Sep 7 / Isabel Marquez Malone

How to improve your English listening skills with our 3 step training.

Welcome to the first training entry of our blog, dedicated to helping English learners improve their listening skills in their free time.

In this article, we´ll explore and practise three key listening skills that every English learner should develop: listening for gist, listening for specific information and listening for details.

By mastering these skills, you´ll be able to understand spoken English more effectively and in addition improve your overall language skills.



1. Listening for Gist: listening to understand the general idea of the audio content

When listening for gist you must think about the following tips to help you:
  • Focus on understanding the main idea or overall meaning of the audio (the title of the audio, type of audio: interview, conversation…).

  • Pay attention to the speaker's tone, voice modulation, and emphasis (do they sound angry, happy, anxious…?).

  • Identify the purpose or objective of the audio (what is the main topic(s) in the audio?).

  • Look out for keywords or key phrases that stress the core message.

  • DO NOT FOCUS ON minor details or specific examples while listening for the main point.

Let´s practise listening for gist! Use the tips above to do this short listening exercise. Follow the training instructions below:

2. Listening for Specific Information: Listening in order to find specific, predetermined items of information

  • Have a clear objective or question in mind before listening (for example, if you´re listening to know the days, dates and times of a film then this is the main information you need to listen for. If you want to know what activities a sport centre has, then this is the main information you need to listen for, etc…)

  • Listen carefully to extract specific information, such as names, numbers, dates, or locations.

  • Focus on the specific part of the audio that talks about the information you need/want.

  • Verify the accuracy of your understanding by re-listening to the audio.

Let´s practise listening for specific information! Listen to the same listening and use the tips above. Follow the training instructions below:

3. Listening for Details: Listening to an audio to obtain as much detail as we can about every part

  • Pay attention to transitional words or phrases that indicate important details are being mentioned (for example, linking words to show contrast or to add additional information, positive or negative adjectives and verbs…)

  • Take notes of relevant information while listening, if necessary.

  • Focus on understanding the sequence of events or ideas presented (i.e., beginning, middle, and end content).

  • Be aware of context information that might help you understand specific details (for example, you may not understand a word but by understanding the general context, you will understand the sentence).

Let´s practise listening for detail! Listen to the same listening and use the tips above. Follow the training instructions below:


Developing strong listening skills is crucial for English learners, as it allows for better comprehension and effective communication in real-life situations. By practising listening for gist, listening for specific information, and listening for details, you can improve your ability to understand spoken English. 
Remember to start with shorter and simpler audio material, gradually moving on to more complex ones as your skills improve.

Now, put on your headphones, dive into various listening resources, and enjoy the journey of becoming an excellent English listener. Happy learning!

You can start by visiting the British Council listening page.

You can register below, to receive notifications about our next blog entries and our free online courses. 
Creado con