1.) ALWAYS read the instructions carefully
In most tasks there’s going to be a WORD LIMIT in the instructions that it will say for exampple, “Write NO MORE THAN 3 WORDS and/OR a number“.
Underline that and remember it during the listening task because if you exceed the word limit you will lose marks even if you answered correctly.
2.) Use the pauses to your advantage
When the recording starts, you will listen to the instructions and an example.
Take advantage of these pauses and extra time to skim through the next questions and tasks.
3.) Underlining is your friend
During the pauses underline key-words before the listening starts.
Underline words that cannot be paraphrased such as names, places, dates, and numbers. Also, underline words that preceed gaps.
These key words are going to be your guide during the listening and they will help you focus on finding the answer.
4.) Try to predict
Especially in gap-filling tasks, try to predict what is missing in each gap.
Are you waiting to listen to a number? A noun? A date?
If you know what you expect to hear, you will concentrate more easily and you are more likely to find the correct answer.
5.) Grammar and Syntax
Remember that in gap-filling tasks (note-completion tasks for example), what you write in order to fill in the gap should fit both grammatically and syntactically with the rest of the sentence.
So, be careful and read everything just to make sure it makes sense.
6.) Work on your concentration skills
You will hear the recording only once, so be as focused as you can and try to keep up with the recording word per word (as much as possible). You are expected to listen; read; understand; and write all at the same time so the more concentrated you are the better.
There’s a reason the exam starts with Listening. Your mind is clear and not so tired, so you have a better chance to be more focused on what you hear. Do a lot of practice in order to work on your concenttration skills and improve them.
7.) Take notes
You can take down notes on your paper during the Listening. The examiners will only take the answersheet so you can write down whatever you want.
This is very helpful when they say a lot of numbers one after the other so you need to write them down in order to remember them and decide which of them is the correct one.
Sometimes they say a number and then they change it, so pay attention to that too. Taking down notes is also helpful in map labelling where you may need to follow what they say word per word while you look at a map or picture.
8.) Don’t dwell on questions
Don’t insist on a question you had already missed. If you do, you will most probably miss the next one too.
Don’t do that, keep up with the recording as much as you can and move on!
9.) Never lose focus
In many tasks, especially in Part 4, they may talk endlessly for quite a wjile before they actually give you the answer and you may think that you had missed it, so you lose focus wondering what the answer was or when they said it.
This is exactly when they give you the correct answer! They do it on purpose! Don’t fall for that; try to keep up with the speaker word per word.
Also, they may give you two answers together one after the other in the same sentence pretty quickly after an endless monologue. Be ready for that too.
Concentration, underlining, and taking notes will help you deal with these issues you may face during the Listening.
10.) Be careful of paraphrasing
The questions will not be phrased in your paper in the same way you’ll hear them especially in multiple choice tasks.
Train yourself to recognise the same meanings and NOT the same words both in the questions and the options.
Be careful of your spelling because it is absolutely vital in IELTS! You may find the correct answer but if your spelling is wrong you will lose marks.
Also, if your handwriting is so bad that the word cannot be recognised, then you lose the whole mark again (even if you answered correctly).
In Part 1 especially you will most probably hear numbers or dates. Please make sure that you can hear the difference between numbers such as 15 and 50. This is a very common mistake among non-native speakers.
Try to recognise the suffix -teen. If you do hear that, remember that this suffix comes from the word teens/ teenagers. So, numbers that end in -teen are the smaller (younger) numbers.
Just a quick tip to help you get over this issue once and for all!
12.) Write what you hear
In your answers, always write down the exact words you hear. Do not practice paraphrasing yourself in Listening, you can’t change words; you just have to recognise them.
In the rare case that you need to change a word in order for it to fit in terms of grammar and syntax, it will be obvious. It is a very rare case so please first check if you make a mistake and the answer is something else.
13.) Multiple Choice Problems
Multiple Choice tasks seem to be easy but sometimes they can be rather tricky. Again, as always, read the instructions carefully because sometimes you may have to choose two correct options instead of only one which is the most common.
What is more, the questions (1, 2, 3, 4 etc) in multiple choice tasks always follow the order of the recording but the options (A, B, C, etc) may not follow the same order in the recording as you will see them in paper so keep that in your mind because you are most likely going to hear all of them.
They do that in order to confuse you but only one option will be correct according to the question. So, never forget what the question really asks you!
14.) Order of questions
Usually in all tasks the numbered questions follow the order of the recording. BUT!! Don’t get confused with diagram labelling tasks and the like that use letters as well (from A – G).
The recording ALWAYS follows the order of the numbered questions from 1 – 10 (for example) and NOT the order of the letters in the picture.
15.) More than just practice
You probably take the exam not because you want to but because you need it either for studies or work in an English speaking country.
This means that the Listening section is the least of your problems. You will need to be able to communicate with native speakers in a foreign country.
So, don’t restrict yourself to IELTS practice tests and have fun while listening to the language in real life situations. Songs, movies, TV series without subtitles, videos on things you love; it can be anything!
Just get used to listening to the English language as much as you can!