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5 tips to practice your English Listening Skills

When practising for an English assessment such as the TOEIC® Listening and Reading test, the importance of preparing for the listening part is often underestimated.

November 2019

However, with 100 questions and about half of the total time, the Listening section is an important part of the test. Also, in contrast to the Reading section, you need to understand the meaning immediately.

A general advice to prepare for the Listening section is to watch and/or listen to movies, TV shows, radio, music in English. In addition, this article highlights 5 more specific tips.

1. To get used to different English accents

We live in a more and more international world. Whatever the country we are from, it is highly likely that we will encounter different English accents in our daily life such as from the United Kingdom, the USA, Canada, and Australia. They are included in the test and therefore it is helpful to be exposed to these accents before you take the test, to increase your ability to understand them. To do so is not necessarily a difficult task as many different types of “authentic” listening materials are available such as news reports, interviews, commercials, talk shows, documentaries, etc.

2. To be able to hear stressed words

Stressed words are pronounced with more emphasis than other parts of the sentence and provide the most important information. They are opposed to unstressed words (such as a/anthein, etc.) which do not provide essential information but contribute to the grammatical structure of the sentence. In most situations, being able to identify stressed words is a huge help to understand the main idea of the sentence, without necessarily understanding each word.

3. Not to get confused by homophones or similar-sounding words

Practising your listening skills will help you feel more comfortable and be inclined to differentiate homophones or similar-sounding words. Homophones are words with similar pronunciation but different meanings (for instance, eight and ate). In the first part of the TOEIC® Listening and Reading test, these types of words can appear. Being used to hear similar words in different contexts will help you to be more comfortable in differentiating them.

4. To understand the context of the dialogue

In English, as in every other language, it is not necessary to understand each word of a statement to be able to get the meaning and to be able to answer a question related to it. Being used to listening to English dialogues will facilitate understanding a statement as a whole instead of depending on constructing the meaning on a word by word basis.

5. To familiarize with different types of conversations

In the case of the TOEIC® Listening and Reading test, the dialogues use general English in a business environment. Thus, it can consist of interviews, meetings, phone calls, etc. They all have one thing in common: they are based on the kind of conversations that are heard in the real world. Being used to these formats can be a great help for the test, to answer the questions more easily.

The Listening section is 50% of the test and should be practised as much as the Reading section. To help to practice, many preparation tools are available. Once you feel ready for the test, the last step is to register for the TOEIC test and put all this practice into good use!