IELTS Listening Tips
These 25 IELTS Listening Tips provide you with essential strategies to help you get the score you need in the exam.
1. Predict the topic – it helps you to listen if you know what kind of conversation is taking place so you can picture it in your head. So look through each section in the time you are given and make sure you have an idea of who is speaking to who and what the context is.
2. Predict the questions – you should also try and have an idea of what kind of information you are listening out for. For example, in section one you often have to listen for names, numbers and addresses. Have a look at the questions in the time you are given and work out what needs to go in the space. A name? Number? An address? You are more likely to catch it then when the answer arises.
3. Use a minute to look through each section – you are given 30 seconds at the end of each section to check your answers. You are then told to turn over and look at the next section for 30 seconds. Although some IELTS listening tips will tell you to check what you have written, there is little you can check for the previous section as you can’t hear the listening again. So instead, turn straight to the next section. You will then have one minute (instead of 30 seconds) to look through the next section. This is time better spent.
4. Careful with question order – often you have a table to complete, and sometimes a diagram or chart. The questions will not necessarily go from left to right, so check the progression carefully otherwise you will get lost and confused.
5. Look at two questions at once – there are two reasons for doing this. Firstly, some questions may have the answers close together in one sentence so you could miss one if you only look at one question at a time. Also, it is possible that you will miss an answer – if you are just looking at one, you may not know that you missed it. If you are also looking at the next, you’ll see that it has moved on.
6. Move on if you miss an answer – if you do realise you have missed an answer, quickly forget about it and concentrate on the next ones. There is nothing you can do, and you can also guess when you transfer your answers to the answer sheet at the end. The same applies if you realise you missed two or three answers. Don’t panic and just move on as there is nothing you can do. A few questions missed may not necessarily affect your band score.
7. Watch others if you’re completely lost – if you completely lose where you are, then watch when the other candidates turn over their exam papers. You’ll know then that you are back in the right place.
8. Look out for paraphrasing – remember that what you hear will most likely not be exactly the same as is written on the exam paper as that would be too easy. The question and the question stems use such things as synonyms so you must listen carefully for these.
9. Ignore words you don’t know – don’t worry or panic if you hear a word that you do not know. It may not be necessary to know it anyway, or you can take a guess.
10. Underline key words – when you look through the questions first, particularly in the more difficult parts 3 and 4, underline key words (such as names, places and dates) in the question stems to help you hear the answer. Remember though, as explained above, synonyms are often used.
11. Take care with spelling and grammar – your answer will be marked wrong if it is spelt incorrectly or the grammar does not fit. So when you transfer your answers at the end, double check these. The sentence on the exam paper may help you with the grammar – does it fit grammatically? Should it be a verb, noun, adjective?
12. Use British or American spelling – this is what is says on the official IELTS website ”IELTS recognizes both British and American English in terms of spelling, grammar and choice of words”. So you can use either in your answers.
13. Don’t worry about what you write on the exam sheet – in practice tests, it is common to see students rubbing or crossing things out on the exam paper. Remember that nobody sees or marks what you write here. Don’t waste time getting the spelling correct or anything else. If you do this you’ll get lost – you need to be listening. So just write down what you hear then move on. When you transfer the answers at the end to the answer sheet, you can make sure you have the correct spelling.
14. Read the instructions – an IELTS listening tip that is an important tip for any part of the test is to always read the instructions carefully. They will tell you how many words to use. If it asks for no more than two words and you use three, it will be wrong. And you must only put in the words asked for. For example, if there is a gap of “at …… pm” and you write “at 5pm” on the answer sheet, it will be wrong. You should only write what is missing i.e. “5”.
15. Use upper or lower case letters – a question often asked is whether you can use upper case letters. This is what it says on the official British Council Website: “You may write your answers in lower case or capital letters”. So you can write all your answers in capital letters if you like. This statement from the British Council suggests, therefore, that you will not be penalised if you write ‘paris’ for example, instead of ‘Paris’ because it says you can use lower case letters. However, it is recommended that you try and use capitalisation correctly to be on the safe side. If you are not sure if the first letter needs capitalisation, then capitalise the whole word.
16. Get used to the British accent – a good IELTS listening tip is to be prepared to hear all accents as you may hear Australian, American, Canadian, New Zealand and a mix of European countries. However, although there are a mix of accents in the test, the majority tend to be British (unlike TOEFL which tends to be American). So make sure you are used to the British accent.
17. Practice the pronunciation of letter and numbers – often words are spelt out in the test by a speaker and numbers are read out, so make sure you can recognise how different letters sound in different accents, not just words.
18. Careful with what you write down – speakers in the test will often give an answer but then correct themselves. So the first answer that looks right may actually be wrong. You can check out a lesson on this here.
19. Don’t leave answers blank – you will not get penalised for writing the wrong answer (as opposed to nothing if you are not sure what it is) so guess if that is possible.
20. Transfer your answers to the answer sheet carefully – if you put correct answers in the wrong place on the answer sheet it will be wrong, so make sure you put the answer in the correct place. It is easy to do this if you leave an answer blank on the exam sheet. You may then fill that one in with the wrong answer when you transfer them across. So put in a guess for any you do not know and leave no blanks.
21. Check your answers – make sure you recheck your spelling and grammar too when you transfer your answers at the end.
22. Listen very carefully – listen very very carefully throughout the test. Zone in and focus. Don’t be distracted by anything around you, and don’t panic if you think you having missed any answers or that you are getting them wrong. All this will do is distract you from listening.
23. Practice listening – of all the IELTS listening tips, this is one of the most important. Make sure you practice listening as much as you can! You can practice with sample IELTS listening tests but you should also expose yourself to as much English as you can. Target it at the level you are currently at. There is no point in listening to BBC World if you don’t understand any of it. Find resources on the internet that suit your level and gradually increase difficulty. And don’t worry if they are not exams or specifically for IELTS, any kind of listening helps. Try to make listening fun and listen to things you like. You can move on to more difficult things as you improve.
24. Listen to lectures – remember that the last part is a lecture, so practice listening to lectures and taking notes. Lectures often follow certain patterns, such as an introduction to tell you the topic and main points, and they have sign-posts to tell you if they are comparing e.g. “although”, or moving onto a new main points e.g. “Now I’ll discuss….”. So listening to lectures will help you with this section. You can find lectures online if you do a search. TED lectures may be useful as they provide a transcription so you can check your notes.
25. Learn to listen and write together – practicing your listening skills is important, but remember in the test you have to write and listen. So you should practice this too. One way to do this is with practice tests but you can also try listening to audios and taking notes at the same time. This will improve your ability to do both skills at the same time.
IELTS Speaking Tips
Following Speaking Tips can improve your Speaking score.
1. Avoid Nervousness – This can be difficult because you are taking a test, but try not to be nervous! If you can’t speak much because you are nervous then you may get a lower score as the examiner needs to hear you speak as much as possible in order to assess your skills.
If you speak freely and confidently then you may get a score you did not expect!
2. Extend Your Answers- Of all the IELTS speaking tips, this is probably one of the most important! The examiners job is to assess your speaking, so if you say very little, he/she will not be able to do this.
Don’t give one word answers such as ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and leave it at that. Your job is to give the examiner as much language as possible to assess, so speak as much as you can.
3. Stay on Topic- It’s important to extend your answers as mentioned above, but make sure you stay on topic – don’t talk about anything that comes into your head if it is not answering the question!
4. Don’t Rely on the Examiner- The examiner usually won’t prompt you to say more if you don’t say enough, so it’s up to you to give a full answer to each question.
If you don’t, then the interview will be over very quickly and you may not be happy with your score!
5. Understand the Questions- If you do not understand a question, then ask the examiner to repeat it. Don’t try to answer it the first time if you have not understood or heard it properly.
You won’t lose marks for asking for a question to be repeated, however if you are unable to understand a lot of the questions you are probably not ready to take the test!
6. Don’t Show Off- You want to do your best to impress the examiner, but try to keep within your capabilities. If you try to use lots of grammar structures and vocabulary that you are not confident about, you may simply bring down your score.
7. Keep Eye Contact- Try to have eye contact with the examiner. This does not mean you need to look at him/her all the time, but it is normal when you have a conversation with someone to spend quite a lot of time looking at them as that keeps their attention.
8. Listen Carefully- Listen very carefully to the questions so you are answering them correctly. For example, if you are asked about an event in the past, make sure you answer using the past tense.
9. Focus On What’s Important When You Prepare- Unless you have particularly bad pronunciation, don’t spend a lot of time and money on pronunciation lessons.
You are better to spend this time increasing your range of vocabulary and sentence structures, and practicing speaking as much as you can to increase your fluency.
10. Be on Time- These IELTS speaking tips will not be much use to you if you are not on time! You are going to get off to a bad start if you have upset the examiner because you have kept them waiting so arrive in plenty of time!
These 23 IELTS Reading Tips provide you with essential strategies to help you get the score you need in the exam.
1. Skim the reading and questions first – it is a good idea to skim the reading first to get an understanding of what it is about and who it is written for. Look at the title of the reading, any subheadings, and pictures. Then look at the questions as the type of question will influence the strategies you use to complete them.
2. However, do what works for you!- You’ll always find a mix of advice on ways to approach the reading test. A common complaint from students studying for the test is that “One teacher told me to do it this way, but another told me to do it this way”. But this is fine – people read in different ways and what works for one person may not work for another. Listen to the advice, try both ways, and do whatever works best for you.
3. Read the instructions carefully- an important IELTS reading tip is to always read the questions carefully. The instructions differ for each question, for example telling you how many words you can use or whether you can take the words you will use directly from the text or not. So always read them to make sure you don’t lose marks just because you were doing things the wrong way.
4. Take care with spelling and grammar– you will lose the mark if your spelling or grammar are wrong, so make sure you check these carefully. There is no excuse for making a spelling error if you are just taking the word from the reading!
5. Move on if you don’t know the answer- don’t spend too long on one question. If you just can’t work out the answer, then take a guess and move onto the next question. You may not get the chance to do later questions that you DO know the answer to if you waste time on other questions. You can always return to that question later if you have time at the end.
6. Highlight keywords in the text- you will need to go back to the reading and scan it to find information to answer a question. So when you read the text, highlight such things as proper nouns (e.g. names of people, places, things). This is why it can be a good idea to look at the questions before you do the full reading – you will then have an idea of what kinds of things you may need to look for and therefore what it is a good idea to highlight.
7. Beware of synonyms- you will often be told to highlight key words in the question to help you find the answer in the text. That is a good idea, but remember it is not usually as easy as that and the word in the text will likely be a synonym of the word you have underlined. So be careful of just scanning to find the exact word you have highlighted in the question – you may then go to the wrong place for the answer. So look out for synonyms when you are finding the right place in the text for the answer.
8. Guess the meaning from context- unless you are a very proficient user of English, there will most likely be some or several words that you do not understand. When this happens, you should try and guess the meaning from the context. This means looking at the words and sentences around the word you don’t know so you can make an educated guess as to what it means. However, you don’t have much time, so do this as quickly as you can. Move on quickly though if you don’t know – the word may not be important anyway.
9. However, do what works for you!- You’ll always find a mix of advice on ways to approach the reading test. A common complaint from students studying for the test is that “One teacher told me to do it this way, but another told me to do it this way”. But this is fine – people read in different ways and what works for one person may not work for another. Listen to the advice, try both ways, and do whatever works best for you.
10. Read the instructions carefully- an important IELTS reading tip is to always read the questions carefully. The instructions differ for each question, for example telling you how many words you can use or whether you can take the words you will use directly from the text or not. So always read them to make sure you don’t lose marks just because you were doing things the wrong way.
11. Take care with spelling and grammar- you will lose the mark if your spelling or grammar are wrong, so make sure you check these carefully. There is no excuse for making a spelling error if you are just taking the word from the reading!
12. Move on if you don’t know the answer- don’t spend too long on one question. If you just can’t work out the answer, then take a guess and move onto the next question. You may not get the chance to do later questions that you DO know the answer to if you waste time on other questions. You can always return to that question later if you have time at the end.
13. Highlight keywords in the text- you will need to go back to the reading and scan it to find information to answer a question. So when you read the text, highlight such things as proper nouns (e.g. names of people, places, things). This is why it can be a good idea to look at the questions before you do the full reading – you will then have an idea of what kinds of things you may need to look for and therefore what it is a good idea to highlight.
14. Beware of synonyms- you will often be told to highlight key words in the question to help you find the answer in the text. That is a good idea, but remember it is not usually as easy as that and the word in the text will likely be a synonym of the word you have underlined. So be careful of just scanning to find the exact word you have highlighted in the question – you may then go to the wrong place for the answer. So look out for synonyms when you are finding the right place in the text for the answer.
15. Guess the meaning from context- unless you are a very proficient user of English, there will most likely be some or several words that you do not understand. When this happens, you should try and guess the meaning from the context. This means looking at the words and sentences around the word you don’t know so you can make an educated guess as to what it means. However, you don’t have much time, so do this as quickly as you can. Move on quickly though if you don’t know – the word may not be important anyway.
16. Understand main ideas- each paragraph always has a main idea or topic. You should practice identifying the main idea of a paragraph as this will help you find the answers to questions, and in matching headings to paragraphs type questions, you will have to identify the main idea in order to pick the right heading. The main idea is often in the topic sentence; however, sometimes you may have to read the whole paragraph to be sure of the central point.
17. Move down the text as you answer questions- the questions in each question set will nearly always follow the order of the text. So you know that when you have answered one question, the next answer will be below that. However, remember that this doesn’t apply to certain types of question, such as paragraph to heading matching in which the order is mixed up.
18. Learn the skills of skimming and scanning- these are methods of speed reading and you should practice both. Skimming is when you run your eyes over the whole text from beginning to end to get an idea of what it is about, whereas scanning is when you find one specific piece of information in a text.
19. Read some parts of the text in detail- you won’t have time to read the whole text in detail, but at times you will need to do this. When you are answering questions and you identify where the answer is in the text, you may need to read in detail to make sure you can work out the correct answer.
20. Start practice tests slowly- often IELTS reading tips will tell you to do practice tests, and it is correct that you should do these as much as you can as candidates often have problems with their timings. However, it is important to start out slowly until you get to know the questions, develop your skills and strategies and have decided the best way for you to approach the test. So don’t worry about timing yourself when you start out – relax, take your time and get to know all the different types of question.
21. Gradually increase your speed when you practice- as your knowledge of the IELTS reading test improves, you can then start to speed up. But don’t suddenly start trying to do the full reading practice test in 60 minutes – gradually increase the time you spend on each test until you are ready to tackle them in 60 minutes. The lower your level, the longer this will take.
22. Spend 20 minutes on each reading- in the actual test, you have 60 minutes to do three readings and, unlike the listening test, you don’t have 10 minutes to transfer your answers at the end. So spend only 20 minutes on each one and transfer your answers to the answer sheet in the 20 minutes too. Make sure when you do practice tests you transfer your answers to a sheet of paper too so that this extra time is always taken into account.
23. Practice with interesting texts- in IELTS reading tips you will often be told to practice reading as much as possible, but what do you read? You should of course practice with real reading tests and some difficult readings, but this can get quite boring, as can reading lots of academic articles. Any kind of reading will help, so find some types of English language fiction (story) books you like and read them and short articles in magazines or on the internet. If you enjoy it, you are much more likely to read more. This is better than doing very little reading because you just do not want to read. Of course it should not be so easy that you learn nothing. Find something that will still mean you have to check and learn new words sometimes, but if it is a story you will enjoy you are much more likely to pick it up and read more. This will improve your vocabulary, reading speed, and other reading skills.
These 11 Writing Tips can improve your IELTS score.
1. Don’t write too little- For task 1 you have to write 150 words, and for task 2 you have to write 250 words. Make sure you do not write less than this amount or your band score may be reduced.
Begin to get an idea of how many words you normally write on one line. This way you will know roughly how much you have written without having to keep counting all the words – you probably won’t have time to do this!
2.Don’t write too much- The examiner is looking for quality, not quantity! You will not necessarily get more marks for writing more, so don’t write more for no reason.This will really depend on your writing ability. Someone of a higher level who needs to spend less time checking their grammar will have time to write more.
But if this is not you, then make sure you write at least the minimum number of words, then use the extra time to check your grammar.
3. Plan and check your answer- Don’t just start writing when the time begins and stop when it finishes.
Use some time at the beginning checking you understand the question, brainstorming your ideas and planning your answer.
Then spend some time at the end checking your grammar.
4. Spend more time on Task 2- More of the marks are for task 2 and this task requires 100 more words, so spend 20 minutes on task 1 and 40 minutes on task 2.
It does not matter which task you write first.
5. Write clearly- You are not being graded on your handwriting; however, if the examiner cannot read some things you have written, it is not going to help you! So try to write clearly.
6. Organize clearly- Don’t present the examiner with a wall of writing! Make sure you make use of paragraphing to divide up the different arguments or topics you are discussing.
7. Don’t copy the question- Never copy the question! You may want to use the question (or rubric as it is called) in the introduction of both tasks in order to introduce the topic, but make sure you put it in your own words.
8. Use a variety of sentence structures- The examiner will be looking to see what your grammatical range is so make sure you are not just using a limited range of sentence types.
To get a higher score you will need to show you can use simple, compound and complex sentences.
9. Use High Vocabulary words – This is very important to use range of high value vocabulary words in writing task. For Example using high vocabulary words like Integral, Essential, Vital instead of using Important, Amazing, Excellent instead of Good, Juveniles instead of Youngsters etc. Using high vocabulary words can increase your Writing score.
10. Read the question carefully- This is one of the most important IELTS writing tips! When my students write essays, one of the most common mistakes is not answering the question.Study the rubric very carefully and make sure you are clear about what you have to write about.
If you are writing about the wrong topic or not responding to exactly what the question asks you, your band score will be lower.
11. Read all instructions carefully- As with all of the modules of the IELTS test, make sure you read all the instructions carefully. These will tell you where you need to write each answer and what you need to do.