6 Ways to Improve Your Listening Skills

Lots of students ask me how they can improve their listening skills – mostly for their IELTS Listening score. Listening may be overlooked quite often, but it’s extremely important in both your formal English studies and everyday informal English. Here are a few tips to help you improve your listening skills – whether it’s for your exams or conversations with your friends!


This may seem like a really obvious tip, but most people don’t know the difference between listening and hearing. Hearing is perceiving sound. You may hear many different sounds throughout the day – birds chirping, cars honking or the sound of your shoes making that wonderful crunching sound on fresh snow (like right now if you live in Canada). You may hear those sounds, but very rarely do you actually focus on them. Listening is when you actively focus on the words being said; you need to concentrate on the words as they form into sentences with meaning behind them. So when you’re taking your IELTS test (or any test) make sure you’re actively listening to instructions, test questions and/or text. A great quote to remember the difference between listening and hearing is:

Hearing is through the ears, but listening is through the mind.

Pre-Read Text

Quite often students score poorly on the listening portion of the test – not because they didn’t listen well enough – but usually because they didn’t understand. One way to help with your understanding of the given text is to read the text before you listen to the audio. We can often compare learning English to running. Runners have to warm up before going for a run. Similarly, when we pre-read a text, we’re warming up our brains to perform at our best.


Read Along With Text

It’s much easier to understand text when you read along with the audio. People who are paid to read audio usually speak in an extremely calm and clear way – this will definitely help you better understand the text. Again, let’s pretend we’re ESL runners! The more we run (or read) the better we’ll get. The more you go over the text, the more you’ll understand. In fact, if it’s at all possible, it might be best for you to read the text as much as you can.

Understand the Questions

Again, most of the time if students score poorly, it’s often because they don’t understand the questions. Highlight or underline keywords within the question. Make sure you understand what the question is asking, and what they want from you. Here’s an amazing resource that helps you understand how to read questions, and how to answer them properly. I highly recommend you check it out!

Listen to English Programs

Listen to different English TV shows, movies or songs. In order for you to understand what’s happening in the show, you will need to concentrate and focus on the dialogue. It’s also a really fun way to improve your listening skills. To learn how to improve your English through movies, TV shows or music, click on the available links.


Practice! Practice! Practice!

Again, when a runner is training for a marathon he never stops training. You need to train for your IELTS test! Take any opportunity you can to practice your English. There are many online listening tests you can take that will actually score you.

Hopefully these tips can help you improve your listening skills! Are there any tips I missed? What helps you to impove your listening? Let me know in the comments below!


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