Introduction to IELTS Listening
The Listening is usually the first test that you will take for the IELTS exam. The total time of the test is 40 minutes. The test is divided into four parts, and there is a total of 40 questions which are worth one mark each. At the start of the test you are given two papers – a question paper and an answer sheet. As you listen to the tape you should write your answers on the spaces on the question sheet. After 30 minutes of the exam, you are given the last ten minutes to copy your answers from the question sheet to the answer sheet.
You have 30 seconds to look at the questions in each section before the recording starts. (Make sure that you use the time to read the questions, so that you know what type of information you should be listening for.) The listening is played only once. If you miss something the first time, you will not have another chance to hear it. The voices which you hear may be English, Australian or American, and remember that there are many differences between and among these accents. (For example, a Cornish accent from England sounds very different from a south London accent.)
The recording will always start with an introduction telling you some background information about what you are going to hear. This will be followed by instructions about what you have to do with the information.
Questions can be any of the following types.The descriptions might sound slightly confusing, but will become clearer when you have tried some practice tests.
- Multiple choice.
- Sometimes you have to choose one answer
- Sometimes you have to choose the correct picture or diagram
- Sometimes you must choose more than one answer to get a mark
- Sometimes you must choose more than one answer, and each answer is worth a mark.
- Short answers
- Usually these are one word or a number, but you might need up to three words.
(numbers count as words, so 46, or forty-six is one word)
- Short answers might be answers by themselves, or you might need to use answer to finish a sentence.
- Completing notes or a diagram
- Sometimes you need to put words in different places
- Sometimes you have to choose a word from a list
- Sometimes you have to match up two different lists (for example names and addresses)
- Sometimes you have to label parts of a map or a diagram
- Sometimes you have a list to sort out into types, (for example sorting people into groups)
- Sometimes you have to match up two different lists (for example matching names and addresses)
The four parts of the exam are divided into two conversations, and two monologues. They are also divided into social situations and training/educational situations. So you will get a social conversation and a social monologue, and a training/educational conversation and a training/educational monologue.
Part 1. This a social conversation, usually dealing with a ‘transaction’. (For example someone asking for information or buying something.) You will need to listen for specific information (for example names or prices).
Part 2. This monologue is something you might come across in everyday situations – for example a public announcement, or someone giving instructions about how to do something, or describing a particular situation. Again you need to listen for factual details.
Part 3. This is a conversation in related to education/training. For example you might hear a tutor and student discussing the results of a test, or someone asking for an explanation. Many students find parts 3 and 4 more difficult because you must not just listen for facts, but also for people’s opinions, and how they feel about the situation.
Part 4. This is an academic/training monologue. Someone will be giving an explanation or presenting an arguement. (Remember an arguement here is not a quarrel, but joining ideas together to reach a conclusion). You will need to understand the arguement, the main points and ideas and the conclusion. You may also be asked for specific facts or any opinions which the speaker reveals.
Hints and ideas for preparation
Listen to a lot of English on the radio. Also listen to music in which the words of the songs are clear. Songs are a good way of learning the rhythm of a language, as the timing of a song is often an exaggerated form of the timing of everyday speech.
Train yourself to listen for particular information, for example in a radio interview. Try and predict what people are going to say in situations in films. Learn the signs that information is about to be given (For example ‘Please remember that …’, ‘I told you not to ..’) when a question is asked, train yourself to know at once what type of reply is expected. (For example a name, a time or a number.)
When you get the question paper, read it carefully. Look for types of answer you might need. Look for keywords, and clues about what you can expect to hear.
Don’t skip over the instructions. Check carefully that know what you are supposed to do with each question. Make sure you know what type of answer is required.
When you are listening, if you hear something useful, like a name being spelled, write it down at once, even if you can’t immediately work out what you will do with the information.
Keep up with the recording. If you find that you are more than ten seconds behind, skip some answers instead of trying to rely on your memory. (The information usually comes in the same order as the questions.)
Listen for people changing their minds or being corrected. Sometimes this will mean that you have to change an answer.
Also listen for synonyms or people giving you the answers in a way that you do not expect. For instance if a multiple-choice answer is ‘six’ the speaker on the recording might say ‘half a dozen’.
When transferring your answers to the answer sheet, take the opportunity to check for silly errors. However, if you are uncertain, leave your original answer. People taking the exam just as often change right answers to wrong ones at this point.
Answer all the questions. If you are not sure, go with your instinct. An answer that is possibly wrong is still better than no answer.
People’s Career, Lakdi-Ka-Pul, Hyderabad Teaching Center.
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