The subject of this lesson is IELTS Listening skills, in particular those of Section 1.
In this lesson Andrea describes the IELTS Listening Section 1 and provides a general overview of techniques IELTS candidates should bear in mind when they’re doing their IELTS Listening in the actual test itself.
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IELTS Test Prepcast Episode 3
IELTS Listening Skills: IELTS Listening Section 1
The IELTS Test Prepcast provides three free IELTS test lessons each week for candidates who are aiming for IELTS band scores 7, 8, or 9.
I’m Steve Price. I’m the founder of the Pass IELTS Higher website, which was started in late 2010 and has been successfully helping students achieve higher band scores since.
Andrea Price currently lives and works in London, teaching IELTS, and has previously lived in Spain. She is a qualified teacher of English as a second language and has been teaching the subject at home and abroad for over twenty years.
If you enjoy this free IELTS Test Prepcast, please show us your support and appreciation by heading over to www.ieltstestprepcast.com and clicking the “subscribe on iTunes” button at the top of the page. This will shoot you over to iTunes, where you can leave a rating and review.
And now for today’s IELTS lesson . . .
Steve: Hello. Today’s IELTS lesson is to do with the IELTS listening skills, in particular those of section 1. Andrea’s with me again, and I’m just going to ask Andrea to take us through IELTS listening skills section 1.
Andrea: Hi. First of all, you need to know that in section 1, which is usually a conversation between two people. Obviously, the sections get more and more difficult. Section 1 is a conversation between two people. It could be between friends talking about an activity. Maybe they’re going on holiday and they’re discussing something. Or sometimes it’s between two people talking to each other where a form needs to be completed, like a form for car hire or a job application or an insurance claim. There are plenty of things to remember just to help you get your marks. The first few things I would advise you to think about or to know and remember is when you need to use capital letters. So you need to use capital letters if you’re writing people’s names; if you’re writing street names, city names, country names; if you’re writing the days of the week and the months of the year. These all need capital letters.
Steve: Okay. Can I just ask a question there? What I think you’re saying to us is that the students need to remember to use correct grammar in their listening answer, which perhaps isn’t very intuitive. I would have thought that—you know, personally speaking—I would have thought that any answer they gave would be fine irrespective of whether it was spelt or punctuated correctly, but you’re telling me otherwise. You’re telling us that grammar is important.
Andrea: Yes, it is. They’re actually checking to see if you can write the grammar properly once you know the answers. And you mentioned spelling, and in fact, if you spell your answer wrongly, the answer will be wrong even though it’s right, because of the spelling, and it’s very easy to lose a couple of bands just from bad spelling. So that’s something to be wary of.
Steve: Okay, follow-up question on this. Are they expected to spell the number or to write the number?
Andrea: It’s okay to write figures.
Andrea: Right. The next lot of things to remember are the examiner will try to trick you. Of course, your exam is to see how well you understand English, and the examiner’s always putting tricks in just to make sure your listening or that you actually do understand. One of the main tricks is when the examiner mentions a number. The minute you hear a number, be careful, because the number will be repeated a second time but with a difference. And that’s what the examiner’s checking. And if you already know that’s about to happen, you will be ready for it. For example, it is with numbers, so they might give you street numbers from an address and then change the number. For example, they’ll say, “27 Queen Street. Oh no, sorry, 28 Queen Street.” So you could be very careful when you hear numbers. Post codes they can change as well. So there’ll be “37HJ, and then, oh sorry, no, it’s 7HI.” Telephone numbers, they’ll give you a number and then they might get one of the digits wrong so they correct themselves. Times, they might ask to do something up, for example, seven o’ clock and then change their minds and say seven thirty. They might book something for the twenty-fifth of January and then say, remember it’s a wrong day and say “Oh sorry, the twenty-seventh of January.” And prices, a typical thing they mention with prices is it’s quite hard for people who aren’t native speakers to understand differences between numbers like thirteen and thirty. So they’ll check to see if you understand that very well. So they might tell you something costs thirteen dollars, and you might not be listening or you might not hear the difference and put thirty, three-zero. I would also point out that if there is no currency written down on where you have to put your answer, make sure you put the currency. Otherwise, the examiner’s not going to know whether you understood if the currency was dollars or pounds, etc.
Steve: Okay. The question that occurred to me as you were talking about the fact that numbers could change, or you should probably expect them to change, was, which would be the correct one for the answer? Is it normally the corrected one or is it the . . .
Andrea: Yes, that’s a good point. No, it’s the corrected one.
Andrea: Right. There are also, we’ve already discussed about how they’re checking your grammar with punctuation. Another thing to think about is you have to put words into gaps and you’ve got to think about your grammar there. The words that are chosen for the gaps are normally, they’re usually a noun anyway, and people, the students normally forget that these nouns are going to be plural. So if you write a noun, don’t forget to put the “s.” I think that’s a generalization, but it’s a true one. If you have to put a noun in a gap fill, it probably will be a plural. You will know when it’s not a plural because just before the gap they will put “a,” which obviously only means one. So they’re asking you for one something; it’s obviously not going to be a plural.
Steve: In a case like this, we’re not talking here about possessive apostrophes and . . .
Andrea: No. Solely only the plural “s” or also the plural spelling. So for example, if you hear it, you don’t put “child”; you put “children,” which doesn’t need a plural “s,” but it’s a plural spelling.
Andrea: Then you have to think about your verbs. Students quite often forget to put the verb with an “s.” For example, if they’re talking about “He play football,” and the examiners check and see that you really know that the verb “play,” if it’s used with “he,” “she,” or “it,” which is called the third person singular, the verb takes an “s.” So don’t forget to put your “s” if the subject matter is singular, and in opposite, an opposite way is if the verb is plural, if the noun is plural, the verb is also plural, so it doesn’t need an “s.” And the examiner’s just checking that you remember that.
Steve: Okay. So declining the verbs is important.
Andrea: Yes, singular or plural. Again, if you’ve put your, answer is it should be a singular verb and you’ve put the plural with no “s,” you will lose your marks. Even if the answer’s right and your grammar’s wrong, you will lose the marks.
Steve: Okay. Are there any other elements that are useful for our listeners to understand?
Andrea: Right. What you should do, you’re given the opportunity in the exam to read the booklet before you listen. So they do it at about five questions at a time. Before they start speaking, they’ll say, “Now read the first five questions,” for example. While you’re reading through, something just to help you, think about the grammar, is to—or to think about the gap fill—you read through and you decide what might go in the gap. Is it going to be a noun? And so then it might be a person’s name. It might be the place. It’s quite often a profession. Is it a number? So you can usually tell from the words around the gap what kind of word it’s going to be, a noun or a number. And the sort of words they use for numbers are money, time, length of time, a date, or a year. Something else we’ve, we just, we were talking about earlier was, Steve, spelling. Spelling is really, really important in the listening exam, and if your spelling is wrong, your answer will be wrong even though the answer’s right. If you know you’re so bad at spelling, we do have worksheets that will allow you to improve your spelling, so you just need to check those out.
Steve: This is something that we could add on to the show notes afterwards.
Andrea: Yes, exactly. These are in the show notes.
Steve: Okay. Can I just take a moment there just to summarize before we move on the last point. I think, and perhaps this is more complicated than I imagined, but it sounds to me like when you’re unto taking section 1, there are some techniques which you need to remember, which if you don’t practice them and if you’re not aware of them, you could end up losing marks, even though you might leave the exam thinking you got the right answer.
Steve: And so the thing that hits between the eyes, we’ve spoken about it already, but correct use of grammar. So capitalization, proper—capitalization of proper nouns.
Andrea: Proper nouns, yes.
Steve: And on the days, the months, the year, things like that, there is this little trick which may be included with numbers. So if you hear a number, you should expect it to change.
Steve: And as long as you’re aware of that, then you’ll know that the correct answer is the second one. And with the gap fill we spoke about, what I can’t remember is whether you mentioned, is there an actual number of words or . . .
Andrea: Okay, that a good question. Sorry, I forgot to say, you will never be asked for more than three words, and I’ve never seen that in any exam. But be very careful. If you’re asked for two words and you put three, even though those three words contain the correct answer, you will be wrong because you didn’t follow instructions. I can give you some advice here as well. You might have four words and you’re only allowed three, and you think everything is right. What you can remove is what we call the articles—you know, “a,” “an,” and “the.” Or, and you can remove the adjectives; they’re usually not important. But you should keep the nouns and the verbs; they’re the important parts if you’ve got too many words.
Steve: Okay. The other element that you’ve got to remember is to pay very close attention to whether a verb is singular or plural, and make sure that they reflected correctly in their answers.
Steve: The other element, I guess, is the opposite of that, which is that you mustn’t put an “s” on a plural verb.
Andrea: Yes. No, that’s right.
Steve: And that it’s worthwhile, when they’re doing their listening, when they’re reading ahead in the question booklet, to have a thought about what sort of words might go into the gap.
Andrea: Yes, I agree.
Steve: And there we’re looking at nouns, maybe, is it going to be a noun, is it a name, is it a number, or is it a unit of time, or a bunny, or something like that. So by thinking ahead, they can be ready to hear the answer in the recording while they play it.
Andrea: Yes, that’s exactly right, yes.
Steve: Okay. Another, I think, quite a key element which you have raised is this possible confusion between words that sound very similar, in particular numbers. Fourteen and forty, thirteen and thirty, those sorts of numbers. So students really need to focus listening to English people or English-speaking people using those words. But, and also across all the dialects, of course, country accents and dialects within those countries.
Andrea: Yes, actually you’re right to point out accents as well because you’re expected to be able to understand accents from Australia or New Zealand, Canada, and America, anywhere in Britain. So, and quite often they like Irish and Scottish, which is quite difficult to understand, or even more local ones sometimes.
Steve: Okay. I think that’s going to be quite challenging for some foreign people learning English, so perhaps we’ll include that as a lesson later on as well.
Andrea: Yes, I think that’s a good idea. Also the spelling, there’s a little bit more to do with the spelling. I did say if your spelling is wrong, your answer will be wrong, even though the answer’s basically right. What you should do is make sure you know how we pronounce all the vowels in English. So the “a,” “e,” “i,” “o,” and “u” and all the consonants, which are the other ones, you will quite often be tested on this knowledge. Because they, when you’re filling in forms, they quite often spell out, for example, the name of somebody, and if you misunderstand and note that down incorrectly, then of course, you will lose marks. So it could be somebody’s surname; it might be a street name.
Steve: And does that apply to accent and dialect as well, or are they normally fairly clearly spoken if they’re doing spelling?
Andrea: I can’t say I’ve ever noticed that, so no, I think that’s probably fairly easy to understand when they’re spelling.
Andrea: That’s a good question, but I think no. I think it’s quite easy to answer as long as you know how to pronounce those letters.
Andrea: And then the last skill, which is incredibly important, is your knowledge of key words and synonyms. In all sections of IELTS exams, you need to be able to recognize and underline key words. It will either be in a question or in a reading text or in a listening booklet. Then you’ll need to be able to understand synonyms or paraphrasing in the reading text or the spoken part of the listening. And so if you’ve underlined the key words, especially in the listening, when the person speaks to you, you’ll be aware that there are synonyms about to come, and then hopefully, you’ll be able to choose the correct answer form this.
Steve: Is the listening booklet marked itself, or is that treated as rough work?
Andrea: It’s rough work, yes. And then obviously, that’s the best skill you can have, so you need to go and learn every key word and synonym that you come across.
Steve: Okay. So I guess what we’re doing here is we’re reinforcing once again that almost the most important skill—you’ve quoted that just here—but the most important skill that any IELTS candidate can have is to develop a very broad vocabulary and understand synonymous expressions for words they’re learning.
Andrea: Yes, especially, the synonyms especially, I think.
Steve: Okay. Well, that brings us to the end of this lesson. Thank you very much for explaining that to us.
Andrea: Thank you.
Steve: We’ll see you then in the next lesson.
Andrea: Yes, see you soon.
End of Lesson
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