The International English Language Testing System or IELTS is accepted by almost all the English-speaking countries of the world and over 3000 institutions. It is a high-stakes test that can decide the fate of millions of people across the globe. Therefore, you need to spend some time preparing and understanding the four skills being assessed and how to ace them.
The listening test is one of the four skills that are tested, and candidates sometimes make the silliest mistakes and lose precious points! So, let us look at 9 things you can do to ace the listening test:
- Understand the format - You will be surprised at how the test takers usually have no idea of the general format of the test. This bit of knowledge will help you considerably. There are four sections with a total of 40 questions which will take approximately 30 minutes to complete. In the first two sections, you will hear an interaction or a group of people discuss topics ranging from everyday social situations to complex academic topics. The sections proceed in increasing order of difficulty, with the last two sections being the most challenging.
Ten minutes are given after the audio is over, to allow you to transfer your answers to a separate answer sheet (only for the paper-based test). It is advised to mark answers on the question paper itself during the listening, and while transferring them to the answer sheet, be careful of things such as the word count, spellings, writing the correct options (true, false or yes, no), and not missing a critical article or preposition, etc.
2. Follow Instructions – Ensure sure to read the instructions given in the section carefully. Do you need to write one word, two words, or a number? Remember, the listening test is not just checking your listening skills but also your ability to comprehend. When you transfer the answers into the answer sheet, make sure you have double-checked the instructions for each section and followed them. A fundamentally correct answer not meeting the word count (mentioned in the instructions) will be marked incorrect.
3. Read the question carefully - Before you hear the audio, you will get some time to read the questions. Ensure that you use the time to read the questions and decide what exactly you need to listen for in the audio. There are approximately 10 different types of questions ranging from sentence completion, true-false-not given, matching headings, etc., while some are tougher than the others. Once you identify the questions in which you need extra practice, you could focus your preparation accordingly.
4. Listen for the gist and specific information - The listening test aims to test your ability to use various listening sub-skills such as listening for gist, specific information, details, or inferring meaning. For example, the first two sections, where there are two and then one person speaking in a social setting, are usually aimed at checking the ability to listen for specific information. It could be a phone number, part of an address, or the price of an item. Understanding the gist or the general idea behind a speaker’s words is trickier. Here you need to pick up the cues from the voice tone, intonation and generally learn to listen between the lines. Practicing these two skills with preparation materials as well as with live examples around you will be very useful.
5. Listen for synonyms and paraphrases - One way the IELTS listening test assesses the candidate's English level is through the use of synonyms in the listening test. For example, the speaker may say, ‘there was a riot’ in the audio, and in the question, the synonym ‘rampage’ may be used. You should underline or note important words in the question that they need to listen for and be ready to hear the synonyms or even paraphrased sentences used in place of that word.
6. Pick up on distraction cues - Imagine a conversation at a market, “I’ll take the blue one. oh! Wait a minute, maybe the yellow…Umm come to think of it, I look terrible in that colour, blue it is!” This is a distraction. Most questions will require you to listen carefully to decipher what the speaker is actually saying. They may start off by saying something and then change their answer later. Pay special attention to these and don’t get distracted.
7. Accents - During the test, you will be listening to speakers from various English-speaking countries such as the United Kingdom, USA, New Zealand, etc. The United Kingdom itself has numerous accents across different regions. While you prepare and attempt the mock tests, note the accents you find more difficult. Once identified, it will be useful to focus on listening to this accent on podcasts, live news or even follow a popular artist!
8. Focus - The test gets tougher with each section. The speed of speech increases at a rapid rate during the last 2 sections. Here the speaker(s) are discussing topics of an academic nature. You need to be alert and awake - for the entire test - but more so for these sections.
9. Filling the Answer Sheet - If you are not sure of the answer, do not leave any questions blank. There are no negative marks, so make a guess, you may get lucky! When you are transferring the answers into the answer sheet make sure you are writing the correct answer against the correct question number. Yes, you can write in capital letters but ensure all your spellings are correct otherwise you will lose marks.
10. IELTS Practice Tests - Click here to find many mock tests for you to practice at IELTS Practice Tests. Completing these mock tests will give you an idea of the format, instructions and you can also practice your listening skills. When you practice you will also become aware of any section which you find tough as well as the mistakes you are making.
Remember, practice makes you perfect! All the very best!
Click here to book your IELTS with the British Council.