IELTS Listening Tips
There is no substitute for hard work and lots of studies as far as the IELTS Test is concerned, so don’t think there are any shortcuts – there aren’t! Regular listening to IELTS-type test materials is absolutely essential. In the test, there are a number of strategies you can use to help to maximize your efficiency during the test. Here are a number of tips on how to approach the IELTS Speaking Test.
1. If you can predict the sort of things you are going to listen for during the listening test, you can reduce the amount you need to listen to. At the beginning the IELTS Test there is a 2.5 minutes introduction. Use this time to read the IELTS listening test booklet and try to get a general understanding of what the sections are going to be about – even this simple type of prediction will help you.
2. As you scan through the booklet, look for maps, charts or illustrations – these often give you a good idea of what the topic of a section is going to be about.
3. After each section, you are given one minute to check your answers. But how can you check your answers if you can’t listen to the tape again? Use this time to scan and get an idea of what the next set of questions are going to be about.
4. Occasionally, you can get an idea about answers to earlier questions by reading later questions.
Question 1: “Where are they going?”
Question 10: “What time are they coming home from the cinema?”
Obviously, there’s a good chance that the answer to Question 1 is ‘Cinema’. However, you still need to listen to check. Often though, listening to check your predictions is easier than trying to listen for the answer on the tape.
5. Sometimes you are asked to complete a table or a chart using information on the tape. It’s natural to think that answers will be left-to-right and the answers on the tape will be one after another. However, this might not be the case – you may need to write answers horizontally, or in some other fashion. Check carefully how you are going to answer such questions to avoid putting the right answers in the wrong places!
6. When you are doing intensive listening to the tape, try to read two questions at a time – you might find that the answers to both questions are in a single sentence.
7. If you don’t catch the answer to a question, it’s natural to think hard to try to remember the answer. If you do this, you will miss parts of the tape and possibly won’t be able to answer other questions. When you miss the answer to a question, forget it – go to the next question. Remember – you only listen to the tape once. The answer might be repeated on the tape anyway.
8. If you miss the answer to two or three questions, again, miss them out – you won’t be able to remember the answers.
9. If you get to the stage where you are totally lost, you may have to wait until the other candidates turn their pages before you can find out where you are in the questions. Of course, this is not ideal but if you have to do this, don’t panic – if you panic you will have even bigger problems.
10. There is no grammar part of the IELTS Test, but grammar is very important. Look at this question:
“There were countless _______ involved in the incident.”
a) People b) Person c) Children d) Computer
If you look at the grammar of the sentence it might help you get the answer. ‘were’ would suggest a plural noun. How many plural nouns are there in the answers? Only two… ‘People’ and ‘Children’. Now you have a good idea of the possible answers, you can use the tape to check for which answer is correct.
Try this one as an example; the answer is at the bottom of the page:
“An ___________ sank in the English Channel this morning, killing all on board.”
a) Yacht b) Car c) Oil Tanker d) Plane
11. If you miss some questions out, you will leave gaps on your answer sheet. Take special care to write your answers in the right order. When you miss questions out, it can be easy to start writing questions out of sequence. Check now and again just to make sure you are writing answers down in the right place.
12. Remember that you are probably not going to hear the same words in the question and in the answer. IELTS questions usually involve ‘paraphrasing’- using a sentence with the same meaning but not using the same words. For example, on the tape you might hear:
“Less than a quarter of university students took part.”
On the answer sheet you might see:
“Only 23% of candidates actually sat the examination.”
In the context of what you hear on the tape, these two sentences might have the same meaning. Your job is to understand the full meaning of what you are listening to and to choose the right answer!
13. You should listen for keywords – that’s important, but you should also listen for ‘synonyms’. For example, on the tape you might hear:
“He wants to get on but he doesn’t have enough money to pay for university.”
On the answer sheet you might see:
“He wants to advance.”
“Get on” and “advance” are synonymous. When you are thinking of what key words to listen for, think of synonyms you might hear along with the word used in the question.
14. You are answering a multiple-choice question and you miss the answer. One of the choices is ‘None of the above’ or ‘All of the above’. If you really don’t know the answer, choose these answers – they are likely to be the right because they might not be on the list otherwise.
15. Only write down what you hear – never abbreviate, shortcut or add to answers. For example, you might hear the tape:
“He will start university in July next year.”
You write the following answer:
“He starts university in July, 2009.”
Although next year may be 2009, this is not the right answer. On the tape, it said next year.
16. Do not assume the answer. On the tape you might hear:
“Sydney Harbor is the biggest harbor in the southern hemisphere.”
One answer might be:
“Sydney Harbor is one of the biggest harbors in the world.”
The southern hemisphere is a good proportion of the world. If Sydney Harbor is the biggest harbor in the Southern Hemisphere, the chances are it is one of the biggest in the world. However, the tape did not say this. It’s natural to try to deduct an answer in this way, but if it’s not on the tape, it’s not the right answer… simple as that!
17. Many IELTS questions involve listening to numbers and quantities. However, in a natural speech the difference between ‘16%’ and ‘60%’ is often difficult to hear if you haven’t practiced. Get used to listening to numbers – the only way you can do this is get some listening material and keep practicing!
18. Simply looking at questions words can help you predict the answer to a question. For example, think carefully about what this question word could be referring to:
You might be listening for the name of a person, but it could also be referring to a member of your family (e.g. ‘my mum’) or even a profession (e.g. ‘the doctor’, ‘my teacher’). Take some time out to write down as many question words as you can and think of everything they could refer to. You might get some surprising answers.
19. You might get a question similar to the following:
‘What is his name?”
You listen to the tape and write:
This is incorrect. A name should have capital letters like this:
However, if you wrote this, it would be correct: ‘MICHAEL SMITH’.
If you are unsure of punctuation or you don’t know if something might have a particular punctuation, WRITE EVERYTHING IN CAPITALS – THERE IS NO PENALTY FOR WRITING ANSWERS IN THE LISTENING TEST IN CAPITAL LETTERS.
20. If you are answering a Multiple Choice questions that involves a number of sentences or text and you miss the answer, choose the longest answer. The answer is probably going to be a paraphrase of another sentence and that means it will probably be longer.
21. Practice listening to something every day. There are countless sources: watch an English language movie on a VCD or Video but put tape across the bottom of the screen so you don’t see the Thai translation. There are countless English for Foreign Language books you can purchase that have a tape, exercises, and answers. All you need is a commitment to sit down and practice!