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IELTS Listening: Making the impossible possible

The problem

‘We have to listen and read and write all at the same time — that’s impossible!’

This is a common comment from students preparing for the IELTS Listening test. It is not easy to do all of these things at the same time — especially as you only hear the listening once — but it is not impossible.

The most important step you can take to do all these things effectively is preparation — learn the basics of the listening test and build your knowledge from there. IELTS Listening tests give you time, often 45 seconds or so, to read the questions in advance of listening and this is your golden preparation opportunity.

You need to use that preparation time effectively.

The solution

There are some key things you need to do to prepare in this time:

  • Identify the keywords in each question
  • Think of possible synonyms for those keywords (you often hear different words with the same meaning as keywords in the Listening test)
  • Identify the type of answer you need — for example, is it a name, number, or adjective? Then think of possible answers to the questions (you might think this is impossible, but try — you might be surprised when you guess correctly)

Try this now on one section of one of our IELTS Listening practice tests. You can find the whole set here.

Road to IELTS Listening practice test 1
You will probably think this is impossible to do in 45 seconds. At first you might be right. With practice of this technique you will get quicker and more effective. Keep trying, be persistent, and you will see improvement.

This technique is helpful as you are mentally preparing yourself for the listening audio — so your mind is more receptive when the listening starts. It is like tuning into the content of the listening test. Learning how to answer the questions is a huge part of doing well in the IELTS. Make sure you pick up other tips to improve your band score as you prepare.

For more advice on the listening test check this video:

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