You will only hear it once, but don’t panic!

The recording will only be played one time during the IELTS exam because this is how we listen in reality: we can’t always ask somebody to repeat what they said, and we certainly can’t ask a professor to repeat his lecture just for us. However, in natural interactions, we have certain information that we are looking for and so we can focus on finding that information. If you are in a train station and you hear a platform announcement obviously you don’t try to remember every train on every platform, you concentrate on your train and the platform that is relevant for you.

Read ahead and anticipate

The IELTS provides you with time to look at the questions before you hear the recording so you can identify the information you are listening for. You should use this time to actively try and predict either the answer or the structure of the answer (whether it’s a name, a date, some adjective-noun combination, a length of time, a distance, etc.) so you will recognize the answer when you hear it. For answers that require you to write a word or phrase, the words in the question will be paraphrased but the speaker will say the exact words you will need to write as the answer.

The questions are answered in order

The organization of the listening test will help you to follow the material. All of the questions will be answered in order and the speakers will guide you through the material by saying key phrases from the headings. Use this “signposted” information to help you follow the recording and anticipate the next question! You must be ready for each question if you want to get a high mark.

Manage your time wisely

There is plenty of time to read all of the material, if you know when to use it. In the first part of the listening test, you only have a small amount of information to read. Keep reading! Look ahead to see what other types of questions will be coming up. After part one is finished you will hear, “That is the end of part one, you will now have half a minute to check your answers.” How can you check your answers, when you won’t hear the recording again? Write down any answers you haven’t already written, and then use this time to start reading the next section. Read ahead at every opportunity, because it will be very difficult to read all of the material in part four if you wait until they tell you.

Write your answers in the book, then transfer them at the end

Always write your answers in the question book. You will have 10 minutes after the recording is finished to transfer your answers which is more than enough time (4 answers per minute). As you copy your answers to the answer sheet, check the spelling and grammar carefully (a common mistake is with singulars and plurals) because these errors will cost you the mark even if you have the correct information.

Take a practice test!

Follow the links on this page to find several free IELTS practice tests.