How to avoid mistakes in listening

What is the best way to improve your IELTS listening score? You often see it written that the best thing to do is to practise, practise, practise. I beg to differ. Listening is a skill and skills are improved by practice – but so long as you are doing the right kind of practice. For me it is obvious that you need to practise in a way in that you actually reduce the number of mistakes you make. In this video I identify one very common cause of avoidable mistakes. Before you listen to it, however, may I make another related suggestion:

Use the transcript

My suggestion is to use the transcript of the listening. There are different ways you could do this:
  • while you are still learning about the exam, for your first few attempts read and listen at the same time: for me this isn’t bad practice at all as it helps you learn about the types of question you find in IELTS without the pressure of looking for an answer.
  • when you are getting close to the exam, you should spend plenty of time going through the transcript to identify why you got the answer wrong and how you could have got the right answer. Don’t just mark your mistakes, find out why they were wrong in the first place. This way you can improve your score because while each listening is different, the questions are always set in the same way.

The video

Before you watch this video, here are some questions for you to consider:
Do you underline key words in the question?
Why?
What are distractors?

Are you from China?

A Chinese friendly version of this video is available on Youdu here.

An exercise

Now that you have listened, which words in the question should you focus on? My answer is added as a comment
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33 Responses to How to avoid mistakes in listening

  1. Dominic Cole June 5, 2009 at 3:28 pm #

    You can underline words in the question before you listen, but you MUST focus on the whole question as you listen.

  2. lixh March 2, 2010 at 8:14 am #

    Very useful for me!

  3. Name May 19, 2010 at 4:44 pm #

    Thank you indeed.

  4. leo November 15, 2010 at 3:50 pm #

    Very good IELTS WEB for us thanks a lot

  5. Roshan January 14, 2011 at 8:25 am #

    I think you are doing a great job ….!!! , very useful blog, pls continue your great work…

  6. waqasahmed March 6, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

    this is very good w/site for ielts prepration.I visted a lot of w/sites but it is really amazing.

    • janak January 8, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

      very good side

  7. me July 7, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    Excellent man ! GOD bless you

  8. Emma August 6, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    Thank you very much. This is one of the most organized web-sites about IELTS that I have ever seen.
    THANK YOU.

  9. Anonymous August 15, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    Thank you! This web-site is great!

  10. Alina September 16, 2011 at 11:55 am #

    Hi, Dominic!
    I really need a piece of advice on filling out the listening answersheet. What about the capital letters? Should the answer “sports center” or “international house” be marked correct if the answers at the end of the book give “Sports Center” and “International House” ? And what if the blank space is in the beginning of a sentence?
    Thanks in advance for your help!
    Your blog is of significant importance for anybody preparing to take IELTS. There is so much useful information!

    • Avatar of Dominic Cole
      Dominic Cole September 18, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

      Hi. Sorry for the delayed response. Don’t worry about capital letters in the listening but do worry about spelling. In fact, you can write the words all in capitals if you like. In some ways this is a good idea as if the marker can’t read your writing, you will lose the mark.

  11. Alina September 18, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

    Thanks indeed!

  12. ali September 30, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    thanks nery much

  13. sanjaya December 14, 2011 at 7:05 pm #

    A true friend of the Test takers…!!!!
    This website of yours Rock,,,,,
    Thank you for your great support..*_*

  14. Anonymous December 23, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    hi . I need more tricky ways or signs for distinguish between “No” and “NOT GIVEN” .

    thanks in advanced for your help.

    • Avatar of Dominic Cole
      Dominic Cole December 31, 2011 at 11:18 am #

      It is tricky isn’t it? I suggest you check my reading pages where I give some advice. Other than that, the best tip is simply to analyse as many reading questions as you can find: you should begin to see the pattern.

  15. faroos February 22, 2012 at 5:59 am #

    very thanks about your information tips.. i think its very useful for my exam.

  16. mohammed April 16, 2012 at 11:44 pm #

    hi dominic
    great website.
    I just wanted to ask you about the MCQ’s in the listening.
    The problem is I don’t know whether to read the question and the choices or just the question.don’t have enough time to read all the choices.
    so what do you suggest/
    regards

    • Avatar of Dominic Cole
      Dominic Cole July 12, 2012 at 10:31 am #

      I’d focus on the question first of all – these show you when the answer is coming. Then as the listening is going focus on the options – always remembering that some of the options are there to confuse you and that you need to understand their precise meaning to get the right answer and that you may well go wrong if you only focus on one or two key words. It is a tough skill as there is a lot of information to process all at once. I always think that the hard part of the listening is that it is not just listening but listening, reading and writing all at once.

  17. Milo Vu June 3, 2012 at 8:03 am #

    Hi Dominic,
    I’ve just known about your blog and find it really valuable.
    OK, I have a question about the example given in the video. I can see that you took the transcript from Cambridge Ielts 4 Test 4 Section 2 but changed the options a little. Option C in the original test is “are for people with GOOD fitness levels” and it is absolutely wrong. The right answer, therefore, is option A: cater for a range of walking abilities. So what do you think about that? Did you find it not completely persuasive so you made this change?
    Hope for your early reply. Thank you!

    • Avatar of Dominic Cole
      Dominic Cole July 14, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

      Apologies for the late reply. I simply can’t remember how I wrote that particular question. Dos the sample question work for you? If not, I’ll go ahead and change it.

  18. Raj July 6, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    Tanxx dude

  19. meme August 11, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    Hi Dominic ,

    i’m arabian girl and i don’t use English alot … so i find big problem in filling a table or such like that when they say ” no more than three words ” … what if there was a grammar mistakes in it ???… because if i had to make the sentence or the answer no more than three words i have to change the answer little bit …

    i’m really sorry if u didnt understand what i’m saying but i wish you could give me the answer

  20. Es September 21, 2012 at 1:13 am #

    OMG!!! Very impressive video …. thank you.. Dominic

  21. pratik November 15, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

    Hi Dominic,
    Your website especially study tips are really very helpful.
    I needed your help in clarifying few doubts…:
    1) In questions that say “Not more than 3 words and/or a number” can we answer in 3 words
    plus a number(so total 4 entries) or just 3 words (including a number)
    2) A question was of type ” Not more than 2 words” and I answered it in two words(Different
    customs) but the answer given was just 1 word(Customs) so would I be marked right for
    my answer?
    My exam is on 17th this month I hope you reply soon ..
    Thanking you in anticipation,
    Regards,
    Pratik

  22. madina October 5, 2013 at 3:32 am #

    hi Dominic, firstly I would like to thank you for this wonderful site. it made rise my scores however I haven’t achieved my dream scores. I have done the academic module for 14 times and always get 8 and 8.5 in writing and speaking, and 6.5 and 7 in listening and reading. I need 7 in all modules but I either get less in listening or reading. j have done almost all the practices tests in all ielts books following your advice n tips. I read articles in news papers and listen to BBC news every day. I have done all what it takes to improve my scores but have failed. what else can I do and how can I prepare to get 7 in both listening and reading. I feel do depressed and need help. I started doing those exams in 2010 and am ready to give up.

    thank you

  23. Harsh Mehta December 26, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

    Superb man !! A great example to be logical with all the 3 activities i.e L, R, W. Great work. I’ll appreciate it heartily.

    Thanks,
    Harsh.

  24. ANEESH February 11, 2014 at 8:47 pm #

    Sir, in the listening part, if there is a question: for eg he has got ——–( and the answer is appointment ; then should we add preposition to that?ie an appointment or appointment , pls clarify which is the correct answer?

  25. mihir mehra March 5, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

    hi, thanks for the great help! i have a question, i gave some internet listening tests they deducted my marks as i wrote resource instead of “resources” and one question with two word limit “4 february ” which was said in tape but the answer is 4. m worried do we have deductions related with such minute mistakes ? thanks again :(

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