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How do I Score Well on IELTS® Listening?

By Lee Johnson
Updated: May 17, 2024

Getting a good score on the IELTS® (International English Language Testing System) listening test requires the ability to understand speech in the English language and be able to pick out pertinent bits of information from a conversation. Test-takers should be able to understand and apply the explicitly stated information, and identify non-verbal cues within speech. Test-takers should also be able to pick out the implicit meaning behind any of phrases spoken.

The IELTS® listening test has 40 questions in total, and these are split into four sections. Everybody who takes the IELTS® exams has to complete the same listening assessment, regardless of whether they are taking the academic or general tests. The test-takers are presented with a question paper, a scrap piece of paper for note taking, and a 30-minute, pre-recorded tape of spoken English. Two of the sections focus on speech by multiple speakers, and the other two focus on speech by a single speaker.

Looking at the questions carefully prior to listening to the tape is important to scoring well on the IELTS® listening test. Understanding what information needs to be gleaned from the recording can help test-takers pick the relevant information out of the recording without spending too much time focusing on the irrelevant details. The test questions can be used to determine what the speech on the recording is going to be about, and it can help test-takers target their listening to the relevant information. Writing down answers as soon as they are spoken can also help test-takers remember the important details.

The IELTS® listening test requires a good understanding of the English language, but it is important to note that test-takers don’t need to understand everything that is included on the tape. The questions ask for specific information, so getting a good score is dependent on the test-takers ability to pick out that information. Generally, important information will be stated explicitly.

Understanding the relevance of changes in inflection or pitch is vital to scoring well on the IELTS® listening test. For example, a sudden raise in pitch indicates that the speaker is surprised, which could transform the meaning of the words that were spoken. Learning to identify these non-verbal features of speech is vital to scoring well on the listening portion of the IELTS® test.

Being able to pick the implicit meaning out of a statement is another aspect of listening that is tested. Implicit meaning is something that is not stated directly within the speech, but is evident from the run of the conversation. For example, if someone is asked about an upcoming test and says that he doesn’t see the point in even taking it, he is implying that he doesn’t think he is going to do well on it or he doesn’t think it matters to his future, even though he hasn't said so directly. Test-takers should think logically about what is implied by what the speaker says.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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