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Improving Your IELTS Listening Skills

Watch the video on how to improve your IELTS listening skills

  • Know the test

It sounds obvious but it’s the essential starting point if you want to achieve a good listening score. You should be 100% familiar with the structure, format and timing of the Listening test, that’s the paper based and Computer Delivered versions.


Get to know the question types and instructions for each part of the test and how your answers are graded

  • Practice the test

IELTS candidates often think that the best way to increase their listening band score is to do practice tests and more practice tests. It’s important, of course, that you should practice it regularly.


When you do this, use Cambridge English past papers only because they are authentic IELTS Listening tests. However, doing practice tests only will not greatly increase your listening skills or band score if you don’t have a strategy.

  • Adopt a strategy

Overall, approaching the Listening test without awareness of its idiosyncratic nature and a plan or strategy to deal with it, will result in a disappointing band score.


The 6 overall IELTS strategies of predicting the answers, highlighting key words, the use of synonyms and paraphrase, the use of distractors, the use of signposting language and how to stay focused are all explained with examples and strategies above.


It’s also important be familiar with and adopt a strategy for individual question types since not all of them are the same. Click on the links for question types above for detailed information, strategies and tips.

  • Native speaker pronunciation

One of the most challenging aspects of the Listening test, and learning English in general, is understanding native speaker pronunciation. To begin with, you will hear a range of accents in the test, some of which you may have never heard before. Read the Accents section above for strategies and tips.

Along with unfamiliar accents, you should also become familiar with the “features” of native speaker pronunciation such as speed of speaking, word and sentence stress, intonation, rhythm, connected speech and chunking.


Connected speech, in particular, is challenging for non-native speakers. This is where native speakers “blend” words together and often delete some of them. For example...


 I’m going to go to the mall 



Am gonnago dethemall


While you are listening to Cambridge English practice tests or other sources, try to notice examples of the “features” of English pronunciation. When you do so, take note and practice saying them.

  • Active listening

This technique is when you listen to or watch non-IELTS content, such as movies, podcasts, YouTube videos, TED talks etc. for enjoyment or information and use it as a means of increasing your vocabulary, familiarizing yourself with accents and pronunciation.


While listening or watching, take note of new vocabulary items, research them for meaning and pronunciation. Get used to different accents and the many aspects of pronunciation

  • Listen for enjoyment

It goes without saying that getting your IELTS target score can be a life changing achievement. However, a constant diet of listening to practice tests can be rather boring. Don’t forget to listen for enjoyment, using whatever source you prefer, without the pressure of answering questions about the content.


Listening for enjoyment combined with active listening will greatly increase your listening skills and have a positive effect on your band score.

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