First off we should be clear, practicing your listening and practicing the IELTS Listening section is quite different. First we'll look at how to practice your actual listening skills as that's a lot easier, after we'll look at the IELTS listening section.
Practicing your Listening:
To practice your listening skill there really is only one thing you need to do, listen to english everyday as much as possible. Whether you have a friend who likes to talk in English, english movies, TV shows or podcasts online doesn't really matter, it just matters that you are listening. Try to pick a source that has an accent you will be using, for example for the IELTS I would suggest a British accent as it's much more likely that your examiner will be British. But don't ignore the other accents, you should be familiar with all of them to some extent at least.
Start early, I can't stress this enough. I am always shocked and confused by people who come to me a week before IELTS and ask for my help, you should be studying for IELTS as early as possible. If you know you will have IELTS next year, start now, the sooner you start studying the better your English will be when it comes time.
Use online tests, there are many sites which quiz you free online listening quizes, use these sites as often as you can. Another good method is to find a partner and each of you take an audio file you have found online, study it till you understand it completely and then write a short quiz for your partner, now switch audio files and do each other's quiz. This way you are studying two files and getting help from your friend!
Practicing for IELTS:
Now that you've spent countless hours practicing your listening skills to perfection, what about the IELTS test itself?
The Listening section will be 40 minutes in total, 30 minutes of listening and 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. At the beginning of each section you will hear a short introduction explaining the situation and who the speakers are. Next you will have some time to read over the questions so you are familiar with what you are listening for and then the audio file will be played, it will only be played once so be sure to be ready.
There will be four sections, 1 and 3 should be dialogs and 2 and 4 are monologs. Most people feel the dialogs tend to move faster and you need to listen carefully so be ready.
If you have any trouble hearing the audio, tell the members of staff right away!
1. Some tests use speakers, some tests use headphones, practice before hand with both as they feel different and you want to prepared for anything.
2. You are not punished for wrong answers here so if you don't know or you miss an answer, guess. However don't spend too long on this, focus on those you do know and making sure they are correct.
3. As you are reading over the questions before hand, underline any key words that can help you find the answer. Words like "when", "where", "who" and "what" will tell you what type of answer you are looking for.
4. The answers often, but not always, appear in the audio file in the same order as on the sheet. This is not always true though so stay alert and review the questions properly.
5. If you miss an answer the most important thing is to not panic, just keep on following the audio file. Panicking and trying to go back in your mind to think of the answer will only make you miss the next answer as well. This is also why it's important to review the questions before hand, if you don't know what the next two questions are, you wont know that you missed one answer and might miss two.
6. Read the instructions for the questions carefully and follow them completely. If they tell you to just write A, B, C or D on the answer sheet, only write the correct letter, do not write the phrase that letter relates to. If they tell you to answer is 4 words, do not answer in 5 words or you will get it wrong.
7. Many answers will be completion style questions, know how to answer them. If you are asked to complete "They went to the ..." and the answer is "store", the answer "the store" is wrong. Only the words needed to completely the sentence are correct.
8. Often these tests try to trick you, they will do things like ask you to answer what someone said, one answer will be what they said and another will be what you can infer, or understand, based on what they said. If they ask for what they said, the answer is ONLY what they said, not what you can infer. Another common trick is to change the answer later on. They might first say they will eat Chinese but later they will change and say "No, let's eat Mexican instead!", the answer will usually be the last answer decided on, unless the question asks what the first suggestion was of course.
9. You have ten minutes at the end to write your answers on the answer sheet, this should be plenty of time. When listening to the audio, just clearly write your answers on the question sheet.
IELTS - Listening Test