The IELTS listening test is considered by many to be the most difficult part in IELTS exams. It is difficult not only because of the nature of learning English as a second language but also because it is highly academic compared to other types of listening exercises. Having said that, I believe in order to pass the IELTS listening test you have to understand common barriers to your success and many of which have been proven by other IELTS candidates.
Accent is mostly believed to be the main problem. It is not always true even though we surely anticipate and deduce much more efficiently if we are comfortable with a speaker. The reason is that it is more about understanding on sentence level. Many IELTS candidates wrongly developed their IELTS listening skills by focusing too much on understanding individual lexical terms.
Next, all listening passages across all major certificates such as the TOEIC, TOEFL, CAE, CPE, IELTS and others, all have some important characteristics in common. One of these is the flow of information or information distribution in the passage, and the use of triggers and distractors. Triggers are keywords that lead up to the answer in the listening passage. Distractors are just that keywords meant to distract you. Hence, you have to practice and get used to focusing on main ideas and eliminate as many distractors as possible.
On top of that, IELTS listening passage is played once only. That is also one of the reason that makes IELTS listening is so difficult. Candidates tend to get lost and lose confident when they miss two or more sentences. It does not matter actually. The main thing is you can understand the main ideas.
Now let’s consider a number of methods for practicing listening:
1. You should listen to many different passages and speakers. Doing this helps you mentally prepare. You will therefore have a wider range of vocabulary on different topics. Moreover, listening to different speakers with different accents gives you the opportunity to quickly adapt to the change of accents when taking the IELTS exam.
2. Train yourself to listen for main ideas and supporting information.
But first what does “listening for main ideas” mean? Let’s say you are attending a business meeting. The first thing you wish to know is what they are talking about. What are the problems? And then, what is the main idea? You might be able to get an idea of the topic from the vocabulary and gestures they are using. The main idea is the principal issue or message being discussed.