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IELTS Listening: Help! I don’t understand the accent!

IELTS Listening: Help! I don’t understand the accent!

The problem

IELTS is an international test, so you might hear a range of different accents, including Australian, British, New Zealand and North American. Remember that you only hear the audio once in the Listening test so you need to be absolutely confident that you can pick out every detail first time. An unfamiliar accent can get in the way of that. While there will not be any extreme accents, you should at least be familiar with a range of ‘standard’ accents.

The solution

Start by reading this extract from a report from the US Library of Medicine:

‘It is well known that there is a processing cost when listening to speech in an accent other than one’s own, but recent work has suggested that this cost is reduced when listening to a familiar accent widely represented in the media, and/or when short amounts of exposure to an accent are provided.’

This means that ‘short amounts of exposure’ to an unfamiliar accent really can help you to understand it. So it’s sensible to spend some time listening to the most common dialects when you are preparing for the test. It’s not difficult to find radio stations online that enable you to do this.

Here are some examples:

It’s easy to find others, and you may even find it interesting to listen to some more unusual accents such as Louisiana or Caribbean. In fact, you can have lots of fun finding radio stations worldwide on tunein.com!

Another approach is to listen to some TED talks. TED speakers come from many different countries, and often the talks have transcripts, so you can check the accuracy of your listening. Here are three examples from the Top 20 TED talks:

If you want to listen to different accents in the context of IELTS, then try Road to IELTS. You’ll find that the activities and practice tests include a variety of accents to give you an authentic IELTS experience.


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