IELTS – What should you listen to?

The IELTS Listening exam is the biggest enemy for many students. Students complain that they only get to listen to the recording once, or the various accents used are different from their teacher’s accent, or the speakers speak too fast, or that the vocabulary used in the IELTS exams is too difficult.

Really, the only way to develop your listening skills is to think about how you listen in real life, in your language.

  • Do you listen to anything more than once? How many times do your friends or family repeat the same conversation for you? How many times do you listen to a dialogue on TV? Only once. 
  • Do you listen to a variety of acccents? Accents differ not just from country to country but from region to region in every country. Vietnamese spoken in Saigon is different from Vietnamese spoken in Hanoi. Arabic spoken in Jeddah is slightly different from Arabic spoken in Riyadh. Russian in Moscow is different from that spoken in St. Petersburg. Even the English spoken in London is different from that in Scotland.
  • Do you listen to varying speeds of speech? Do your friends speaking in a cafe speak at the same speed as a news reader on TV?
  • Do you listen to people using different kinds of vocabulary? Taking the above example again, do friends talking about the weather use the same words as a weatherman on TV?

Just like you listen to a variety of accents, speeds, formal and informal speech in real life, you need to practise listening to different kinds of English to prepare for your IELTS exam.

I recommend bookmarking two or three websites and spending about half an hour listening everyday in the lead up to your exam.

1. BBC News on YouTube - This is a great way to familiarize yourself with the standard English accent. Also, a great source of interesting stories with a range of vocabulary on popular IELTS topics such as the government, crime, society, economy etc.

2. Ted Ed Lessons - This a a great way to do some focused listening. Ted has some of the best, most inspiring, and interesting videos today. And Ted Ed, its educational offshoot, has great questions that go with every video. I’ll be posting the most interesting Ted Ed videos I come across on this website every week.

3. Your Choice – As with websites to practice reading skills, choose a YouTube channel that gives you interesting updates about a topic you are passionate about. For e.g. if you love cooking and want to become familiar with the Australian accent, subscribe to the One Pot Chef Show. If you want to practice the American accent, subscribe to the Laura in the Kitchen channel.


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