The IELTS Listening module is generally regarded as an easier module than the other three, but it certainly isn’t simple and does come with its own set of challenges.

Most, if not all, students I’ve taught had quite a couple of things in common when it came to the IELTS Listening test. They’d generally get many answers correct but would be a few answers short of a band 8, which is why they came to me.

If this sounds like you, read on!

The BIGGEST issues, by far, tend to revolve around FOUR major things:


The usage of articles
Nearly all test-takers struggle with articles in receptive (Reading, Listening) and productive (Speaking, Writing) skills. Some languages simply do not have articles, so the struggle is especially tough for test-takers whose first languages do not have these articles.

How to fix this?
Pay attention when you’re listening because your job is to copy exactly what you hear, especially for task types such as sentence completion.  IF the speaker(s) have used an article (a, an, the), you MUST write the article as well! However, pay attention to the word limit; if you’re only required to write one word, don’t write an article. On the other hand, for two to four-word answers, make sure you’re paying attention to the sentence grammatically


Singular vs plural nouns
Nouns, whether concrete, proper, abstract, or common, represent a major challenge for many test-takers due to their plural and singular forms.

How to fix this?
Try predicting answers when you have the time before the tape starts to play. In the sentence or prompt, if you see a verb that is singular (or plural), then you’ll know that the noun that follows must be a singular (or plural) noun because sentences in English must obey subject-verb agreement rules. Listening attentively is also important here: if the speaker says, for example, “I’ve lived in 15 different cities”, then you can NOT write ‘city’. Use grammar tests to work on identifying plural and singular nouns, and brush up on subject-verb agreement, as the questions/prompts have plenty of grammatical clues.


You might be thinking: “Wait, what are you talking about? Aren’t names and numbers dictated?

Well…they are, often, but not always. For example, you could hear someone’s first or last name spelt out, but you are unlikely to hear the names of places, buildings, cities, areas, regions, companies, etc. spelt out for you.

How to fix this?
This admittedly requires you to work on general spelling skills, which might take a bit more time than the other two, but as a quick guide, you can compile lists of most popular English first and last names, and learn the name of every major city (in English, of course. Nobody expects you to spell Rio de Janeiro or Leipzig on the IELTS!).


Modal verbs
Auxiliary verbs might not seem that important to you, but they’re such tricksters! For instance, there is a HUGE difference between ‘may’ and ‘will’, and yet, both are used to indicate the possibility/likelihood of an event happening. However, one (may) is very weak and uncertain, while the other (will) is very sure and entirely certain. Often, test-takers do not take into consideration the differences in meaning between different modals.

How to fix this?
Brush up on your knowledge of modals. Make sure you understand the tiniest differences between all modal verbs because if you mistake a ‘might’ for ‘is’ on your paper, you’re likely to have chosen the wrong answer. Modal verbs are an essential part of grammar practice for the IELTS because you’ll have to use them and deal with them in all the four modules if you want a good result.



Now for your free bonus! Here’s a quick listening test to sharpen your skills.

What do you think?