General Strategy for IELTS Listening

While there are specific tips  in approaching the different types of questions, here is the general approach to the IELTS Listening module.

  1. Before you listen to the recordings and during the very short breaks in between the sections – take advantage of what you can understand visually. Just as you do with the Reading module, orientate yourself to the listening. Look at any pictures/diagrams or introduction to the questions. Predict what you will hear. Quickly identify:
  • Who are the speakers? What is their relationship to each other and to you as the listener?
  • Where are they? If helps you understand the context and maybe the  kind of dialog and vocabulary you can expect.
  • Why are they speaking? Know the context of the conversation, so that you can anticipate what they are going to talk about.

2. Look carefully at the task and make sure you understand the instructions. Know exactly what you’re supposed to do.  For example, if it’s a short answer question, find out how many words you must write (a maximum of one, two or three is stated in the directions).

3. Usually the questions follow the order in which you will hear information. Be prepared to know what you’re listening for. You only get to hear the recording once.

4. When you’re reading the questions, underline key words that you should focus on and listen out for. They may not be the exact words that you hear, but will be similar words. Use sign post words (words that tell the listener what is coming up, ie.  “for instance”, “on the other hand”,  “firstly” – I’ll write more on this later). If there are gaps to fill or labels for a diagram/map/flow chart, predict words that might fit in each space.

5. At the end of the recordings when you have time to transfer your notes onto your answer sheet, be VERY CAREFUL that you put your answers with the correct question number.

6. Pay attention to your spelling! Misspelled words, even if the word is correct, are not counted!

I’ll be writing more strategies for specific types of questions later – stay tuned! :-)



I'm an English teacher specializing in IELTS preparation - especially writing and reading. If you have any questions, please ask! You can also sign up for weekly tips and lessons for IELTS and English!

Posted in IELTS Listening, Listening Tagged with: ,
4 comments on “General Strategy for IELTS Listening
  1. dr chawla says:

    these are very gud piint.

  2. Diego Bayona says:

    Hi, could you lead me please, where can i find strategies for specific types of questions later ?? Thank you.

  3. N says:

    Hi, how are the questions considered correct in the listening exam? If the actual answer given in the book is “more economical” and my answer is “cheaper”, will I be considered as a right or a wrong here?

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