IELTS Exam: How to Teach Listening Skills

IELTS exam consists of four parts: Listening, Reading, Writing и Speaking. We have already written about the Reading part and Speaking skills in Academic IELTS. In this article, we will discuss the Listening part which is the same in both general training and academic versions of the exam.

What is the IELTS Listening part?

It has 4 sections with the following flow: a dialogue, a monologue, a dialogue or a discussion, and a lecture or a speech. Its duration is 30 min, with 40 or 41 questions. As IELTS is an international exam, there might be different accents, but the main accents will probably be British, Canadian and Australian.

Typical question types for IELTS listening:

  • Multiple Choice
  • Matching 
  • Plan/Map/Diagram Labelling
  • Completion
  • Short Answer Questions

Now let’s look at more details about IELTS listening sections.

Section 1

There is a dialogue between two people: appointment, booking, filling in the application. Usually, the students will have to fill in the gaps with missing words.

While preparing

  • Give your students tasks with the spelling challenge of proper nouns. Spelling skill is really important for this section.
  • Ensure that your students listen to high-speed dialogues.
  • Dictate emails, websites, telephone numbers, proper names to your students.

At the IELTS

  • Tell your students that they should not panic. If they could not hear the word, because they can guess the missing word from the second question.

Section 2

This section is usually an informative monologue with table, flow chart, diagram completion, or multiple-choice questions.

While preparing

  • Teach your students to see the order in diagrams or tables.
  • Ensure that your students catch the unexpected turns, as this is a usual practice for section 2
  • Give a lot of listening practice with categorization, listing, grouping tasks

At the IELTS

  • Tell your students that they should be careful with explicit answer choices, as they can be misleading.
  • Teach your students to hear categorization words which will predict the information (range, choice, types, etc.)

Section 3

Usually 2-3 people are speaking about an academic topic. This section is more challenging than sections 1 and 2.  Your students will face multiple-choice, gap-fill, summary question types.

While preparing

  • Teach your students to read questions fast to be able to predict what discussion or dialogue they will hear.
  • Your students should be able to identify keywords in the questions.
  • Make sure that your students are familiar with academic content words (report, essay, assignment, etc.)
  • Make sure your students get enough practice in listening to debates

At the IELTS

  • Tell your students to underline keywords in the questions so that they know what specific information they will be listening to.

Section 4

This is a monologue type of listening. It can be a professor’s lecture or a presenter’s speech. These are the typical questions: sentence completion, multiple-choice, matching, short answer.

While preparing

  • Identifying keywords is essential here.
  • Teach your students to predict the topic and the details of the talk just by looking at the questions.
  • Make students do a lot of paraphrasing exercises; it is very important in this section, and not only.
  • Ensure that your students listen to long run speeches.
  • You can teach them to take notes while listening.

At the IELTS

  • Tell your students to predict the topic.
  • Tell them to take notes if they suddenly lose the flow of the speech, as they can later refer to the notes and answer the questions.

General tips:

  • As the recording will be played just once at the exam while preparing your students sometimes set tasks where they need to complete them by listening only once.
  • Train your students not to leave blank space in answer sheets. If they don’t know an answer, they should guess.
  • Train to pay attention to instructions, as they might vary, e.g. «no more than two/no more than three words» and so on.
  • Train to work with distractors.
  • Ask students to listen to different podcasts with a range of accents.

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