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Listening: What Exactly Happens on Test Day

Today we are delighted to share an article written especially for you by Jessica Beck from IELTS Energy and All Ears English. In this article Jessica explains what exactly happens on the IELTS test, and what you should do about it.

IELTS EnergyI’m Jessica Beck from IELTS Energy and All Ears English and today I will show you exactly what happens on the IELTS Listening test so that you can get the high score you need.

Firstly, and most importantly, I want to remind you that IELTS is a valid test, one that has been designed and fine-tuned over many, many years. They give you directions that tell you exactly what you should do, where you should look, and what you should pay attention to. Follow the directions!

IELTS Listening test: The Facts

  • There are 4 section on the IELTS Listening test.
    Section 1 – Conversation between 2 people about a general topic.
    Section 2 – Monologue (1 person talking) about a general topic.
    Section 3 – Conversation between 2 people about an academic topic.
    Section 4 – Monologue about an academic topic.
  • In almost every test center, the Listening test is done first, before the Reading and Writing portions of the exam.
  • The Listening test takes about 40 minutes- 30 minutes of listening, and 10 minutes to transfer your answers.

On test day, listen to the person on the CD, and follow these steps:

1. You will be told to open your test booklet. But don’t look at the questions yet! Take a deep breath, and focus your attention on the woman/man’s voice coming from the CD.

2. Each section will be introduced by the woman/man on the CD. She/he will say something like: ‘You are going to hear two students, Steven and Maria, talking about a museum they went to recently. You now have some time to look at questions 1 to 6.’

a. Listen to that introduction. It tells you who is going to talk, and what they are going to talk about. This is important! It warms up your brain to the topic you will hear discussed. You know how students talk, and you know some vocabulary related to museums. So, your brain is accessing that information, and, consequently, better able to understand Steven and Maria when they start talking.

b. There is time to look at the questions before you listen. The person on the CD says ‘You now have some time to look at questions 1 to 6.’ Use this time well, because it is short. When the person tells you to do this, look at the questions she/he says, and only those questions. Be active. Underline key words and think about what kind of answer you will listen for, such as a name or a number.

3. The woman/man on the CD will then say ‘Listen to the conversation and answer questions 1 to 6.’ Listen and focus on the key words you underlined. Remember that the questions are answered in order in the dialogue or monologue. Write your answers directly in the test booklet, and not on the answer sheet.

4. In the middle and at the end of the conversation or lecture, the person on the CD will say ‘You now have some time to check your answers for questions 1 to 6.’ If you feel unsure about some of your answers, only check those you are unsure of for spelling, grammar and logic. If you feel confident in most of your answers, you may use this time to look ahead at the next group of questions. This will give you extra time to circle key words and predict answers.

5. At the end of all four sections, you will have 10 minutes to transfer your answers to a separate answer sheet. This is plenty of time. Do not try and go quickly. Just copy your answers carefully.

How can you be confident? Prepare!

All students who get a 7 or higher on the exam will tell you that preparation is key – not only learning the test strategies, steps, and doing test practice, but investing real time into improving overall listening skills. After all, if you don’t understand the English that you hear on the test, you won’t find the answers, no matter how many times you practice the test. Try and balance your time between general listening practice (podcasts, movies) and test practice. Good luck!

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