When you focus on things they improve – this is a fact and for anybody who needs an overall score of say band 7 or 7.5 or an overall score with a minimum of 7 in each part (which is commonly asked for from medical professionals) then the listening part is probably your best bet for a higher band. So here is a strategy that will get your score to a very high band such as band 8 or even band 8.5.

  • Make sure you have a range of IELTS listening materials as well as access to non-ielts materials too. I suggest course books, online sites and also sites like the BBC, CNN (these can be a mix of audio and TV/video-based but make sure it is a mix as video-based is less helpful but more fun)
  • Don’t forget about movies and music too – these are less helpful for the IELTS Listening exam itself but they will help you to ‘tune your ear’ to English and also improve your vocabulary and perhaps also give you some phrases and words for the speaking exam. Above all they are more relaxing and fun – which is important
  • Try to do something every day. This doesn’t mean doing a test every day – listen to music, try one part of the IELTS listening and 15 minutes of news or another radio programme or watch a movie – mix up the different things
  • Choose some longer programmes that are connected with your hobbies or work – this way you’ll understand more and can get more information from the programme. It may be helpful for your career too
  • When you do an IELTS listening test – don’t treat it as the exam (this is only slightly helpful), use it to improve your overall skills. This means you can stop the tape if you don’t understand and listen again – this isn’t cheating, it’s improving your skills. Listen again as much as you need until you can hear the answer. Understand the difference between testing and training – this is an important difference and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training rather than testing
  • The same is true when you do test yourself. Go back over the listening again and make sure that you can hear any questions that you missed – listen as many times as you can to get it. If you still can’t then try and find a transcript
  • Finally if you can get hold of advanced listening material with questions (especially using authentic listenings i.e. those made for native speakers) this will really help to boost your skills. We have lots on Gapfillers which you can subscribe to for just £19.97 for a month and £49.97 for 3 months – if you are on the IELTS Step By Step programme then you already have access to all the listening exercises. My good friend Sheila Thorne has some great listening books – Real Lives Real Listening go for the Advanced level.

A word about keywords in listening – here it’s the opposite from reading you should only have one keyword (maximum 2) which will anticipate the information you need to hear. Too many words underlined and it will simply be too confusing. This is the problem many people have with the MCQ questions, you are trying to carry too much in your head and it’s not possible. You need to clear the channels and just have one thing to listen for which will open up the topic and give you your answer.

And that’s how you can get great listening skills that will deliver a band 8 or 8.5 for you.

So now all that is left is to create your listening day-by-day timetable.

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