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Free listening practice!!

There’s loads of free listening material on the Internet in the form of podcasts and your listening skills will only get better if you practise before your IELTS exam. The main thing is to get started and do some listening practice as soon as you can. Many IELTS students seem to think that they will only improve their listening skills if they listen to IELTS listening material. This is not true. Listening is listening and it’s all good practice.

It’s important to distinguish between listening practice and learning the IELTS listening exam format. They are very different things.

It’s a really good idea to find an online listening resource that produces material regularly and the material follows a specific format so that you can concentrate on listening. One advantage of published listening material is that it comes with questions and answers : most free online material will have neither but if you know what to expect, you can concentrate on listening.

Desert Island Discs is a popular weekly radio programme in the UK. Every week, the interviewer (Kirsty Young) asks a well-known person to imagine they are going to live on a desert island, all alone. They can choose several songs or pieces of music they would like to take with them. They can also take a book and a luxury item. The well-known person always gives interesting reasons for their choices. The interview lasts for about 30 minutes. The format is usually the same every week so you will always know what to expect when you listen to the podcast of Desert Island Discs.

Here are some questions to answer when listening to Desert Island Discs. You should be able to use the same questions every week to listen to each new broadcast as it comes out.

1. Who is this week’s guest?
Try to find the answer by listening to the first part of the podcast of Desert Island Discs. If you can’t hear the answer, look on the Desert Island Discs podcast page that you opened.

2. Listen to the introduction about the person. What do you learn about the person?
Use Google to find out more information about this person. Remember that this is good reading practice.

3. Listen to the interview. What music does the person choose?
Try to note down the names of the pieces of music.

4. Listen to the interview again. What reasons does the person give for choosing these pieces of music?

5. Which book and luxury item are chosen and why?

Click here to open the Desert Island Discs page.

It is a really good idea to try to find a study partner so that you can compare the answers that you have once you have finished listening to the Desert Island Discs podcast.

Also, have a good look around the BBC website to see all of the other top quality podcasts you can listen to to improve your listening before your IELTS exam.


  1. Jon says:

    Spot on!

    We really liked the Desert Island Discs page. Students could indeed practice their skills in listening through the podcasts. Thanks for sharing. One question though. Does the page have transcripts of the podcasts?

  2. Kirsten says:

    I think there are available transcripts for some podcasts. Search in Google for “bbc desert island discs transcripts.” Them are not form bbc but on other sites eg.

  3. […] thing you can do before the IELTS listening exam is do lots and lots of listening practice. This post suggests a great, free, online listening resource but there are others. The main thing is that you […]

  4. […] you can go back and watch the film again. This is part of your self-study program. Try to do some listening on the Internet once or twice a week. Good IELTS students make good use of all learning resources that are […]

  5. […] lots of free listening material on the Internet. Read this post to read about some online resources already written about on this site. It’s easy to find […]

  6. […] to other types of listening material. There are some examples of free listening practice materials here and here. You could also listen to […]

  7. Steve Price says:


    Recently, I’ve been mulling over how to make best IELTS use of the several thousand (million?) hours or so of very high quality podcasts that are available.

    Only 2 years after you published this, so I am a little behind the curve!

    I wonder if some of the audio to text tools which are available would make accurate transcriptions of the audio. If anyone knows – or has used one successfully – I would be very pleased to hear from them.


    Steve Price

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