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How to Prepare for the IELTS Listening Test?

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test assesses all of your English skills - listening, reading, writing as well as speaking. The listening section takes 30 minutes to complete and consists of four subsections (passages) and 40 questions. At the end of the listening tasks, you have 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. Check out some IELTS Listening preparation tips and some help with your listening practice.

What will you listen to during the test?

  • The first 2 listening passages usually include 2 people having a conversation – one person requests information from the other.
  • The third listening passage is often a discussion between 2, possibly 3 people, and is often based on a college/university theme, e.g. a project, preparing a presentation, etc.
  • The fourth listening passage is more similar to a lecture, so only 1 person will be talking.
  • Generally, the listening passages get more complex as you progress.

What to do to prepare?

  • Listen to audio materials and read the instructions very carefully.
  • Remember you will only listen to each passage ONCE.
  • There is a 30 seconds break between each listening and often about 20 seconds between each set of questions within a listening.
  • Use this ‘spare’ time carefully to read the questions and survey the page. Get an idea of the context. Find out who is speaking, where they are and what is the purpose of the conversation. Try to predict the type of information you need, e.g. a name, a place, a point of view, etc.
  • Listen to the recording and write your answers on the question page.
  • Don’t worry too much about spelling now, just write what you hear. You will have time at the end to check.
  • Don’t stop listening because you think you’ve got the answer. Sometimes, speakers correct themselves or change their minds.
  • Try to carry 2 questions in your head, i.e. anticipate the next question.
  • If you think you’ve missed an answer, don’t panic! Forget it and quickly move on to the next question.
  • As you look at the questions, think of synonyms or other ways of saying the same thing, e.g. if the question asks about how something is financed, you might hear something about funding.

Prepare for the IELTS english listening test.jpg

Transferring your answers

At the end of the test, you have 10 minutes to write your answers on the answer sheet. Be careful! The answers must be spelled correctly, make grammatical sense, and use the correct number of words, following the given instructions. If you have problems remembering when to use capital letters, write all your answers in capitals e.g. write "ENGLISH" instead of English, and certainly not "english"!!!! Check your spelling – look at the answer you wrote on the question page and ask yourself: Is this right? Last but not least, make sure you put the answer against the correct question number. You don’t want to get a low score because you got this simple task wrong!

Listen to English as much as you can (YouTube, TED talks, BBC, UK/USA films etc.) and check out the Take IELTS website for practice material.

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  • For applying for a master in Lund University I did the IELTS language test. There are a lot of dates for giving a test, so you don’t have to stress about the time of applying.

  • I knew from one of my friends that IELTS is one of the best tests. I made a little research online upon the language tests and I decided to take IELTS.

  • As I had always been fond of the British examinations in English, I registered for the IELTS exam. I should admit it was a remarkable experience; despite the fact that the examinations were demanding and in consecutive order without any break in between, I do remember this examination for its impressive results, as I got a 7.5/9.

  • I took the IELTS test, because I found that it is the only one that is being asked in every country. I had planned to send more applications to other universities in different countries in case I wasn’t accepted.

  • More than 800 British Council test locations
  • Accepted by more than 9,000 institutions
  • More than 2.5 million tests taken last year