How to Improve Your IELTS Listening Skills

improve ielts listening

Are you wondering how to improve your IELTS listening skills? Worried about only hearing the audio recordings once during the IELTS Listening section? Do they move too quickly for you to hear the correct answers?

In this post, I’ll share with you a strategy that I’ve used to help students figure out answers before they even hear the recording!

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking:

Is it cheating?  Are you a Star Wars Jedi using the Force to ‘beat’ the exam? This can’t be true.

I certainly wish I had the powers of a Jedi sometimes, but for this exam strategy, they’re not necessary!

And it’s certainly no lie:  I’ve loved seeing my students’ faces light up when they hear the exact answer that they’ve chosen beforehand being played in the recording.

The way to ‘know’ the answers before the recordings are played is to…

Use the Power of Prediction!

By understanding the context of the format of the specific task (covered here in our first free study guide) and the questions asked, you will be in a stronger position to predict and understand what you will hear.

Here’s how:

1. Identify the section and specifically what type of information you are listening for

You will always have time before the recordings to read the questions and answer choices.  This is your time to predict the context of the recording you are about to hear.  You’ve read about the format of the Listening section in our first study guide by signing up using the form at the bottom of our homepage, so you know whether to expect a monologue or a dialogue.

Let’s look at the second part of this skill: identifying what specific information you’re being asked and green label ticket

As an example, let’s say a group of short-answer Task 1 questions asked you the following:

  1. The total cost of the ticket package: _______________
  2. The additional fee percentage for paying online: _______________
  3. The venue where the event will be held: _______________

Can you tell me what type of information-a number, the name of a person, the name of a place, etc.-you need to listen for by identifying the keywords in each question? The keywords are in bold to help you out. (Answers: a number, a number, a name or type of location)

If a number is required, can you get even more specific? Which form is the number required to be in (a percentage, a dollar amount, a year, a complete date)? You are now thinking of words you’ll most likely hear that fit exactly into these gaps!

2. Use prior knowledge

Let’s take our strategy in Step 1 and expand upon it.  It’s time to consider what might be likely or possible answers using our own knowledge on the subject.  For the following questions, please fill in an answer for each using no more than 2 words and/or a number for each answer.

‘Without first hearing a recording?’


Here they are:

  1. The project must be completed by_________.
  2. The student must attend the lab session _________ to complete the project in time.
  3. The student can find a copy of the latest statistics software in the _________.

Using context clues in the sentence combined with your prior knowledge, were you able to offer possible responses?

Now, listen to the recording.

How did you do? I’ve had students predict the exact answers to these questions in class! (Answers: September 30th, 3 times weekly, psychology department)

Remember: This strategy is to help you anticipate each question and predict possible responses. Don’t choose an answer just because you hear one part of it. You may hear parts of all answer options because the exam uses distractors in the listening section to mimic natural speech, especially in multiple choice and matching questions. Remember to think about the context of everything being said, and watch out for qualifying words/phrases and negatives like “some”, “all”, and “none”.

3. Take it a step further with your knowledge of English grammar and parts of speech

We’ve identified the context of the recording and the type of information you need to listen for. We’ve also offered potential responses using prior knowledge of the context that should have been very close to the actual responses!black microphone

Lastly, we will use a different kind of prior knowledge to predict possible answers: our understanding of English grammar and sentence structures.

This is especially useful for sentence and summary completion questions, as the response must complete the sentence in a grammatically correct manner.

Parts of Speech: We can consider when we expect to see certain parts of speech in sentences so we can complete these questions in a grammatically correct way.  Think about the following examples:

  1. What part of speech tends to follow the articles “a, an, the”?
    • Nouns
  2. Where do we often find adjectives in a sentence?
    • Before the noun
  3. Where do we often find adverbs of manner in a sentence?
    • After the verb
  4. What do we tend to see after the word “by” in a passive sentence?
    • The agent that acts on the subject of the sentence

While you may not know each specific aspect of English grammar or part of speech, you should at least know what cannot be used to complete the sentence.

Try It!

Can you change the verbs “to succeed” and “to respect” into the correct parts of speech to convey the same meaning?  Fill in the gaps with ONE WORD in a grammatically correct manner.

ielts listening practice



  1. Succeeded-verb past tense
  2. Success-noun
  3. Successful-adjective
  4. Successfully- adverb


  1. Respectfully-adverb
  2. Respect-noun
  3. Respectful-adjective
  4. Respected-verb


Let’s Review How to Improve Your IELTS Listening Skills Using the Power of Prediction

  1. Identify the section and specifically what type of information you are listening for.

  2. Use prior knowledge of the context/subject matter.

  3. Use prior knowledge of English grammar and parts of speech.

You are now in a much stronger position to respond to IELTS Listening Section questions and feel in control during the exam!


Have a question about this tip? Leave a comment below!

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One thought on “How to Improve Your IELTS Listening Skills

  • Thanks for your blog,It was good

    IELTS is accepted by most of the Australian, British, Canadian and New Zealand academic institutions as also by over 3,000 academic institutions in the United States. It is also the most sought after qualifying test asked by various professional organisations across the world.
    IELTS is the only Secure English Language Test approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) for visa customers applying both outside and inside the UK. It is also a requirement for immigration to Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

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