ielts listening section experience

IELTS Test Experience – This is How I Scored 9 in the IELTS Listening Section

I walked out of the IELTS Test. I came home and I started recollecting the answers for Listening Section. After a few minutes, I was able to recollect 38 questions and its answers. I wrote them down in a piece of paper. I wasn’t  sure about the answers to three other questions out of 40. I was certain that I got it right with the two questions I couldn’t recollect.

The only thing standing between the scoring 9.0 in IELTS Listening test is to verify those three answers. Here’s are those three questions.

Question 1: Multiple Choice Question

I’m sure Multiple Choice questions tend to cause some trouble to most of the test takers. It involves, selecting one answer from three choices or selecting two answers from five answer choices. I knew I got one right. For the second one I had to make a best guess. It wasn’t directly mentioned by the speaker. And there’s always going to be a an answer choice that is very close to the correct answer (it’s a trap).

Question 2: Fill in the Blanks

For the second question, I wasn’t sure if the speaker said the word Ball or Bowl. If you  listen to the pronunciation for the word Ball, it sounds like the word Bowl. But, considering the context of the question, I felt Ball was a better fit than the word Bowl.

Question 3: Fill in the Blanks

Boy this was due to lack of focus. Going into section 4, I knew I had to nail all the 10 questions correct to even think about scoring band 9 in IELTS listening. And as luck would have it, it was all fill in the blanks for questions 31 to 40. The only way I was going to miss one is if

  • I lost focus or
  • The accent is difficult to understand
  • Dry and long passage

But, I got complacent right after the speaker started speaking. I figured this section would be easy, since it was not an Irish accent or a fast speaker.

I knew very well that IELTS test makers would have one or two Band 9 level questions to differentiate test takers scoring Band 8.5 and 9. I think those two questions should be questions from 1 & 2 above.

I waited patiently for the results. Even if I got one incorrect answer, it would be the same score as the previous attempt (4 years ago).

We had just landed in Paris, got off the flight, and cleared the Immigration. I stood literally right behind the immigration booth to check the results and I was ecstatic. It was Band 9 in the IELTS Listening section.

And this score was not walking in the park as scoring 8.5 last time. I was methodical in my approach during the 14 days preparation.

IETLS Test Experience – Listening Section Practice

Being a content marketer, I tend to think in terms of how my experience can be written and published to help others. Compared to my previous IELTS Test attempt, I spent more time and put in considerable effort improve the IELTS Test scores for Listening and Reading section.

To improve the score from 8.5 to 9.0, perfection is MUST. It has to be reflected in the IELTS test prep methodology, required a well thought out approach and a solid preparation plan.

Here’s some insights from my IELTS preparation for the listening section:

  • I took about 30 practice tests per section
  • I tracked every aspect of the practice test results
  • I did not read any books for IELTS Listening strategies
  • Most blogs and videos gave generic strategies and wasn’t helpful to me
  • For a period of time the scores dropped by 1 to 1.5 bands before improving
  • I created custom strategies for IELTS listening section based on my weakness

IELTS Listening Practice

First 5 Days of IELTS Test Prep: I started preparing with Listening section and I was consistent with scores between 8.0 and 8.5. I started pondering why I can’t get all 40 questions correct. From a bird’s eye view, it looked like 9.0 was out of reach.

Days 6 to 10 of IELTS Test Prep: When I started to look deeper, I realized the following:

  • To ace IELTS Listening, I have to know the common traps
  • I should be listening actively. Watching movies is passive listening.
  • Learn how scan the questions and know what to expect when the recording starts

And here’s the most important lesson I learned:

IELTS Listening section is a test of your Listening, Reading, Writing and Concentration skills. 


ielts listening section skills tested

It’s extremely difficult to concentrate for 30 straight minutes  while you are writing, reading and listening. I’m sure you will agree with me. When I review the answers, I used to feel, “Ah, I should have got that right”. In reality, I did not.

Days 11 to 14: IELTS Test Prep: I made good progress with the IELTS preparation. But, it was frustrating during these 4 days. I was able to get all 40 questions right just once in the practice test. And I was consistently missing on one specific type of question in the Listening section – Answering Multiple Choice Questions.

ielts listening question type multiple choice

But, the scores in the Listening section remained consistent during the practice phase of IELTS Prep – between 8 and 8.5 Band.

On the Day of the IELTS Test: I got up at 5 AM and I knew there was one missing factor to get ace the Multiple Choice questions. People say that, necessity is the mother of invention.

I was looking for that “one missing factor” or “a strategy”  to get all the Multiple choice question right. And around 7 AM, it dawned upon me!

I came to know, I was approaching  the Listening section upside down.

I took a couple of practice sections to test this new approach and it seems to work. Of course I did not have time to take several  practice tests to test and validate this approach.

IELTS Listening Section vs Playing Golf

Golf is one of the toughest sport to play. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, take a golf  ball, and hit it with a Driver at a driving range. See where the ball travels – straight or to your right.

If a player is on top of the leader board by two shots and just had a double bogey on the 16th hole on Sunday.  The possibility of the player winning the tournament depends, how quickly the player recovers mentally from the bad shot and performs in the upcoming Tee shot.

In the case of IELTS Listening, if you get frustrated for missing an answer and lose your focus even for a couple seconds, you are going to miss the answer to the next question as well. This is one of the traps in IELTS Listening section.

[IELTS Listening Strategy] How you react to a difficult question determines, if you can get the answers to the following question right.

If you get frustrated because you don’t know the answer or begin to recollect what the speaker was talking about, you are going to miss few spoken words that are required to answer the next question. By the time you gather your thoughts, the answer for next choice is long gone. Just like the game of golf.  Until, you rest and gather the thoughts, you are going to miss a few questions.

This happened a few times during the IELTS Listening practice tests. Once, I realized this, I started to focus on how to move-on after missing a question – “It’s gone and I have to look forward to getting the reaming questions correct. This may not look like a big deal, but track your answers in the practice test.”

[IELTS Listening Strategy] I tracked every aspect of my practice test results. That includes what was my frame of mind when I got this answer wrong.

This simple change in the mindset gave amazing results. I just got to hit the reset button and move on. I got 10 minutes in the end to ponder over the choices.

Test Day: IELTS Listening Section

Guess what? There were two sections of multiple choice questions. That’s 20 questions.

Out of 20 multiple choice questions in Listening, I wasn’t sure about just one answer. I was 100% certain I got 19 answers right and last one was my confidence level was at 75%.

I’m sure you are wondering what was that new strategy I came to know that helped to score 9.0 in the IELTS Listening section. I have a separate blog post to discuss that.

Back in 2014, when I took the test, A CD player was used to play the recordings. This time around, we had wireless headphones.

Overall, it was a very good experience appearing for the test. IELTS team did a good job or how it was organized.

Summary: IELTS Listening Experience

  • Learn to recover from incorrect answers in Listening section
  • Make us of generic advice and create a custom strategy based on your weakness
  • Track your results during practice. To improve your score, track and measure the results

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  1. Wonderful experience… your experience and approach to getting perfect score on the listening section gave me hint. I am struggling to find the right strategy for myself. After I practice several IELTS listening test, There were obvious mistakes that i was keep making over and over again. after this brief analysis, couple potential strategies pop up in my head so i am trying to test out them. like you sharing your own experience, i will share mine after the test result. Have a good one

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