What is “active” listening and does it help with IELTS?

Back shot of boy with headphones with embossed text "Active Listening for IELTS?"

As the name suggests, “active listening” means, well, actively listening. That is fully concentrating on what is being said rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the message of the speaker (source). Whether this helps with your IELTS score or not, this skill does help with conversations, relationships, and even our personal growth. Benefits of practicing active listening with your partner, mentor, friend or person of meaning in your life includes strengthened relationships, conflict resolution, empathy development and so on.

However, I know you’re here because you want to achieve your target IELTS score, and my expertise lies in IELTS anyway (although my friends all say I’m a good listener). So let’s ask the question, is active listening useful when it comes to IELTS Listening?

Back shot of a young boy wearing blue headphones.

The short answer: yes, it helps. But like with any skill that needs development, you need to practice it.

Why we need to practice active listening?

In today’s fast paced and distraction-filled world, it is more difficult to focus on what is being said.

The Listening test is the same for both IELTS Academic test and IELTS General Training test. You will need to answer 40 questions in response to four recordings. You will listen to four recordings which are a mix of monologues and conversations from a range of native speakers and you will only hear each recording once. There are 10 questions for each part of the Listening test.

The thing is, you will be able to listen to each recording only once. So, it is important that you listen actively to be able to pick up the answers to the questions. Do not leave it to the day of the exam thinking that it’s easy to focus on four recordings and answer 40 questions. Our attention spans have become shorter over time.

Tips for Practicing Active Listening

Use the free practice tests on practice9.co. While listening to the recordings, here are some tips:

  1. Read the questions first: This is probably my best tips for IELTS Listening. Read the question before playing the recording, that way you will find it easier to pick up the answer from the recordings.
  2. Give Your Full Attention: Put away distractions – phones, laptops, and other devices – and focus entirely on the recording.
  3. Avoid Interruptions: In the IELTS Exam you may not have a chance to pause and resume the recording. Hence while practicing, avoid interruptions.
  4. Write your answers on the working sheet first: this works better for most of my clients, especially those who give the paper-based test. You will have a minute to transfer your answers from your worksheet to your answer sheet.
  5. Don’t obsess on one answer: Your aim should be to get as many questions right as possible. If you think that you missed an important answer or are not sure about one particular answer, don’t dwell on it. Move on and try to get all the others right.

Does active listening help with IELTS Speaking as well?

Yes, yes it does. More on that in another post.

Don’t forget that you can practice for free on practice9.co, and you can ask us for a consultation. Have fun learning!

Share this post

Huyen Nguyen
Huyen Nguyen

Founder of Practice9, creator of IELTS with Huyen. Huyen has 10 years of experience with IELTS, overall 8.5.

Join IELTS Preparation Services

More posts from Huyen


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *