Unit 3 : General test-taking strategies
During each section
Between each section of the Listening test, there is a 30-second silence. You will now learn useful strategies to use during each section:
- Get essential information from the spoken introduction to the section and from the written instructions and the questions before the 30-second break.
- Read the questions more carefully and underline key words during the 30-second break.
- Predict the organisation of the listening passage during the 30-second break.
- Read the questions ahead while you listen to the passage (be “two steps ahead”).
- In the paper-based test, write your answers while you listen.
- In the computer-delivered test, choose or type your answers while you listen.
The Question Booklet
After you identify the key information from the spoken introduction, you should also quickly look at the written instructions and the questions to determine:
- the types of questions you need to answer
- the number of questions you will answer for each question type and
- the word limit for the answers.
Reading the questions more carefully and underlining key words during the 30-second break
After the spoken introduction, you are given 30 seconds to read the questions. In this time, you need to read the questions carefully and underline the key words in both the instructions and the questions.
Key words in instructions
The key words are the important words. In the instructions, the key words tell you the word limit for the answers. Look at the following example.
Questions 21-25Complete each sentence with NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER for each space.
These instructions tell you that the word limit is a maximum of three words and/or a number.
Key words in the instructions can tell you other important information. Look at the following example.
Key words in questions
In the questions, the key words can be:
Predicting the organisation of the passage during the 30-second break
Another important strategy you should use during the 30-second break is to predict the organisation of the listening passage by looking at the key words in the questions.
The organisation of the questions will follow the same organisation as the listening passage, so looking at the key words you have underlined will prepare you for the organisation of ideas in the passage.
To prepare yourself for the organisation of the passage, you need to:
- look at the key words you have underlined for each question type
- notice the topic(s) mentioned from these key words.
|Look at the key words Siddhi underlined in the questions below and predict how the information in the passage is organised.|
|Questions 12-14Complete the table with NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS for each answer.
Write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS for each answer.
What are two ways that fatigue causes accidents?
What is one way of managing driver fatigue?
What can we predict from the key words Siddhi underlined?
We can predict that the organisation of the listening passage on driver fatigue will probably move from:
statistics on the number of fatal crashes caused by driver fatigue(Q 12-14), to
ways that driver fatigue causes accidents (Q 15-16), to
ways of managing or preventing fatigue (Q17)
Therefore, there are three main topic areas in this listening passage:
- statistics on,
- causes of and
- prevention related to driver fatigue.
So far we have looked at strategies you should use before and during the 30-second break in each section of the Listening test. Now let’s look at two very useful stategies to use while you listen:
- being “two steps ahead”
- writing answers while you listen.
Being “two steps ahead” while you listen
When you are listening to the passages during the test, you may find there are large amounts of time when you hear a lot of information which does not answer the questions. Don’t worry when this happens, just continue to listen carefully.
It is also common that answers will come quite close together, particularly in Section 1 when you hear simple details concerning names, places, dates, times, etc.
For both situations, being “two steps ahead” will help you be prepared to hear the answers. Being “two steps ahead” means that while you are listening for the answer to one question, you are also listening for the key words you underlined in the following two questions.
Let’s look at an example of how to do this.
Example: Section 1 – Being “two steps ahead”
|Here is the example Section 1 we saw earlier. An IELTS teacher, Jemima, has written some notes explaining how you can read the questions ahead in the first part of this section.Click on the buttons under the questions to read her notes.|
|SECTION 1 Questions 1-10Questions 1-7
Complete the notes below using NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER for each answer.
|Q1. While you are listening for the theatre name to answer Question 1, you should also listen for information about the date and time of the concert. These two pieces of information are related to each other and could be very close together.Q5. While listening for credit card type, you should also be ready to listen for information on the expiry date and the name of the card holder for Questions 6 and 7. Again, these pieces of information could be close together.|
2. Writing answers while you listen
In addition to “being two steps ahead”, it is important that you write down the possible answers that you hear while you listen so that you don’t forget them when you decide on the correct answer.
Often you hear several possible answers. Sometimes you hear an incorrect answer before you hear the correct answer, while other times you hear only one possibility which is the correct answer. For both of these situations, it is important to write down or mark all possibilities for answers you hear in your Question Booklet, since one of them will be the correct answer.
Once you decide on an answer for a question, make sure you underline, circle or write it in your Question Booklet and then get ready for the next question.
|Here is the example Section 1 we saw earlier. In this example, an IELTS student, Esperanza, has written some possible answers beside the questions in her Question Booklet as she listened to the listening passage.Notice how in some cases, she has written more than one possible answer choice, but has then circled the choice she thinks is the correct answer.|
|SECTION 1 Questions 1-10
After each section
At the end of each section, you will be given another 30-second break to check your answers for that section. You will hear the announcer say something similar to:
‘That is the end of Section 2. You now have half a minute to check your answers.’
During this 30-second break, you should check that:
Note that during this break, you should not write your answers on your Answer Sheet. You will have 10 minutes at the end of the Listening test to transfer your answers to your Answer Sheet. Don’t waste your time transferring the answers between sections.
If you feel confident about your answers in the Section, you should move on to the next Section and start getting essential information about the next section.
At the end of the test
At the end of the Listening test after you have finished Section 4, you will hear the announcer say something similar to:
‘That is the end of Section 4 . You now have half a minute to check your answers.’
If you feel confident that you have answered all the questions in Section 4 appropriately, you can use this 30-second break to start transferring your answers.
After this last 30-second break, you then hear the announcer say something similar to:
‘That is the end of the Listening test. You now have 10 minutes to transfer your answers to your Answer Sheet.’
During this 10-minute period, you should make sure that:
- you transfer your answers correctly.It is very important that the answers you transfer are spelt correctly. It can happen that the answer you wrote in your Question Booklet is spelt correctly, but then you misspell the word when you transfer it to your Answer Sheet. The IELTS Listening test will allow for some misspelt place or people names, but it will mark answers incorrect if they are misspelt. So be careful!You should also check that you write the correct Multiple Choice letter (A, B, C, etc). It is easy to transfer the wrong letter (perhaps from a previous or next answer), even when you have written the correct answer in your Question Booklet.
- you transfer your answers onto the correct line.Yes, it sometimes happens that students write their answers on the wrong space on the Answer Sheet! Look at the Answer Sheet carefully before you start to transfer your answers to ensure you begin writing your answers for Question 1 on the correct line. Each space numbered 1-40 should have an answer written in it. Let’s look at an example.
In the example Section 3 that you just listened to, Questions 26-30 asked you for three classes that Kevin found difficult and two classes that Maria found easy. These Modified Multiple Choice questions asked you to write one answer for each question, which means that you must write one answer in each space on your Answer Sheet.
Look at the answer sheets completed by two IELTS students below. Which candidate transferred their answers to Questions 26-30 correctly?
|Mustapha’s Answer Sheet||Eva’s Answer Sheet|
Were you right?
Mustapha transferred his answers for Questions 26-30 correctly. Eva had the correct answers; however, she transferred her answers incorrectly. She wrote the answers for Kevin’s three difficult subjects in one space and the answers for Maria’s easy subjects in one space. She then continued to write the following 10 answers in the wrong spaces. This means that answers 26-37 are in the wrong spaces and three spaces are left blank at the end.
As a result, Eva will get 15 answers incorrect!
This brings us to the end of Step 3. In this step, you have learnt general test-taking strategies to help you do the Listening test more confidently and accurately.
Let’s review the strategies you can use.
- Before Section 1
- Listen and read the introduction of the Listening test.
- During each section
- Get essential information from the spoken introduction and written instructions and questions before the 30-second breakat the beginning of each Section.
- Read the instructions and questions more carefully and underline key words during the 30-second break.
- Predict the organisation of the passage during the 30-second break.
- Read two questions ahead while you listen to each Section.
- Write your answers while you listen.
- After each section (during the 30-second break)
- Check that you have answered every question. Don’t leave answers blank. Make a guess if you are not sure.
- Ensure that you have spelt your answers correctly for question types such as Sentence, Form, Table or Summary Completion questions and Short Answer questions.
- At the end of the test
- Ensure that you transfer your answers correctly (i.e., transferring the correct spelling, letters for Multiple Choice questions, etc.).
- Ensure that you transfer your answers to the correct space on your Answer Sheet.