions, it is easy to get the answer format mixed up or just ignore it completely.

When it is stated you need to answer in three words, you need to take the word limit seriously and just answer in three words.

That is because the test isn’t just about writing out an answer, but also processing, analysing and presenting the information in the right way.

3. Not watching out for distractors

As you listen through the various recordings, it is tempting to just zone out and allow your mind to wander.

But you shouldn’t! There will be distractors present to check your attentiveness, ensuring you pay attention to the details.

This can come in the form of a person stating a particular fact and then retracting it moments later or a sentence that was made being corrected by another speaker. Tricky stuff indeed!

A male IELTS test taker in a cafeteria wearing glasses and headphones and looking into a laptop.

4. Shifting your answers too early or too late

While you have 10 minutes dedicated to transferring your answers from the given question sheet to the answer sheet, you might make the mistake of shifting your answers while listening to the recordings. 

Sure, this might seem to be neater or proper, but you might get distracted in the process. It is essential to note that the audio is only played once and you need to fully concentrate on the passage being read. 

In contrast, you also don’t want to be too late in transferring the answers and mismanaging the extra 10 minutes. It is recommended to practice shifting your answers during mock tests to understand if this is a difficulty for you. 

5. Answering before fully listening to the entire passage

Similar to trying to predict the answers, you don’t want to zone out during the audio when you hear what might be a hint of the answer. 

For all you know, it could be a distractor or only part of the answer. You’d want to stay tuned and listen to the whole audio as the answer might be contained within the entire audio before deciding on a definite answer. 

6. Leaving blank spaces

Unlike a Reading test, it is actually counterproductive to leave blank spaces as you go through answering the questions. 

Remember the recording will only be played once and it is better to leave an answer that you believe is correct or even throw out a guess. 

Because there is no negative marking here, any attempt will give you an upside and zero downsides!

7. Not checking for grammatical errors

Yes, accurate spelling does matter here! 

Because there is a time limit and the added stress of answering at the same time, it is easy to misspell words. This can be something as small as forgetting to write the plural version of the word or utilising the wrong tense. 

So be sure to take a moment or two to check your answers, especially when you are transferring them onto the answer sheet! 

A male IELTS test taker wearing headphones and smiling while sitting in front of a laptop.

Prepare for the IELTS Listening test with IDP today

Preparing early for your Listening test is essential. It allows you to get familiar with the format, which is essential to prevent making the mistakes discussed. 

Take the time to go through our resources and prepare yourself better with our wide range of sample tests at your disposal! 

At IDP, we have a world of resources and IELTS supportexternal icon that you can rely on to help you score better! 

Be sure to check out our IELTS preparation materials here as well as read hand-picked tips on how to prepare and ace the testexternal icon

And once you are ready, you can book your IELTS test hereexternal icon!