• Do you find it difficult to understand native English speakers?
  • Tired of getting low scores on your listening comprehension exams?
  • Looking for help with English pronunciation?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, keep reading and I will show you how to improve your listening skills instantly – with my secret sauce “The 3 Listens.”

For most situations in life, we are given only one chance to listen. Yet in many English exams, recordings are played twice. Bonus! Despite having a second chance to hear the recording, listening exams can still be very challenging. To help improve your listening skills, I suggest that you challenge yourself by increasing your listening. I recommend that you listen 3, 5 or even 7 times. Repetition will increase your confidence and make it easier for you to train your skills and improve your abilities.

My proven 3 Listens Technique will help you to focus your practice and better train your ears. In this technique, I use three different approaches to listening: Open Listening, Focused Listening and Detailed Listening. Each of these three listening skills are crucial for deeply understanding spoken English, and Detailed Listening is especially helpful for improving your pronunciation skills.

Much like sports training, listening training takes time, and practice is key to improving your skills. Repetition and training is so important for long term learning.

The 3 Listens

1st Listen: Open Listening

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GOAL: Focus only on listening to get a general idea of the recording

For the first time you hear the recording, listen to the entire recording one time through without stopping.

Actually, before you even start, take a few moments to focus all energy and attention on this one task. Remove all distractions – no cell phones, tv, etc. – and try to avoid any distracting sounds in the background. You may wish to shut the door or even close the windows to block out any other noises.

Focus entirely on listening, this type of listening is also called extensive listening. The goal is to get a general idea about the recording, the topic and the context. Don’t take notes yet. Try closing your eyes. This can help to remove all visual distractions enabling you to focus only on the sounds you hear. Without visual input, you can use your imagination to create images in your mind’s eye – now is a great time to visualize what you hear.

After hearing the recording once, take a moment and try to recall what you heard. Let your thoughts flow freely, remembering as much as you are able. Then take notes and write down what you remember. What did you hear? Write it down.

After you have written down everything you can remember, use these prompts to help prepare for the second listening:

  • What is the main idea or theme?
  • What is the context?
  • Who is talking?
  • Where?
  • Why?

2nd Listen: Focused Listening

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GOAL: Filling in the gaps and listening for details

For the second time that you hear the recording, listen to the entire recording without stopping again. This time use your notes to check your understanding as well as fill in the gaps.

Before listening a second time, you probably already have a general idea what the recording is about. You might even have a pretty good grasp of the details, but there are still some ‘missing pieces’ or things that are unclear. Before listening for the second time, think about what questions you have – what are the missing details that you need to better understand the content? Make a few short notes about the missing information.

During the second time that you hear the recording, use your notes and check your understanding. Did you recall the information correctly after the first listening? Correct your notes if there are any mistakes.

What is the missing information? Write that down as well.

Take a moment to write down all of the new information that you can recall. At this point you should have a fairly clear idea about the recording as a whole as well as the key details. To prepare for the third time that you hear the recording, look closely at your notes. What information is missing or still unclear? Prepare questions and mark the areas where you are unsure about what was actually said in the recording.

3rd Listen: Detailed Listening

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GOAL: Digging deeper and polishing off

For the third time you hear the recording, I strongly recommend that you review your notes again before listening. Listen to the entire recording without stopping one last time, paying close attention to the finer details and filling in your notes as you go.

The third and all subsequent times that you hear the recording are to help you catch any information that you missed before. This type of listening is called intensive listening and you should attempt to listen with maximum accuracy to the recording. As mentioned above, most standardized exams only permit two opportunities for listening to a given recording. This technique is not about recreating an exam situation, but rather training and fine tuning your skills. Play the recording as many times as you need to feel comfortable with the content. After listening to the recording uninterrupted three times, feel free to play it again, now taking time to stop and repeat any sections that are unclear or particularly tricky. Take the time to listen very closely to the difficult sections multiple times and train your ears.

Whether you want to improve your general conversation skills or you are more focused on getting better test scores, following the steps listed above will help you quickly improve your listening comprehension skills. With my proven strategy for listening on three different levels, Open Listening, Focused Listening and Detailed Listening, you can learn to listen more fully and deeply while increasing your speed and accuracy over time. Using my 3 Listens Technique offers a systematic way to quickly hone your listening skills, improve your test scores and more confidently understand native English speakers.

Happy listening!

Now I have given you my 3 Listens Technique, use it! Try it with your next listening challenge, then use the comments below to tell me your results.

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