Top Tips for IELTS

Listening for context in IELTS

This is the first of a series of video posts about how to improve your IELTS listening skills. The key idea is that you need to practise skills if you wish to improve your score. This lesson focusses on what you should do before you listen and as you start to listen. The idea is that listening for contact in IELTS listening is a precise skill that you need to practise.

Think first

Before you watch the video below, decide what you do in the 30 seconds before the listening begins. Do you just try and predict answers?

Listen/watch – listening for context in IELTS


Did I persuade of anything here? Are you going to try and do anything different before you listen now? The general idea is that it does help to understand the situation generally before and as you start listening. This is very similar to the skim reading skill.

If you do like my suggestion, below are some specific ideas for you:

Ideas for understanding context

Before you listen

Don’t just predict answers, look for general meaning – the context of what you will hear.  You are guessing, but you can teach yourself to guess intelligently.

Think about topics and people

I give you more ideas for each section below, but generally you think about what and who: what you will be listening to and who will be speaking.

In the first few seconds of the listening

Ask yourself what the context surroundings is. This can include

section 1

  • where the speakers are: a shop/restaurant/bank etc
  • who the speakers are: a customer/shopkeeper etc
  • what the different voices sound like

section 2

  • what the speaker is talking about: an open day, a guided tour etc
  • how they intend to structure their talk

section 3

  • who the speakers are
  • what their relationship is
  • what they are discussing
  • what their voices sound like

section 4

  • what the theme of the lecture is
  • how the lecture is going to be organised

Practice exercise

What I suggest is:

  • don’t try and do a complete test
  • do one or two exercises at a time (quality over quantity)
  • focus just on this skill – don’t try and do it all at once
  • look at the questions and read the first few lines of the transcript and try and predict the context
  • check your answers by reading the transcript – that way you’re not just testing your listening, you’re trying to improve a skill

My new Youtube Channel

I did have an old Youtube channel. The problem is I no longer like the videos there so I don’t want to show it to you. If you like learning by video, here is the link where you can subscribe and get updates as I upload new videos. Not all of the videos will feature in lessons. I expect to upload 2/3 each week.

DC IELTS on Youtube

How you can share this idea with other people


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

Home page

Speaking Guide

Writing Guide

Essay writing guide

Academic task 1 guide

Letter writing guide

Reading guide

Listening guide

IELTS vocabulary

IELTS grammar

Keep up with me on Facebook - all the updates and even more advice there


Or just get all my free lessons by email

Subscribe to DC IELTS by Email

2 Responses to Listening for context in IELTS

  1. dalin March 27, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    how can i get all of those videos?

    • Dominic Cole March 27, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

      They’re not all made yet!! I’ll get the rest done by the end of the next week.

Leave a Reply