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PTE and IELTS Tips: How To Improve Your Listening Skills

Having trouble with listening tasks? Can’t get the score you need on the listening section of IELTS Academic / General Training or on PTE Academic? Here are some sure-fire ways to boost your listening skills.

Real-time troubles

Listening tasks are done in what we call “real-time”. This means that it is all done in the moment, unlike a reading task where you can go back and re-read sections, or a writing task where you can go back and change and delete words. Being a “real-time” task means that you only have one chance to hear it. If you miss the information – that’s it! No going back. This is just one of the factors that can make listening tasks so difficult. One way to deal with this is by following these steps:

  1. Pay attention! Don’t let your mind wander.

  2. Take notes! You aren’t going to remember everything that was said, so make sure you have good note taking skills to note down key words when you can.

  3. Practice! Like the key to strengthening any skill, practice makes perfect. Make sure you do a little every day and you will be amazed at how much better your listening becomes.

How to practice

One of the most important things to remember when preparing for IELTS or PTE, is that the audio in the listening tasks is only audio. That is, you can’t see the face of the person that is speaking. This may surprise you, but humans, especially non-native speakers, rely heavily on being able to see a speaker’s face. This makes it a lot easier to understand what is being said. This is one reason why listening exams can be so difficult.

So, it is extremely important that you practice your listening with appropriate material. That is, only audio! No visual. Things like radio and podcasts are perfect for this type of practice! What’s more there are so many of these available for free these days, practicing becomes a piece of cake. Check out some of the suggested podcasts below.

What accent is that?

Ever met someone who you just didn’t understand? This may have been because you weren’t familiar with their particular accent. Some students find some accents more difficult to understand than others. In both PTE and IELTS exams you will hear a variety of accents for across the globe – Australian, American, English, New Zealand, Canadian – just to name a few! So it is important to be comfortable with as many as you can.

If you find you have trouble with a particular accent, you should start your listening practice by downloading podcasts or listening to radio with that particular accent. Just do 5-10 minutes every day (e.g. on your way to work or at the gym) and you’re on your way to perfect listening skills!

Here are just a few to get you started. Note that many podcasts come with transcripts so you can check what you’ve heard!

The UK

The United States


Any radio station!

Listening materials for IELTS and PTE

To really perfect your listening skills and pass that IELTS or PTE exam, the best thing to do is take a preparation course. At English Key in Melbourne, our IELTS and PTE coaching courses offer classes that focus on each section of the exam, including the listening sections. Our classes teach students the tips and strategies crucial for acing the exam. Furthermore, we offer mock test classes for IELTS Academic and General Training, as well as for PTE Academic, so you can practice with real materials. If you’re not already taking an IELTS or PTE training course with us, come and chat to one of our friendly staff today.

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