Top Tips for IELTS

IELTS listening and spelling

This lesson is an IELTS listening and spelling and note-taking practice exercise. You will find a practise listening below, but my real aim is to help improve  these key listening skills

spelling
note-taking

Practice may be good but it isn’t enough. You want to work on your skills too. Listening is a skill in exactly the same way writing is, so you need to practise it in the same way.

The top tip 

For better listening skills and band scores you need to practise writing in two ways:

quickly as you listen – forget spelling – it’s about speed

slowly when you fill out the answer sheet – remember spelling – it’s about accuracy

IELTS listening and spelling

Point one is that any spelling mistake in listening means will lose you a mark. This may seem unfair but that is the way the system works. It is vital that you learn to spell the most common words in English.

Point two is to see that there are different types of question in IELTS listening. Two of the hardest are:

short answer questions

sentence completion questions

These are difficult because you need to do three things at the same time.

read the question to see what you are listening for

listen and hear the answer 

write the answer down

Other questions have their own problems, but they don’t involve writing too. This means you meed to think of special skills here.

Know the problem – work on your spelling

One part of the solution is to know the problem. The words you need to write down are common words – the sort of words you should be able to spell. The problem is that English spelling can be very tricky. You need to focus your energy on the common words that you need to be able to write.

Read, listen, then write

Another part of the solution is that you want to try and concentrate on one skill at a time in the test – doing 3 skills (reading/listening/writing) all at the same time is tough. Much better is this:

read the questions before

listen as you go

write down the answers afterwards 

The problem with this is that you will forget the answers quite quickly. This means that you need to develop the skill of taking notes. You need to write just enough as you listen so that you can remember the answer.

IELTS listening and taking notes

Note-taking is quite a precise skill which I will write about another day. Here, for now, are some quick tips:

make sure you can read your notes!

use abbreviations – don’t try to spell words out completely – just enough that you can recognise the words

use symbols if that helps you – you can develop your own code

make sure you know which note belongs to which question

How do you learn this skill? Practice really. You need to find your way – note taking tends to be personal. Remember that you can practise taking notes on any type of listening. It doesn’t have to be an IELTS task.

The practice exercise

You’ll find an MP3 at below. There are two sets of questions. I’ll give you one clue. All the answers contain words from my spelling lesson yesterday. They all are words that can go wrong. Be careful. IELTS listening isn’t just about listening!!!!!! For all these questions you need to write the answers.

Note on short answer questions and sentence completion questions

For the first set of answers (the short answers) you don’t need to write complete sentences – the answers are notes. The second set of answers is different. There you are completing sentences so your answer must be grammatically accurate. In each case you should write down words that you hear.

The skills to practise

  1. read the questions before you listen
  2. try and predict the type of words that may give the answer
  3. make notes as you listen
  4. listen as much as possible!
  5. don’t try and write complete words as you listen
  6. write out the complete words afterwards
  7. check your spelling

Short answer questions

Write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER for each answer

What are the three topics in the Oxbridge Polytechnic Open Day?

♦ welcome talk and application procedure in the morning

1. ________________ after coffee

2.________________  after lunch

Which three courses and facilities does the speaker give as reasons for studying at Oxbridge Polytechnic?

♦ classical literature

3. _________________

4.__________________

Sentence completion questions

Write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER for each answer

5. All applications must be received  before _____________________.

6. Any forms that arrive late will not ______________.

7. People often forget to include a ____________________ with their application.

8. All candidates must state if a ______________ will be needed from their local authority.

Listen

Oxbridge

Read the answers and the explanation

Check your skills

Don’t just check your answers. Check to see why the answers are right and what the problems are. That way you will improve your skills.  Check these notes

  1. spelling: see what the typical problems in English spelling are
  2. clue words: sometimes you can listen for so-called key words, but just as often you need to listen for meaning
  3. notes: if you are writing out 3 words in full, you have stopped listening – big mistake – make notes

1. accommodation/accommodation talk

Spelling: this word must be spelled correctly. Double cc and double mm

Clue words: “I’m going to start off by giving you this welcome talk when I explain about Oxbridge generally and our application procedure.Then there will be a short coffee break before Alan Davies will  tell you all about the accommodation.”

You start to concentrate when you hear “welcome talk” and “application procedure”. That tells you the answer is soon. When you hear the word coffee you know that your answer is coming.

Suggested notes: Don’t try and spell accommodation: try to write “accomm” or something similar.

2. research programmes/research programs

Spelling: two tricky words here. programme is UK English  (except for computer programs) and program is US English – both are fine.

Clue words: “Finally, after lunch Professor David Mitchell will explain all about our research programme.”

Hopefully, this was nice and easy. You hear the words Finally, and after lunch and you know the word you need are next.

Suggested notes: Again, there’s quite a lot to write so you want to make notes: I’d use “res prog”

3. business studies/business studies course

Spelling: business is the trick word here. One s and then two more in “ness”. Also be careful that you get studies right. The y turns into an i

Clue words: “I now want to explain why I think Oxbridge is such a great place to study. We do of course have an international reputation for academic excellence in Classical Literature. But what makes us special is our Business Studies course.”

Part of the clue is seeing that you are probably waiting to hear something like “classical literature” – the one you are given. Don’t expect to hear all the words in the question though. You are listening for meaning not just words so you need to see that “a great place to study” and “what makes us special” are reasons for studying at Oxbridge.

Suggested notes: bus/stud/course

4. weather station/new weather station

Spelling: weather and whether are quite different – wh is for whether – think of it as like who/where/when/what/why

Clue words: You may be less familiar with a new development here. As we all know the environment is a new and exciting field of study and we have set up a new weather station where all sorts of interesting data about the atmosphere is collected. Indeed this weather station has just won a national  award for the most innovative centre in environmental studies. It’s certainly something we are very proud of.

When you here “a new development” you should think the next item is coming. This time the answer is slightly unexpected. Sometimes that does happen. don’t panic. Write down what you hear. You may get another chance later to guess. When you hear “atmosphere” then you should get the meaning. Finally, you get the words again with “won a national award“. The message is keep listening, don’t start writing too soon or you may miss the clue words – you should see here that “won a national award” and “something we are very proud of” come at the end. Sometimes IELTS does that to you.

Suggested notes: weath/ stat

5. 27th February (generally they will accept any reasonable variation here so “February 27” “27 February”  are good too)

Spelling: days and months simply must be learned

Clue words: “Can I now explain how the application procedure works. You need to put this deadline in you’re diaries. We have to receive your complete UPAS form by 27th February, Any forms received after that date cannot be accepted I’m afraid.” There are plant of clues here even if you don’t hear the words in the question. “Now” tells you she is speaking about a new topic. “Application procedure” tells you the answer is coming soon. “Deadline” means the same as “must be received before. Listening for meaning again, not just words.

Suggested notes: Easy. 27 Feb

6. be accepted (note you need both words here as the sentence you complete must be grammatical)

Spellingaccept is a tricky word again. Don’t confuse it with except and make sure you get the cc

Clue words: “Any forms received after that date cannot be accepted I’m afraid.“”After that date” = “late” in the question, so once again you need to listen for meaning and not just so-called key words. This is hard for another reason. It comes very soon after the previous question. This is why you make notes. If you are still writing F_E_B_R_U_A_R_Y, you won’t hear the answer.

Suggested notesbe acpt or accept perhaps. You can work out the grammar later in your 10 minutes thinking time

7. letter of recommendation/recommendation letter (this is a long answer – make notes and keep listening)

Spelling: recommendation – this is another double letter problem: this time one c and mm

Clue words: “It’s also vital that your application is complete. Every year sad to say we have to reject a number of applications because something has been missed out. So if you don’t to want to miss your chance of studying here at Oxbridge please listen carefully to this. There is one thing that people often fail to include with their application. As is clearly stated on the form we need a letter of recommendation from someone who has taught you at school or college. If you don’t know what this is, it is similar to a reference.” In a way this is easy as there are lots of clues there. “something has been missed out” and “people often fail to include” both = forget in the question if you remember to listen for meaning and not just words. Don’t be fooled by reference though. That is only similar to a letter of recommendation.

Suggested noteslett/rec perhaps. You need to remember though that your answer in this type of question must be grammatical

8.  maintenance grant (another long answer so notes are necessary again)

Spelling: maintain but maintenance, note also that it is -ance not -ence. It’s details like that you need to learn to notice.

Clue words: “Another difficulty for many candidates is that enclosed with the application we need the P45 statement from you about how you intend to pay the tuition fees. It is also necessary to fill out the P46 saying whether you will require a maintenance grant from your local council. This grant is not a scholarship, it is the money that some councils, not all give you to pay for your accommodation and living expenses.”. Key word strategy,as so often, is dangerous here. The questions says “need” but you hear “necessary”. Also see how “councils” comes after the answer. You need to keep on listening and not start writing immediately. Also, be careful of “scholarship“. It is NOT a scholarship.

Suggested notes: maintence -grant (all you need is to write something you understand, remember)

Read the transcript

Transcript

Good morning everyone. I’m glad you all made it. And I hope you’ll enjoy your day with us.. And I also hope that you’ll choose to study here at Oxbridge Polytechnic and I’m sure that you’ll leave today wanting to spend the next four years here.

First of all can I tell you about the programme for today. There are going to be three sessions. I’m going to start off by giving you this welcome talk when I explain about Oxbridge generally and our application procedure. Then there will be a short coffee break before Alan Davies will tell you all about the accommodation. There are several ways you can choose to live here. Finally, after lunch Professor David Mitchell will explain all about our research programme.

I now want to explain why I think Oxbridge is such a great place to study. We do of course have an international reputation for academic excellence in Classical Literature. But what makes us special is our Business Studies course. It’s a course that is recognised globally and most people would accept that we are market leaders in that field. You may be less familiar with a new development here. As we all know the environment is a new and exciting field of study and we have set up a new weather station where all sorts of interesting data about the atmosphere is collected. Indeed this weather station has just won a national award for the most innovative centre in environmental studies. it’s certainly something we are very proud of.

Can I now explain how the application procedure works. You need to put this deadline in you’re diaries. We have to receive your complete UPAS form by 27th February, Any forms received after that date cannot be accepted I’m afraid.

It’s also vital that your application is complete. Every year sad to say we have to reject a number of applications because something has been missed out. So if you don’t to want to miss your chance of studying here at Oxbridge please listen carefully to this. There is one thing that people often fail to include with their application.

As is clearly stated on the form we need a letter of recommendation from someone who has taught you at school or college. if you don’t know what this is, it is similar to a reference. It is different though because it is not sufficient just to give the contact details of your referee. We need a letter saying why your teacher or tutor thinks you can cope with the demands of higher education. Just to emphasise it, this must be in writing.

Another difficulty for many candidates is that enclosed with the application we need the P45 statement from you about how you intend to pay the tuition fees. It is also necessary to fill out the P46 saying whether you will require a maintenance grant from your local council. This grant is not a scholarship, it is the money that some councils, not all give you to pay for your accommodation and living expenses. If you are confused by this please talk to Stephen Fry afterwards. He’ll help you out…….

The next point to make is that entrance to Oxbridge Polytechnic is highly competitive. Every year we receive around 40,000 applications and there are only 1000 places available. That means there are 40 applicants for every place. So can I suggest that you spend plenty of time over your application to make it as compelling as possible? Here are some suggestions for you. Make sure that it is clear in your application that you are capable of this essential academic discipline. It is not enough to show that you are knowledgeable about your subject. It is much more important to show that you are capable of conducting research.

Now to move on………

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23 Responses to IELTS listening and spelling

  1. Alan March 18, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

    Hi Dominic, I can’t see the mp3 file to go with the exercise.

    Cheers,
    Alan

    • Dominic Cole March 18, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

      Yeah sorry it disappeared for a bit. I’m moving server – so the site may misbehave for a while. It should be back now.

      Thanks for letting me know. I hate it when a website doesn’t work and I hate it even more when it’s mine. Parts of this site are now 7/8 years old and it is tough for me to keep track of everything. So do let me know if you find anything else “out of order”.

      • Anonymous July 23, 2014 at 4:42 am #

        I have lot of problms in reading or writing…what can I do

    • Vikram October 16, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

      Below the 8th question u found listen.. on that place u will find audio.. click on play and then audio will start

  2. Ayaanle March 19, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    I’m very grateful to Dominic for your great contribution to this site. To be honest, everything is completed here. Once again thank you so much for your help to all of us.

  3. Kevin.IELTS March 26, 2014 at 6:12 pm #

    Hi Dominc,

    I was wondering what do you suggest for multiple choice questions, as I find it is really hard to read and listen at same time, mostly if questions and answers are long enough to follow at that time.

    • Dominic Cole March 26, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

      They’re tricky for two reasons – there’s much more reading to do than in other question types and at slats one of the answers could be right but is there to trick you. One thing you can try is to focus most on the stem of the question BEFORE you listen and only look at the variations WHEN you listen. That’s something that has worked for some of my students. Another idea is to note BEFORE you listen the words that are different between variation ABC.

  4. Zohreh May 17, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

    Thank you so much, I appreciate you

  5. Dinesh Kumar Bartaula September 2, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    HI Dominic Cole , I am really impressed that how you laboured hard to make us improve english i.e IELTS. Thank you so much .But answer sheet of this part could not be seen .

  6. Dinesh Kumar Bartaula September 2, 2014 at 10:18 am #

    Now I got It . Thank you .

  7. Vikram October 16, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    I got 5.5 in first attempt.. the problem is reading and speaking… only 5.. writting 5.5… so plz help me In those skills so that I got at least 6.5…. I want material in order to practice in home

  8. Ilya October 23, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

    Concerning question 2

    I clearly heard ‘research programs’ (plural), why you say the correct answer is ‘research program’? Am I wrong?

    (I’m joining to all the well-deserved praises to Dominic and this resource)

  9. Ares October 26, 2014 at 10:51 pm #

    It should be “Environmental Studies” as the answer for 4th question, and not “new weather station”. Do you think?

    • Dominic Cole October 27, 2014 at 4:13 am #

      The weather station is given as a reason for studying there.

  10. Andrea Catalina November 7, 2014 at 6:11 pm #

    Hello Dominic,

    First off, I want to thank you for all hard work on this website. You allow to access to truly useful resources in order to prepare ourselves for IELTS.
    I am taking IELTS next week and finishing to study the last details.
    I just did this listening exercise and I have a doubt about it, in the first question to be exact: If I answered “Accommodation talk” instead of just accommodation, is it still correct?

    Thanks in advance,
    Best regards from Colombia,

    • Dominic Cole November 7, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

      Accommodation talk would work fine. I’ll add that in as a possible answer. Thank you for the comment and best of luck – let me know how it goes

  11. From Hanoi November 10, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    Hello, Dominic.

    Thanks for your great help.

    I often struggle with singular and plural nouns when filling the fill the gap type of questions in the listening test. For instance, in this question, I thought the word “interview” should be singular but in the answer it is plural: “The method the students must use to collect data is telephone interviews” (Cambridge 6, Test 3, question 22).

    In the transcripts, they say “We have to do phone interviews” but in the sentence above, the method used should be “Phone interview” I think. Should we fill in what we hear, if they say plural, put the exact word that we hear in the answer sheet? I am so confused. Can you please help explain?

    Thanks so much,

    • Dominic Cole November 10, 2014 at 10:58 am #

      Hi

      I’ve just posted something on this 2 minutes ago. I’ll add something in about this point. The idea is that the answer needs to be grammatically correct. “to collect data from telephone interview” is not grammatical. We need the plural because it isa general concept.

      • From Hanoi November 11, 2014 at 7:46 am #

        Thanks for your prompt response. However, the sentence in the question is “The method ….. is phone interview.” I think when we talk about method we can use singular, it is not “to collect data from telephone interviews”. It is still not so clear to me in this case.

        • Dominic Cole November 11, 2014 at 8:45 am #

          The idea is that “interview” is a singular countable noun and these cannot be used without qualification meaning that grammatically in English you need either to make it plural or use an article or word like this or that. It is a point of grammar.

          • From Hanoi November 11, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

            Thanks, Dominic. You have been very helpful.

  12. nayan September 1, 2016 at 2:36 pm #

    could you please provide me 20 listening test papers as well as reading if possible.

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