How to Enhance Your Comprehension Skills in the IELTS

The IELTS Listening and Reading examinations test English proficiency by requiring test-takers to derive answers from the given recording or text. Half of the time, these answers are quite obvious, as they are fact-based. Some questions in both the listening and reading exams, though, require comprehension – understanding what the speaker is saying or what the text is trying to convey.

Comprehension is a skill that is especially needed by those who need to get higher scores in the IELTS.

Here are several ways on how to improve your comprehension.

  1. Expand your lexical resource. Lexical resource refers to the range of your vocabulary, as well as the accuracy of usage of words. This is important because the most common reason why people are unable to understand what they are listening to or reading is their inability to understand the word used.
  2. Learn how to use context clues. Of course, it is very difficult to know every single word in the English language. Many people would opt to use context clues to derive the possible meaning of an unknown word. This means making use of the words around the unknown word to understand its meaning.
  3. Begin with the basics and expose yourself to different English accents. You will not be able to comprehend the context if you fail to comprehend the words, and usually the biggest hindrance to understanding the words used in spoken English is the accents. This is especially true for us non-native speakers of the language. Be sure to familiarize yourself with British, Australian, New Zealander, and American accents, as these are commonly used in the IELTS.
  4. Understand nuances of meaning. Understanding written language is a completely different challenge from understanding spoken language. Nuances in the spoken language can be determined through non-verbal communication – enunciation and stress, pitch, and volume. You can, for instance, determine whether the speaker is being sarcastic or truthful when he or she says, “you are beautiful”.  These things do not exist in written language. Thus, in order to determine the nuances of the message of written language, you must familiarize yourself with it as much as you can. You can do this by reading. Understanding nuances of meaning is important in comprehending the entire context of the message.


Comprehension is an important aspect of communication, not just in the IELTS but in real life as well. Working on bettering your understanding of the language is beneficial inside and outside the testing room.

Good luck!

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One thought on “How to Enhance Your Comprehension Skills in the IELTS

  1. Pingback: What are the IELTS? | Anglo Education and English Language Services

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