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Practising Listening for Exams: What should you be doing and the skills you need.

English tests usually contain a listening exam. Many students are unsure about how to improve their listening and what they should actually be doing to help them prepare for their exam. Today, we are going to look at 6 things you can do to improve your listening scores.

1. Practice tests are important but maybe not as important as you think.

Many students simply take listening tests over and over again. Listening tests do play a role in your practice but they shouldn’t be the main component. Listening tests will help you to work on specific question types and help you work on strategies for these questions but they won’t help your general listening.

2. I watch tv series, this is listening practice, right?

Well yes and no. Firstly, when you watch the show are you doing anything else at the same time such as checking Twitter or looking at Instagram photos? If you are then you are passively listening. While this is a skill, it isn’t one that you’ll need to work on for an exam. The other drawback with tv shows is that they are visual. This means you have prompts that you can use to help you that you don’t have in a listening exam. Enjoy watching tv shows, use them to relax and it’s great you’re watching them in English but again this can’t be your main practice.

3. Use Podcasts but make sure to listen to things you enjoy.

Podcasts are an amazing tool and are often underused by lots of students. The key in picking a podcast is to choose to listen to something you enjoy. Another major plus with podcasts is that you can work on listening to different accents. If you are finding the Irish accent difficult, make sure you download a podcast presented by someone from Ireland. This allows you to work your understanding of this accent and will allow you to feel far more comfortable with the accent on test day.

4. Lyricstraining

Lyricstraining is a fantastic place to practice your listening. Go to, choose your favourite artist and choose a song. You will then be presented with different levels of difficulty. The harder the level, the more words you will have to fill in. This is a fun way to work on your listening.

5. Practise listening for details.

Listening for details is extremely important in an exam. When listening for details, you are interested in very specific things. A good way to practice this could be to decide on a type of detailed information you want to practise listening for and watch programmes where you would expect to get that information. For example, you could listen to a weather report to get details about the weather, or you could follow the sports news to find out the latest results.

6. Listening for Gist

This is the other big listening skill you need in an exam. Listening for gist allows you to form a picture without knowing all the specific details A good way to practice listening for gist is to find a short video with subtitles on a topic that interests you. Use the title to help you predict the content and then listen out for the content words. Go back, and listen again with the subtitles. How much did you understand the first time? Return to the video a week later and try again.

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