Part 1 of the listening is supposed to be the easy part. You need to get as many of these right as possible as the questions get harder as you go along. In practice, however, many candidates lose marks here when they should not. This post looks at one way to avoid this. You will find one of my videos explaining how to deal with a very common problem and an interactive online quiz to test your listening skills.
To remind you: the idea is not just to practise, but to practise intelligently.
Dealing with numbers
The number questions should be easy, but sometimes they can cause problems. Let me try and explain how to avoid these problems with some simple tips.
1. Don’t spell, write figures
The number questions can be easy as you don’t have to spell any words – figures are always OK. So, why try to write “eight” when “8” is good enough? Make life easy for yourself.
2. Identify which questions need number answers
Part of your exam strategy should be to identify what type of answer each question needs. Normally, it is quite easy to do this with number questions. Typical number questions include:
- a telephone number
- an address
- a price
- a time
So, if you see a question asking “What is the cost of the ticket?”, you should automatically think you are going to be listening for a number.
3. It may not be the first number you hear
One extremely common mistake is to write down the first number you hear. IELTS examiners are tricky. They often like to give you several numbers and you need to identify which number answers the question. This is perhaps where most mistakes are made: candidates fail to read the question.
A truly terrible piece of advice is to listen just for key words. You need to listen for the whole question, because until you have listened there is no way you can know what the key words are. Here is an example:
Q: What is your address now?
Most candidates would focus simply on the word “address“. But it may be that the address has changed and the key word is “now“. Or it may be that there are two addresses: one for you and one for your family. Be careful. Read the whole question. Read the whole question. Read the whole question.
4. Know what numbers you will need to write down – 18 and 80
Here is the special tip. Typically, and that does not mean always, the numbers you will need to write down is a “-ty” or a “-teen” number. Why? Because they cause problems. This can cause problems for native speakers too, but there is a way to help yourself here and I explain more in this video.
Briefly it is to do with how words are stressed. We say eighteen but eighty. Listen to my video where you also get some advice on dealing with big numbers.
The free practice
Here is some listening practice for you. It is not in exact IELTS format, rather it is intended to test the specific skill of dealing with numbers. Some of the questions contain traps just like the exam. Be careful and focus on the wording and the meaning of the question.