Top Tips for IELTS

IELTS listening tips

You sometimes see it said that all you have do with the listening paper in IELTS is to practice: that there aren’t any particular skills to learn. I disagree – profoundly. There are not just definite skills to learn, there are also I would suggest very definite ways in which to practice. Here are a few of my best IELTS listening tips.

1. Read before you listen – predict the answer

One difficulty in the exam is that you are not just listening, but reading the question and writing the answer all at the same time. One simple tip is to read the questions before you listen so that you know what you are listening for. It is a difficult skill to master, but it can sometimes help to try and predict the type of answer you are looking for: is it a name for instance or a number?

2. Read as you listen – focus on the whole question

A huge proportion of mistakes are made not because you haven’t listened well, but because you you do not focus on the question. As you are listening focus on the precise wording of the question. See this video tutorial for more on this.

3. Look at 2 questions at once

One difficulty is that the answers to 2 questions often come quickly one after the other. Can you get both answers? Maybe, maybe not: but the only way you can is if you are ready for the next question.
I’d add that it’s no problem getting one question wrong, the real problem is if you lose track of where you are in the listening and you are still listening for question 13 when the cassette has moved onto question 15.

4. Don’t leave the writing to the end

Sometimes candidates leave the writing part to the end, thinking that they will remember what they heard. In my experience, this almost never works: there’s a lot of information, you’re under stress and, most importantly, after each listening you should be moving onto the next set of questions to read them.

5. Practice your shorthand

You do not have to write everything that you down: you have 10 minutes at the end to copy your answers onto the answer sheet. So what you need to do is to learn how to write down enough for you to recognise as you are listening so that you can write it out in full later. The one exception to this is in part 1 with numbers and names where you have to write everything out in full as you are listening – that is the challenge.

6. Numbers and names – check your spelling

In part 1, you are almost invariably required to spell names and/or write down numbers. This looks easy, but in my experience can often go wrong and the problem is that if you get any spelling wrong, you lose the mark Of course you know the alphabet, but some letters can cause problems even for advanced learners, in particular:
J & G
A & E & I
My tip is to make an association that you can remember: these are mine, but I suggest you make your own:
J is for Jesus, but G is for God
How do you spell “why”? W-H-Y
A is for apple
E is for elephant
I is for ‘I”

7. Don’t write the answer too quickly

Sometimes you hear what you think is the answer, but the speaker goes on to correct themselves or give slightly different information:
“So I’ll see you on Wednesday afternoon”
“Sorry, I’m busy then. How about Thursday evening?”
“Fine, Thursday at 7 0’clock”

8. Don’t leave any blank answers

There are 2 reasons for this. Firstly, your guess may well be correct, particularly if it is a multiple choice style question. Secondly, there is a danger if you leave a blank that you write the answers in the wrong boxes on the answer sheet and that can be a disaster.

9. Listen for repeated information

This doesn’t always work, but sometimes the words that are the answer are repeated: if you need to make a guess choose the words you hear repeated, they could well the be answer.

10. Look for clues in the question

A frequent question type is completing a table; in this type of question you will often find clues to the answer by looking at the other information in the table. In particular, look at the headings of the rows and columns: if, for example, the heading says “equipment” and some of the completed boxes say “paperclips” and “cardboard” you have a good clue as to what you should be listening for.

For more advice try my Youtube Channel

I have now several listening videos on my Youtube Channel DC IELTS. There you will find video advice on how to improve  your listening skills for IELTS. The IELTS listening tips  there are the same as here but with:

  • more details
  • examples

I am now uploading videos regularly so to get my latest advice you will need to subscribe there.

How to like it, share it and save it


Get more help with IELTS preparation on the main pages of my site

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Writing Guide

Essay writing guide

Academic task 1 guide

Letter writing guide

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82 Responses to IELTS listening tips

  1. jidhin August 16, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    hi, its really helpfull.thanks a lotttt

    • Anonymous January 18, 2014 at 10:12 pm #

      its quite useful. thank you.

    • Anonymous February 29, 2016 at 2:29 am #


  2. VISHAL April 11, 2011 at 5:00 pm #



  3. VISHAL June 1, 2011 at 3:02 am #





    • Anonymous September 1, 2016 at 12:29 am #


    • Anonymous September 6, 2016 at 3:08 pm #

      Lucky you

    • Eeshal Chaudhry September 23, 2016 at 7:00 pm #

      It was quite useful, thank you!

  4. jahir July 9, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    nice short tips, no doubt its helpfull

  5. lasam o August 13, 2011 at 12:55 am #

    Thanks for your kindness.It’s quite helpful.

  6. Hyder Mohammed September 2, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    Another awesome article Domonica, Point number 7, 8 and 9 indeed are very important.

  7. Hyder Mohammed September 2, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    Dominic* not Domonica x_x

  8. Ali Ramzan September 8, 2011 at 8:40 am #


  9. ankitabasnet September 17, 2011 at 4:44 am #

    a great website thank u sososososos much i wish i could be suggested this website b4 i got it jus 1 day b4 my test but still very very helpful thank u dcielts ……………gr8 work praiseworthy 2

  10. Dinaz November 18, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

    Simply indebted to you and your web site —-you have made my studies for IELTS so much more easier —–THANK YOU !!!

  11. pratibha December 13, 2011 at 3:13 am #

    WONDERFUL TIPS.They are quite helping.

    Thanks a lot.


  12. Dhesinghu A January 17, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    Thanks, very Helpful Tips!!

  13. shilpa vishal vij February 13, 2012 at 7:00 am #

    Thanx aton for your helpful tips… I hope dat this tym i ll crack the code..

  14. Monica english teacher February 23, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    Very helpful tips to prepare students for the IELTS.

  15. aysha April 2, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    please guide how to score true false and not given correctly since they are very confusing .when you think something is false and its supposed to be not given 🙁

    • jugraj August 26, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

      please tell me how can i fill fill in the blanks

    • shravan December 12, 2014 at 7:23 am #

      i take an ielts exam L-5.5,R-4.5,W-5,S-6 as i need to improve i reading and writing i need few suggestions even thought for listening i am un able to constrate till last thanx in advance

  16. IELTS examiner April 2, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

    thanks. good job!

  17. atiqa munir April 9, 2012 at 1:00 am #

    thanks a lot ,,,really helping me a lot in gaining more and more,,,

  18. atiqa munir April 9, 2012 at 1:01 am #


  19. manpreet June 23, 2012 at 7:55 am #

    i am so worry about my ielts test now,i had last 6 band in listening,writing ,speaking and 5 in reading. this time i had 6 band in listening and reading ,5 band in writing and 5.5 in speaking .i need 6 band each plz help me.

  20. Cha June 30, 2012 at 2:54 pm #


    I have been reading many IELTS blogs and guidance. But, to be honest this is the best, it helps me a lot from the very first beginning. I really appreciate you commitment and, will also consider this as a remarkable global service.

    Thanks a lot


  21. Akhtar hussain sherliat July 24, 2012 at 2:12 am #

    Really thanks these tips helped me a lot …………………

  22. Anagha August 2, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    Hi Dominic, thanks for the site….it is really useful for IELTS preparation.

    Just one question, I was taking the listening test…’Listening to directions: maps and plans’ and when I checked my answers, I was not clear with the D and E option. I feel it is not placed correctly in the map.
    D – Indoor zoo (just before the swimming pool)
    E – soft play area (first building you’ll see on your left)

    But the answers are other way round.

    • Dominic Cole August 2, 2012 at 9:32 am #

      Thanks for that

    • Anonymous March 2, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

      great thanks

  23. Md Arifuzzaman August 25, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

    Hi Dominic., Thanks For your excellent site ..i got overall IELTS Band score; 6.5. Reading 5.5, Listening; 7.5, Writing ;5.5 and Speaking ; 7. My mistake in writing was to spend 40 mins in writing task 1 and use 20 mins on writing task 2. I suppose that i did not write 250 words in writing task 2 and that is the reason not to get what i deserve in writing. Another point to say here is that my reading performance badly affected my writing and i was almost unable to forget my worst performance in reading. I also believe that reading passage is too long that is almost impossible to read whole passage for ordinary students like me.Anyway This score is good enough for me as i pursue undergraduate course. Special Thanks for your endeavour effort to this site.I am from Bangladesh and Studying in the uk.

  24. sathya September 26, 2012 at 1:28 am #

    Hi Dominic,
    I got a dought can we write all our answers in capital letters in answer sheet so that it eliminates loosing marks for writing small letters in place of capital letters.

    • Dominic Cole February 23, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

      Yes, you can.

      • mani December 25, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

        hi Dominic,i always wanted to write to you about your wonderful helping website.Yor are helping everyone a lot without any payment.No other website explain as that of you.I mean you are excellent,God bless you.
        “Merry Christmas”

  25. Tunde November 10, 2012 at 4:19 am #

    I sat for Nov 27 academic module, i got 5 in Listening , 6.5 in reading , 8 in writing and 7 in speaking.How do i improve my listening and reading skills?. i am writing another exam in Dec 1. I need band 7 in every skills

  26. srinivas ajmeera November 16, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    in ielts listeing how to write answers i mean caps or small

  27. December 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    Thanks for this tips for listening. A great site for students who are preparing for IELTS exam.

  28. Khadija December 21, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    Thank you!! Your website is great. I scored band 8 in reading and listening. In addition, i got 7 in writing. Your notes really helped me!!

    • sara August 31, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

      wow m impressed, can you please suggest me a study plan for 3 week for scoring 7?

      • Dominic Cole September 2, 2015 at 9:08 am #

        Not really I’m afraid. It all depends on what you know already.

  29. riaz January 14, 2013 at 2:32 am #

    tnx these tips are quite helpfull

  30. fassee February 24, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

    I am just in love with this blog. I have also made a blog for ielts test preparation. do visit my blog ielts package, as i need your inputs. Thanks

  31. Dinesh kumar February 26, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    Hai !This all the tips very useful for me.Thank you so much.

  32. Nishant April 27, 2013 at 12:05 am #

    I am just about to sit for my Listening, Reading & Writing Exams tomorrow. Thanks for the valuable tips. I really appreciate.

    Will try and post my scores when i get them 13 days later.

  33. Urvashi June 3, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    Thanks, this will be of great help to me for my exam.

  34. povi pon kumar June 13, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    the writer of this blog have done a good job.. hats off to him. way to go.

  35. Satish August 9, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    Thanks. These tips are very useful.

  36. Mohammad Yeasin Elahi October 13, 2013 at 12:49 am #

    Hi, Dominick

    You have done a good job, your tips are really helpful for IELTS good score seekers. I am going to sit for IELTS exam on 26 October, I think u’r tips will help me to achieve a good score at my exam. Please pray for me.

  37. Labonno October 15, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

    Really an very awesome guidance to the world students.With immeasurable Thanks,hoping for your further success as well as mine with the assimilate of your dinamic tips indeed.Please pray for my IELTS scoring 9 in this December.I am confident enough.Bless me so that I don’t ever loss a tiny amount of my belief on myself!

  38. G.umapathi March 5, 2014 at 2:39 am #

    hi thanks for this information its will be vary useful for me

  39. D. Mtambo April 4, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

    This is very helpful. It has exposed my weaknesses as i prepare for this test

  40. manpreet kaur July 5, 2014 at 6:43 am #


  41. Jason July 5, 2014 at 7:13 am #

    Hello Dominic,
    Thanks for your support for people like me who uses your blog to learn more about IELTS and that’s really helpful.
    I have one question that in listening section
    1. Does capital first letter really makes difference when writing name of people, street or town.
    2. Also in 3 words answer if we write similar 3 words then is it correct or not.

  42. jane October 25, 2014 at 11:47 pm #

    i score 7 in writing, 7 in speaking, 6.5 in listening and 5 in reading, i have to improve my scores, please guide me.

    • anne November 6, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

      how could u score 7 in writing thats amazing

  43. Dinesh October 27, 2014 at 4:50 am #

    Dear Dominic,

    you have add value to the IELTS candidates. Thank you very much for your great effort.

  44. kuldeep arya November 14, 2014 at 8:39 am #

    I’m empress

  45. mahsa November 27, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

    Thanks a lot for giving this kind of info 🙂

    • rajinder singh January 8, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

      Thanks for the tips

  46. Nur December 6, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    That is very useful website…
    could you help me to improve my listening

  47. Zohaib December 7, 2014 at 9:31 am #

    Thanks Dominic very useful details … I would like to add more about 1st point, when you read, highlight the unique words like important place, address, age, name anything which can trigger you mind.

  48. SINSY December 16, 2014 at 8:01 pm #


  49. Ogulo January 5, 2015 at 4:11 pm #

    Sincerely you deserve to be awarded a prize for such a marvelous work you are doing.
    I will be sitting on 29/01/2015. Your site is really a great resource to me. Thank you very much.

  50. prajwol devkota June 3, 2015 at 12:14 pm #

    Thank you Dominic it help me a lot. 🙂 🙂

  51. Rehman June 10, 2015 at 8:06 pm #

    IELTS Cambridge Book 5 (Listening Test 4) mentions the following instruction: “Write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR NUMBERS” and in Answers section, the book mentions an answer “between 9 and 9.30”. This answer has 2 words and 2 numbers making a total of 4 words!
    This instruction (NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR NUMBERS) is very confusing. Can you please explain it. Thank you.

    • Dominic Cole September 13, 2015 at 2:41 pm #

      I apologise for the very slow reply to this. Excellent question. I’m doing a little research on this and will update soon.

  52. Lili July 15, 2015 at 10:53 pm #

    Hello Dominic
    I would like to thank you for your kindness and concern. I found your website by chance and I have just one week ahead to prepare for my IELTS exam.
    You made my day and I really appreciate your great job.
    May God bless you today and always.

  53. Hannah Ayer August 19, 2015 at 4:46 pm #

    Very Useful Tips, Thanks for the inputs

  54. sara August 31, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

    In first attempt i scored overall 6, with 6,6 in writing and reading,6.5 in listening and 5.5 in speaking. I never speak in english, however i understand well and my grammar and vocabulary is also fine.
    This website seems to me very helpful but i am confused where to and how to start my preparation, as my test is after 3 weeks and i need 7 overall. Please someone suggest me the study plan. thanx and prayers in advance

    • Dominic Cole September 2, 2015 at 9:20 am #

      Hi Sara

      There’s a good way to go on speaking. One simple suggestion is to speak every day. If you have no one to talk to, then simply record yourself. This is one case where quantity of practice is really important. If you rarely speak in English, then things are likely to go wrong in the test when you are under pressure. The idea is that the more you talk, the more comfortable you’ll feel when speaking English and that that should help you perform better.

  55. Farhan October 8, 2015 at 12:42 pm #


    I am planning to take IELTS test after 2 months. I am facing difficulty in listening. The only problem I face is when I focus on one question other questions get skipped. Do you have any particular tip to overcome this problem? I have started practicing hard for this as well.

    • Dominic Cole September 6, 2016 at 10:39 am #

      Sorry for the late reply.It’s a good question.

      My technique here is just to look at two questions at once. This means that you know what the next question is as you are listening. This allows you to move on and not get lost. Getting one question wrong is never a problem. The only real problem is getting a wholes series of questions wrong.

  56. izranstyle October 18, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

    Hey, this is the best article and tips. Thank you!

  57. Axel December 1, 2015 at 8:11 pm #

    Pls, I’m begging to get this question answered: Can I write every word in capital letters? by that I mean to write each word of the answer with capital letters. I heard that doing this you wouldn’t get those tedious grammar mistakes that have to do with the upper case at the begging of the word. Is that true? Or am I wrong?

    • Dominic Cole September 6, 2016 at 10:41 am #

      If you’re talking about the answer sheet, then you can use or not use capitals as you wish. Do however make sure you use capitals for place names etc

  58. Mohammad moradianpour January 16, 2016 at 9:23 pm #

    I really appreciate of what your Website has planned for giving the best ways to save the time and do what is exactly useful to practise for listening test with the best clarification

  59. Anonymous March 6, 2016 at 8:26 am #

    i have 5.5 band score in last two attemp, how i can improve my score at least 6 each
    plz guide me to imporve my score

    how i improve my reading and listeing

    My name is Kashif Umar frim Pakistan, any person can contact me for help me to improving my score

    092-334-5295958 is my no

    i am available on IMO & Viber also

    i need your kind considration

    plz help me

    wait for yr kind concidration

  60. Anonymous May 25, 2016 at 6:32 am #

    Very helpful tips for listening .

  61. ravi kumar June 10, 2016 at 12:33 pm #

    thanks its really usefull

  62. Md. Musfikur Rahman September 6, 2016 at 10:15 am #

    Very simple but it works wonderful


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