Preparation Tips for IELTS Listening (Part 2)
Divide and concur!
The recording divides questions into groups, so every time you are instructed to answer a group of 4-5 questions. There are 20-30 seconds of silence before each group. The first thing you should do when the tape starts playing is to understand which group of questions you need to answer.
For example, the tape says: “Look at questions one to four”. It means that you have about 20 seconds to look at those questions. Go over questions, read them and underline keywords. Keywords are words that contain the main idea of the question. They will help you guess what you will hear – numbers, opening hours, names, locations, etc.
Draw a line under question four, so you won’t look further before it’s time. Then you will hear a piece of passage and answer the questions one to four as you listen. It means that you should be able to write one answer and listen to another.
After that, the tape will say the numbers of questions in the next group. Repeat the same process, including drawing the line. This dividing technique is very efficient because every time you concentrate on a limited number of questions, so it makes you more focused and in control.
Don't get confused by all the different voices you are going to hear. The recording uses several different voices – of younger and older people, men and women. You may also hear different accents - Australian, British, American, Japanese, etc. The background noise also varies. It can be of airport, cafe-shop, street, University lecture hall, you name it. Be ready for it and don't let it distract you – because that is exactly what they want. Ignore the noises and listen for the answers.
Listen for specifics
When you are listening, look for descriptions and details, such as dates, places, telephone numbers, opening hours, years (1995), transportation (car, bike, train) If you hear them, but don’t know where to place them yet – write them on margins of the Listening booklet. Later you will have some time to check your answers. Going over the questions that you couldn’t answer during the Listening passage, you might see that what you’ve written on the margins fits.
Answer as you listen
The reason you have to “answer as you listen” is that you immediately forget the sentences after you have heard them – because of stress, foreign language, a constant flow of information, etc. After hearing the third sentence you won’t be able to repeat the first. It means that when any part of Listening is over – you won‘t be able to remember any of the answers. So write them as you hear them, leave nothing for later.
Keep moving forward
A worst case scenario is you “loosing the sequence of answers” – so you miss one answer and then you miss another one and so on. To prevent that from happening, always look one or two questions ahead. It sounds confusing, but after a little practice becomes very natural and helps a lot. Even if you have missed the answer to a question – admit it and move to the next one, otherwise, you will lose it too.
Know your clues
The answer is usually pronounced louder and clearer, it is easier to hear and understand. If you can’t hear something clear (because the speaker swallows words or whispers), then probably the answer is not there. With some practice, you will be able to tell the difference.
A good clue to answer is when you hear a repetition of a word, a word being spelt out (G A R F U N K E L) or a number dictated.
When you deal with multiple-choice questions, elimination is a good strategy. Usually, only one answer is correct, unless instructions say something else. This task is similar to True/False/Not Given. You should decide for every choice of answer - is it True, False or Not Given in the passage. After you have decided, choose the one that is True – this is the correct answer. Any other choice, False or Not Given, is incorrect.
Keep in mind that there are cases when all the choices are correct or none of them is correct. Read the instruction carefully and you will know what to do in such cases.
Look at the words around the gap to understand what’s missing, a noun (like boy, toy, truck), an adjective (little, pretty, shiny) or a verb (stands, looks, moves).
For instance, if you see Noun before the blank (“The boy is___”), it means that it’s Adjective (“The boy is small”) or it’s Verb (“The boy is smiling”) is missing. Once you have picked a word, write it above the gap and then read the whole sentence to be sure that it makes sense.
They might use different words with the same meaning to confuse you. It could be expressions or synonyms.
For example, the tape says “All the candidates have to fill an application form” and the question says “The candidates must fill an application” – is it True, False or Not Given? The correct answer is True because "have to" means "must".
Watch out for traps
You might hear speaker starting to say one thing and then, suddenly, continuing to something completely different. This is a trap, so make sure you don’t fall for it. The rule here is “Last word counts”. For example, if the speaker says “I want to visit that gallery on Monday. No, wait, I’ve just remembered that it is closed on Monday, so I will go on Wednesday.”, and the question is “when” – the correct answer here is Wednesday, and Monday is a trap.
You might hear speaker first gives a list of things and then says them all in one word. For example: “Well, I like to swim, hike, and camp – to be involved in outdoor activities.” If the question is “What kind of activities…” the correct answer is “outdoor” and not “swimming”, “hiking” or “camping”.
Explicit answers choices can be (and mostly will be) traps.
The following example demonstrates what I mean:
The tape says: “This course is a must for all first-year students, excluding foreign students”.
The Question is “All the first year students have to take this course”,
The Answer should be F (False), because there is an exception – foreign students.
All the explicit answers that mean “no exceptions” are suspicious to us and call for more attention.
Check the grammar
If the answer you give is grammatically incorrect – it can not be the right one. Checking the grammar of your answers will give you an idea whether your answer correct or not, especially in tasks like:
• Sentence completion
Use your time wisely
During the test, you have a little time between passages. Use it to check and complete your answers.
Copy answers smartly
After 20 minutes of Listening test, there are 10 additional minutes. During the test, you have written all of the answers in the Listening test booklet. These 10 minutes are given you to copy your answers to the Answering sheet, and you should use them smartly.
The Answer Sheet has 2 sides, one for Reading test and one for Listening test, so make sure you are writing on the Listening side. I include here an example of answer sheet so you could get familiar with it and use it for practising.
First, copy all the answers from the booklet to the Answering Sheet, and pay attention to the following guidelines (as simple as they sound – they are BIG time savers):
• For multiple-choice questions and picking pictures - just copy the letter of the correct answer, don't circle it.
• For sentence completion – just copy your answer, not the whole sentence.
• For True/ False/ Not given question – just copy T, F or NG, whatever your choice is.
• For gap-fills – just copy the word you have chosen for the gap.
• For answers written in short (like professional advice) – write the full version (professional advice).
• Check that all the answers are clear and understandable.
Now, if you missed some questions – it is a good time to guess.
Practice, practice, practice!
Play the listening samples and start using the tips while searching for answers. This is the only way to really understand how these tips work. You may have to play the same listening file more than once, to practice in different techniques.