In order to obtain a high band score on the IELTS listening module, the ESL student should understand fully the structure of this section. This module of the exam is the same for both the academic and the general IELTS tests.
The listening module is 40 minutes total in length (30 minutes to give the exam and 10 minutes to transfer answers). It is divided into 4 sections. In each section the test taker listens to spoken English and answers questions related to that recording. The spoken English differs in the number of speakers and the type of speech occurring. The four sections are:
A dialogue/conversation between two people
A monologue/informational speech
A dialogue/conversation between several people (more than 2 and up to 4)
As with all the modules of the exam, the test taker should be aware of the time limit and have an idea of how much time can be spent on each question. Taking practiced, timed exams prior to the real exam will help with this. Click here for a link to free IELTS practice tests.
Because the recording will be played only once, it helps to develop a strategy for identifying key points in the dialog and keeping in mind the questions that need to be answered. Before the recording is played, you will be given the question numbers that pertain to the recording. I recommend taking the time before the recording begins to identify key words in the questions. Mark the key words using an underline or some other marking. Also, read the INSTRUCTIONS for each question carefully. You will want to answer the question in the specific format requested. For example, a question may ask for a 2 word answer. Answering 3 words in this case would result in the question being marked wrong. Taking practice tests will help with this.
While you are listening to the recording, stay focused on the key words you identified in the questions. When you hear a key word spoken in the recording, this should cue you to listen for the answer to the question. Be careful, because occasionally the speaker may say something pertaining to a question and then correct himself or change his mind. Be ready for this and be ready to change your answer.
In most cases, the answers to the questions will occur in the same order in the recording as they appear on the written test. You should, however, try to keep in mind all the questions while you are listening.
The test is 30 minutes in length. You will, however, be given 10 additional minutes at the end of the exam to transfer your answers to the test sheet. So, I recommend writing your answers to the questions on the question sheet itself while the recording is playing. Use the 10 minutes you are given to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. Take care and be diligent in copying the answers neatly and to the correct place on the answer sheet. Review the instruction again to be sure you are answering in the correct format. Also, remember, there is no penalty for wrong answers, so it is best to answer all questions. Copy the answers you do have to the answer sheet first, then go back and attempt to answer the ones you missed.
When preparing ESL students for the IELTS exam, I recommend they read a variety of materials in English, such as magazines, newspapers, and any other materials of interest. For the listening portion in particular, I would recommend listening to a variety of talk radio programs, such as those on NPR or the BBC. These two stations have programming which will give the ESL student an opportunity to listen to the types of conversations covered in all four sections of IELTS listening module.
If you are looking for more help preparing for the IELTS exam, I do offer private tutoring for IELTS preparation. I am a qualified ESL Tutor and have successfully coached many English learners. I would also be happy to give you some personal tips on how to prepare for success on this exam.