IELTS Listening

IELTS tips

IELTS tests a range of listening skills that you need to live, work or study in an English-speaking environment. This means that you need to be able to understand different types of spoken English in a range of formal and informal context.

Duration and format


Listening is the first module in the IELTS test. It has four sections of increasing difficulty, with a total of 40 questions, and takes about 30 minutes. Each section has 10 questions and is heard ONCE only. You have time to look through the questions before you listen, and also time to check your answers after each section. You write your answers on the question paper as you listen, and you then have 10 minutes at the end of the test to transfer your answers to a separate answer sheet. You will hear a range of accents including British, North American and Australian English.

Structure of the test


IELTS Listening Section 1 and 2

Section 1 and 2 develop the listening skills needed for survival in an English-speaking country, in situations such as shopping, accommodation, etc.
These listening passages include:

  • a conversation between two speakers talking about, for example, opening a bank account
  • a monologue about, for example, a tour of a museum or information on part-time English courses
IELTS Listening Section 3 and 4

Section 3 and 4 have a more academic context, with an educational or training focus.
These include:

  • a conversation between up to four people talking about, for example, a school project
  • a monologue, where, for example, a lecturer is talking on a general academic topic

Question types


A variety of questions are used, chosen from the following types:

  • Multiple choice
  • Matching
  • Classification
  • Short-answer questions and lists
  • Note/Table/Flow chart completion
  • Sentence or summary completion
  • Labelling a diagram, map or plan

Each section of the test usually contains two or three question types, so in one complete listening test you could get a maximum of 12 different question types (usually you will get about eight or nine). Sometimes the same question type occurs in more than one section of the test. Remember, you may get a mix of the listening question types in any section of the test.

Marking

All the answers have one mark. Any answer which is above the word limit specified for that task will not receive a mark, so it is important to read the instructions carefully. Spelling and grammar must be correct. Both British and American spelling are acceptable, e.g. programme/program, colour/color, but you should NOT use abbreviations. Numbers can be written as words or figures.

The final score is converted into a Band Score of between 1 and 9. You can get half bands in the listening test, e.g. 7.5.

How can I improve my Listening scores?

  • Use the time you have before the speaker begins, to look at the questions and try to predict what sorts of answers are required. (e.g. Do you need a number, date or a name?)
  • There is no negative marking so you should not leave blanks. Answer all the questions.
  • Try to anticipate what the speaker will say next. This will help you to focus on the answers.
  • Underline key words in the questions to help you when listening.
  • Don’t worry if you miss a question while the passage is going on. Answer the next and go back to the one you missed later.
  • Check your spelling and grammar carefully.
  • Be careful to transfer your answers accurately, in the time given at the end of the test to do this.

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IELTS Speaking Preparation

IELTS tips

The Speaking Module consists of a face-to-face interview with an examiner. The examiner will lead the candidate through the three parts of the test: an introduction and interview, an individual long turn where the candidate speaks for one to two minutes on a particular topic, and a two-way discussion thematically linked to the individual long turn. This interview will last for approximately 11-14 minutes. The examiner records the interview.



Part 1

Part 1 lasts for 4 to 5 minutes and begins with introduction. The examiner then asks a number of questions about familiar topics such as your studies, work, hobbies, interests, etc.

Part 2

Part 2 lasts 3 to 4 minutes and is based on the candidate giving a short talk. You are giving a card with a familiar topic and several prompts. You then have one minute to make notes on what you want to say before speaking for two minutes on the topic given. You do not have a choice of topic but the topics are based on your own experience, such as a person or place you know, or an event or activity you have experienced. The examiner may ask you a brief question at the end.

Part 3

Part 3 lasts for 4 to 5 minutes. The questions in Part 3 will be connected to the topic of Part 2. They allow you to discuss more abstract issues and ideas. Part 3 is a discussion between you and the examiner.

You are expected to be able to respond to questions on familiar and unfamiliar topics and to speak at length. You are assessed on a nine-band scale for fluency, vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.

 

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IELTS reading test

IELTS tips

Task description
The IELTS reading test lasts for sixty minutes and assesses how well you can understand the type of texts you will find in the course of your studies.

The question booklet contains three reading passages (sometimes illustrated with graphs, tables or diagrams) and each passage has accompanying questions. The texts, which tend to increase in difficulty throughout the paper, vary in length, and so does the number of questions on each passage. The passages are usually from 700 – 1000 words long for the academic module and shorter in the general training module. There is a total of about forty questions. Sometimes these come before the reading passage and sometimes after.

There is a wide range of different question types. You may be asked to:

  • fill in gaps, for example in a passage of written text or in a table
  • match headings to written text or to diagrams or charts
  • complete sentences
  • give short answers to open questions
  • answer multiple-choice questions

Sometimes you will need to give one word, sometimes a short phrase and sometimes simply a letter, a number or symbol.

It is important that you control the time on each reading passage. If you spend too long on one, you may not leave yourself time to complete the others. This is true of individual questions too. You will have to work very quickly; if you cannot do a question, leave it and go on to the next. When sixty minutes have finished you will have to stop writing immediately.

Preparation


In IELTS you are not reading for pleasure. You must identify what the question requires, find the information quickly and answer accurately. You will not have time to read every word of every passage slowly and carefully. You should not attempt to do this.

This means that you must develop ways to read quickly and efficiently. The first thing to do when you look at a reading passage is to survey the passage to find out what it is about in very general terms. If you understand the general subject it will help you later when you look for detailed information. You will know what to look for and where to look for it.

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IELTS Writing strategies

IELTS tips

Spend 20 minutes on Task 1 (150 words) and 40 minutes on Task 2 (250 words). Task 2 is longer than Task 1 and is worth twice as many marks.

Task 1


Before you write

  • Read the task and make a mental summary of the key points and overall trends/stages.
  • Why? Because if you misinterpret the data or diagram, you will lose a lot of marks for content.

As you write

  • Introduce the information, in a sentence or two, using your own words.
  • Why? Because if you copy the question, the examiner will not count these words.
  • Summarise the key points and use data to illustrate these.
  • Why? Because you will lose marks if you miss key points or fail to illustrate them.
  • Include an overview of the information – either in your introduction or conclusion.
  • Why? Because you will lose marks if your answer does not contain an overview.

How you write

  • Try to show that you can use your own words (wherever possible) and a range of grammatical structures.
  • Why? Because you will get more marks for vocabulary and grammar if you can do this.
  • Divide your answer into paragraphs and use linkers to connect your ideas.
  • Why? Because you will get more marks if you can organise your answer well and use a range of linking and reference words.

When you have finished

  • Count your words to make sure you have written enough.
  • Why? Because short answers lose marks. (There are no extra marks for long answers.)
  • Check your grammar, spelling and punctuation.
  • Why? Because mistakes in these areas can reduce your marks.

Task 2


Before you write

  • Read the task carefully to decide how many parts it has and what your position is.
  • Why? Because you will lose marks if you do not address all the parts of the question relevantly.
  • Make a quick plan either mentally or on rough paper. Decide on your main ideas.
  • Why? Because the examiner will be looking for a number of clear main ideas.

As you write

  • Introduce your answer in your own words and make your position clear. You may state your position here as well.
  • Why? Because the examiner will not count copied material as part of your total word count.
  • Present your main ideas clearly and use examples to support them.
  • Why? Because you will get more marks if your ideas are clear and well supported.
  • Write a conclusion and re-state your position.
  • Why? Because your examiner will expect to find a logical conclusion and a consistent position.

How you write

  • Try to show that you can use your own words (wherever possible) and a range of grammatical structures.
  • Why? Because you will get more marks for vocabulary and grammar if you can do this.
  • Divide your answer into paragraphs and use linkers to connect your ideas.
  • Why? Because you will get more marks if you can organise your answer well and use a range of linking and reference words.

When you have finished

  • Count your words to make sure you have written enough.
  • Why? Because short answers lose marks. (There are no extra marks for long answers.)
  • Check your grammar, spelling and punctuation.
  • Why? Because mistakes in these areas can reduce your marks.
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IELTS Writing Task 1: comparing pie charts

IELTS tips

pie chart

 

1) The pie charts show how many people listened to music in 2000 and 2010. ……

2) The pie charts show the proportion of songs played on different formats in 2000 and 2010. ……

3) More people listened to music on radio in 2010 than in 2000. ……

4) In 2000 nearly a third of songs were played on cassette tape but this amount decreased to about two per cent in 2010. ……

5) The proportion of people listened to music on CD was about the same in 2000 and 2010. ……

6) There was a slight increase in the number of people listening to music on MP3 player from 2000 to 2010. ……

7) In 2000 no one used the Internet to listen to music but in 2010 people used the Internet to listen to a quarter of the total songs. ……

8) In 2010 approximately half of the songs were played using two formats: MP3 player and CD. ……

9) From 2000 to 2010 the number of people listening to music on radio decreased by just over 25 percent. ……

10) From 2000 to 2010 the number of people listening to music on radio decreased to approximately half. ……

Test Tip

Note the way we use prepositions with numbers and dates:

2000   40%
2010   25%

In 2010 the number decreased to 25 per cent. (40 -> 25)
In 2010 the number decreased by 15 per cent. (40 – 15 = 25)
In 2010 the number decreased from 40 per cent. NOT in 40 per cent.
The number dropped to 25 per cent between 2000 and 2010. (40 -> 25)
By 2010 the number had fallen to 25 per cent.

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IELTS Writing Task 1: describing a line graph

IELTS tips

Test Tip

Useful introductory expressions:
The graph shows / indicates / depicts / illustrates
From the graph it is clear
It can be seen from the graph
As can be seen from the graph,
As is shown / illustrated by the graph,
Example: The graph shows the percentage of children using supplements in a place over a year.

Useful time expressions:
over the next… / for the following… (for the following two months… over the next six months…)
from … to / between … and (from June to August… between June and August…)
during (during the first three months…)

Warning!
Per cent is the word form of the symbol %. We can write 10% or 10 per centPercentage is the noun form: The percentage of children using supplements. NOT The percent of children

Note!
You can use a combination of adjective + noun, or verb + adverb, to avoid repeating the same phrase.
Example: There was a sharp decrease in the numbers. The numbers decreased sharply.

Language for graphs


This exercise focuses on some basic language, which you need to describe graphs. Look at the graph below. Following the graph, there are 25 statements about the data.

remain (-ed, -ed)
unchanged, steady, stable, constant, plateau, fixed/static

From January to March the percentage of children using supplements remained fairly static at approximately 10%.
The percentage of children taking dietary supplements was relatively stable during the first two months of the year.
During the first two months, supplement use remained fairly unchanged.


fall (fell, fallen), decrease (-ed, -ed), drop (dropped, dropped), plunge (-ed, -ed), decline (-ed, -ed)
slight (slightly), steady (steadily), gradual (gradually), gentle (gently), slow (slowly)
downward trend

It then fell gradually in March.
There was a slight decrease in the use of dietary supplements in March.
The graph shows a slight decrease in March.
Supplement use experienced a steady decrease in March.
Supplement use decreased slightly in March.



fluctuate (-ed, -ed)
wildly

It went up and down widely over the next two months.
It fluctuated for the following two months.


rise (rose, risen), grow (grew, grown), climb (-ed, -ed), shoot up (shot up, shot up)
dramatic (dramatically), sharp (sharply), significant (significantly), rapid (rapidly)
upward trend

There was a significant increase in the percentage of children taking dietary supplements between June and August.
The period between June and August saw a dramatic growth in the use of dietary supplements.
Between June and August, the percentage of children taking dietary supplements shot up dramatically.
The greatest rise was from June to August when it rose by 22% for two consecutive months from June to August.


peak (-ed, -ed), reach (-ed, -ed)

The percentage of children taking dietary supplements was at its highest level in April.
Supplement use peaked at close to 25% in April.
It reached a peak of 25% in April.


fall (fell, fallen), decrease (-ed, -ed), drop (-ed, -ed)
dramatic (dramatically), sharp (sharply), significant (significantly), rapid (rapidly)

Between August and October, this figure dropped dramatically to 11%.
From August to October, there was a drop of 14% in the percentage of children taking dietary supplements.
Between August and October, There was a considerable fall in the percentage of children using supplements.
This was followed by a sharp drop of 14% over the next two months.
Supplement use experienced a dramatic fall between August and October.


fall (fell, fallen), decrease (-ed, -ed), drop (dropped, dropped), plunge (-ed, -ed), decline (-ed, -ed), reach (-ed, -ed) its lowest point
slight (slightly), steady (steadily), gradual (gradually), gentle (gently), slow (slowly)
downward trend

Between October and December, the decrease in the use of dietary supplements was at a much slower pace than in the previous two months.
Supplement use continued to fall steadily over the next two months until it reached its lowest point in December.
It fell to a low of only 5% in December.

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IELTS Writing Task 1: introduction

IELTS tips

One the hardest part of IELTS writing module is writing the introduction. If you have a good technique for this, then the rest of the task is easy.

The first thing to note is that writing about Tables, Graphs and Diagrams is not the same as writing an essay in IELTS writing task 2:

  • You are NOT asked to give your opinion on the information, but generally to write a report describing the information factually.
  • It is NOT necessary to write an introduction like in an essay for this writing task. You are writing a report, which means that you do NOT begin with a broad general statement about the topic.
  • You do NOT need to write a conclusion which gives any kind of opinion about the significance of the information.

Three steps to keep up

1. Identify the main idea behind the graph or table. This will be the focus of your first sentence.

2. Consider the details of what is being shown – the units of measurement and the time frame – and decide how much you need to include.

3. Consider the language to use – the introductory expressions, the tenses of the verbs, the correct expressions of time and I or measurement etc.

Three possible ways to start

1. Refer to the visual directly (e.g. This graph shows the population of Canada in from 1867 up to 2007.) However, this method is not advisable, since the instructions in the IELIS test will normally give you just this information. If you copy directly from the paper you are wasting time, since the examiner cannot assess your English from a copied sentence.

2. Refer directly to the main message conveyed by the visual (e.g. There was a sharp increase in the population of Canada from 1867 up to 2007.) This way is perfectly acceptable, and shows that you are able to recognise the main concept or message that the graph or table shows.

3. Combine the two (e.g. The graph shows that there was a sharp increase in the population of Canada from 1867 up to 2007.) This is also acceptable, and is often used as a convenient way to start. In order to use this method, it is necessary to use a few fixed expressions, which refer to the text itself, like those below.

Introductory Expression

  • The graph/table shows/indicates/illustrates/reveals/represents…
  • It is clear from the graph/table…
  • It can be seen from the graph/table…
  • As the graph/table shows,…
  • As can be seen from the graph/table,…
  • As is shown by the graph/table,…
  • As is illustrated by the graph/table,…
  • From the graph/table it is clear….

It is always best to avoid using personal pronouns. Instead of saying We can see from the graph…, it is better to use the passive or impersonal constructions.

Most of the above expressions can be followed by a clause starting with that.

Several of the above expressions can be followed by a noun or noun phrase.

Several of the above expressions must be followed by a main clause.

Warnings

1. Avoid using the phrase: according to the graph. This is because the phrase according togenerally means that the information comes from another person or source, and not from our own knowledge. (For example, According to Handbook, the Archaic Period started around 7000 BCE and ended around 1200 BCE.)
In the case of a graph or table that is shown, the information is there right in front of you, the writer, and also the reader, and so you know it does not come from another source.

2. The expressions as can be seen from the graph or as is shown/illustrated by the table do NOTcontain the dummy subject it. Avoid these expressions if you think you are going to forget this unusual grammar.

3. Avoid using the word presents. It requires a sophisticated summarising noun to follow. (For example: The graph presents an overview of the population growth of Canada between 1867 and 2007.)

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IELTS Exam Tip 5

IELTS tips

Listening Tip

In Section 1 of the IELTS listening exam, you may have to complete a form. Normally, each answer is one or two words.

In Section 1, the information is factual; for example, datestelephone numbers and places.

Reading Tip

In IELTS Reading exam, follow the instructions carefully. In tasks that ask you to summarize, the following instructions apply:

1) You are told how many words you can use in your answer.

2) Numbers can be written using words or figures. A number or symbol counts as one word.

3) Hyphenated words count as single words.

Writing Tip

In Academic Writing Task 1, don’t forget that you are not expected to give your opinion on the information you are given.

You should merely describe the information factually.

Speaking Tip

In IELTS Speaking exam, when you have to answer questions in Part 1, think for a moment before you respond.

You can use conversation fillers such as, “Let me think for a moment” or “What an interesting question!”.

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