Improve Your English Listening Skills In 10 Minutes

Put your hand up if listening tests and lectures stress you out.

[I see you!]

You’re not alone, trust me.

The problem is: listening to natural speech is hard. Especially if it’s a lecture or a test…

Let’s quickly illustrate this point with an example:

In 2011, John Field did a study on international students with IELTS levels of 5.5-6.5 – basically, they were like you.

One of his studies was like a lecture and the other was like a listening test.

His findings were scary.

The students understood much less than they expected.

These students had the language qualifications to study at a university in the UK, BUT they didn’t understand much of the test or the lecture.

Does that situation sound familiar?

So what can you do?

The obvious answer is: “improve my English listening skills”

But how do you do that?

My guess is that you’ve been trying to improve your English listening skills for a while, but nothing really works.

But don’t worry

In this article, I’m going teach you to become a better listener by making one simple change to how you listen.

[thrive_text_block color=”dark” headline=””][thrive_2step id=’1202′]Before we start… Click here if you’re serious about improving your listening to download my free Listening Toolkit. It contains strategies, templates and resources to make you a better listener.[/thrive_2step][/thrive_text_block]

The Power of Planning, Directed Attention and Evaluation

Do you find it difficult to concentrate during long lectures?

Do you try to translate everything you don’t understand?

Do you get lost if you don’t understand a word?

Well last year, Rahmirad and Moini taught a group of Masters level students with the same problems as you.

They split their group into two. One of these groups had normal listening lessons. The other group had strategy training lessons.

And guess what?

The normal listening group didn’t change at all.


The strategy training group significantly improved in their English listening skills!

And they improved just by making one simple change: thinking about their listening.

I’m going to show you how to make this simple change in three easy steps:

1. Planning

Planning results in having the confidence to sit in the classroom.

Planning means that you’re prepared to listen.

Planning means that you’ve done whatever you can to make the listening easier.


[thrive_text_block color=”blue” headline=””]Have a lecture? Read the material that your lecturer gave you or Google your topic.

Have a test? Look at the practice material until you’re sick of it.

 Don’t walk into the listening situation not knowing anything. Make sure that you have background knowledge. [/thrive_text_block]

Get Prepared Quick: Drunk? Late night? Speak to your classmates for a quick summary of the reading before you listen.

2. Directed Attention

Directed attention will prevent you from getting lost when you don’t understand a word, and it’s pretty easy to use.

[thrive_text_block color=”red” headline=””]First, make sure you’ve got an idea of the topic.

Second, focus on the topic, not on the words.

Third, use your knowledge of the topic to ‘fill in the blanks’ when you don’t understand something.

Here you’re doing two really incredible processes:

  1. you’re changing your opinion of what’s important – the topic is most important, not each word.
  2. you’re using your own knowledge to help create the big picture.[/thrive_text_block]

Quick tip: Don’t understand something? Ignore it or make a quick note of what it could be.

3. Evaluate

If you’re not evaluating the way that you listen, then you’re doing it wrong.

[Click here to Tweet this]

But the truth is many students don’t evaluate their listening. They usually just finish the listening and forget about it…


  • they don’t know how to evaluate
  • they think it takes a lot of time and effort

[thrive_text_block color=”note” headline=””]Let me tell you something: evaluating your listening takes two minutes. And it’s really easy to do.

Just ask yourself these three questions and write the answers at the bottom of your note paper:

  • What did I do well today?
  • What didn’t I do well today?
  • What should I focus on next time?

Get into the habit of asking yourself those three questions, and you won’t feel lost anymore.[/thrive_text_block]

How to improve English Listening skills
Never feel like this after a listening test or lecture again!

[thrive_text_block color=”dark” headline=””] [thrive_2step id=’1202′]Ready to improve your listening? Click here to download my Free Listening Toolkit.[/thrive_2step][/thrive_text_block]

I’m going to show you how to easily do this with your listening in just 10 minutes.

You’ve got 10 minutes to improve your English listening skills, right?

1 Plan: 4 minutes

We’re going to watch a 3 minute video of a PhD student talk about his research. The title of the presentation is: Suspects, Science and CSI

  • What is a suspect?
  • What does CSI mean?
  • What do you know the process of catching a criminal?
  • What do you know about finger prints?

2 Directed Attention: 4 minutes

Watch the video – take notes on the topic. What is the speaker’s PhD about?

Focus on the topic, not individual words. Don’t worry if you can’t understand some parts.

Watch the video here:

[responsive_video type=’youtube’ hide_related=’1′ hide_logo=’1′ hide_controls=’0′ hide_title=’0′ hide_fullscreen=’0′ autoplay=’0′][/responsive_video]

3 Evaluate: 2 minutes

Look at your notes. Answer these three questions:

  • What did I do well today?
  • What didn’t I do well today?
  • What should I focus on next time?

Improve Your English Listening Skills

To listen better, you have to practice. The strategies that we’ve talked about above, can help you to improve your English listening skills each time you practice.

Now what should you do?

  1. Share this article on Facebook: click here to share
  2. Leave a comment: what strategies do you use when listening?
  3. [thrive_2step id=’1202′]Download the Free Listening Toolkit, and improve your English listening skills today:[/thrive_2step]


[thrive_2step id=’1202′]download this to improve english Listening skills[/thrive_2step]

Ps. Two more things that will help  are:

12 thoughts on “Improve Your English Listening Skills In 10 Minutes”

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  4. Hi Sam. These are some great tips. There is definitely a lot of preparation students can do before a lecture to help themselves understand it. TED talks could be a great way to practise those skills and strategies, plus the interactive transcripts are amazing. I love John Field – Listening in the Language Classroom is my listening skills bible! I do think it’s also worth focusing on what’s problematic about spoken English too though. For instance, connected speech features, but these are generally less of a issue in lecture style listening where speakers are more careful with their delivery. In my opinion anyway. Conversational English is more my thing so that’s where the connected speech comes in. Anyway, I’m curious about your listening guide so will download that. I’m bringing out my own one soon!

    1. Hey Cara – thanks for checking out my site & I’m glad that you liked the article! I agree, TED Talks are great for listening and for presentation analysis. You’re not wrong about issues with spoken English, but that’s a post (or several!) for another time. The listening toolkit is a self-study resource, so I hope you like it! Looking forward to seeing your listening guide when it’s ready! Thanks for connecting 🙂

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