I've just watched the following presentation about better communication. I was planning to create a quick vocabulary exercise about it, but I've changed my mind. I think we can learn a lot more than just vocabulary from this speaker.
If you have time to do some 'real work', here's what I suggest you could do:
The video is 16 minutes long, but I think you could spend hours studying it. I hope to read your ideas in the 'comments' below.
There's a 'map' question in Cambridge IELTS book 11. Let's have a look at the words / phrases used to give directions on the map:
To get the right answers, you need to be able to follow these directions quickly. Would you be able to do that?
Multiple choice sections are difficult because there's so much to read before you listen to the recording.
If you want to do well in the listening test, you need to use the breaks to prepare for the multiple choice sections as thoroughly (carefully and fully) as you can.
Here's an example of the kind of preparation that you could aim for:
(Questions from Cambridge IELTS 7, test 3, section 4)
The "keyword" idea is relevant to the listening test as well as the reading test. For example, try the question below and tell me which keywords gave you the answers.
Which TWO things can make the job of kitchen assistant stressful?
A They have to follow orders immediately
B The kitchen gets very hot
C They may not be able to take a break
D They have to do overtime
E The work is physically demanding
Part of the recording:
Now you may have heard that this can be a stressful job, and I have to say that can be true. You'll be working an eight-hour day for the first week, though you'll have the chance to do overtime after that as well if you want to. But however long the hours are, you'll get a break in the middle. What you will find is that you're on your feet all day long, lifting and carrying, so if you're not fit now you soon will be! You'll find you don't have much chance to take it easy - when someone tells you to do something, you need to do it straightaway - but at least we do have a very efficient air conditioning system compared with some kitchens.
(Source: Cambridge IELTS 12, test 5, section 2)
Here's my transcription of the recording from last Tuesday's lesson. I've made it into a quick gap-fill exercise to highlight some useful vocabulary.
Fill each gap with a maximum of three words.
The libraries of the future are still about equitable __________ for our communities and our customers. However, what we do know is that we now have a 10% __________ from traditional print material into the electronic world. So we’ve got to move to more digital faster. But that requires a balance: we’re not throwing out the print, but we need to __________ to work within this __________. It’s a really exciting time to be a librarian, as we adapt to this changing way our customers are using information.
You'll hear a variety of accents in the IELTS listening test. Here's a quick task using a recording of a library worker from New Zealand.
Task: Can you transcribe (write what you hear) the full recording below? It lasts around 30 seconds.
Tip: If you struggle to understand a particular accent, just search for it on Youtube. Practise listening to examples of that accent until it becomes more familiar.
In the listening test, synonyms or similar words are often the key to getting the answer. Try the following multiple choice questions from Cambridge IELTS 7.
1. The original buildings on the site were
B) industrial buildings
2. The local residents wanted to use the site for
B) apartment blocks
C) a sports centre
Which synonyms or similar words did you hear?
It's difficult for teachers to help students with the listening test. The only 'technique' that students need to get used to is reading ahead: using the breaks to read the next section of questions before the recording starts.
Apart from that, it's a matter of practice. Listen to as much English as you can, do as many of the Cambridge past papers as possible, and analyse your mistakes carefully. You don't really need a teacher for this.
Here are 2 tricky questions that often cause problems in the IELTS listening test:
1. The speaker says: "nearly everyone liked the conference".
Which answer is correct?
A) Everyone like the conference
B) Most people liked the conference
The correct answer is B, but many students put A because they hear the word "everyone".
2. The speaker says: "early afternoon".
If there is a gap-fill question, you must write "early afternoon". If you write "afternoon", your answer will be marked wrong.
People often ask me whether compound nouns should be written as one word or two. For example, do we write seafood or sea food and clubhouse or club house?
Before reading the article that I shared in yesterday's lesson, I didn't have a good way to answer the question above. I didn't know that an easy rule existed.
Look again at the following three rules for compound nouns:
These rules tell us that seafood and clubhouse should be written as one word (rule 2). Can you find any more examples in the IELTS listening tests that you have done?
I often talk about finding keywords in the reading test. It's the same in the listening test: first read the question, then listen for words with a similar meaning. As an example, try answering the following 2 questions by reading the transcript below them. Which 'keywords' gave you the answers?
1. The course takes place on
A) Monday, Wednesday and Friday
B) Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
C) Monday, Thursday and Friday
2. Which argument was used against having a drama theatre?
A) It would be expensive and no students would use it
B) It would be a poor use of resources and only a minority would use it
C) It could not accommodate large productions of plays
Transcript from listening test:
The course is on three consecutive mornings starting on a Monday.
A largish minority were strongly against the drama theatre, claiming that it is elitist and a waste of funds.
(Cambridge IELTS 4, test 3)
Here's another interesting video from ted.com. I haven't made an exercise to accompany it, but there are several things that you could do yourself:
Listen to the following tips about how to write a cover letter when applying for a job. Fill the gaps in the summary using no more than THREE words.
Address the cover letter to a ______ person, generally the person in charge of the department you’re applying to or the ______ in charge of the interview.
Avoid simply repeating the information in your résumé. Instead, use your cover letter to introduce and highlight your ______, curiosity, and your ______ in the field you’re applying to work in.
Keep it short, simple and ______, definitely no more than one page, and probably closer to half a page; three paragraphs should do the trick. Resist the ______ to ramble on, and instead ______ right into the interesting parts.
Here's another list of tips for IELTS listening:
Here's my transcription of the recording from last week's listening lesson:
Critical thinking is all about asking questions, the right questions, questions that help you assess both the meaning and the significance of claims and arguments. Building these skills and applying them in your life makes it easier for you to assess evidence, evaluate arguments and adapt your thinking so you stay switched on and engaged in different situations.
Critical thinking involves stepping back from a situation to enable you to see all the angles before making judgements or taking decisions. It means identifying the key points, analysing the sources of information, weighing up different types of evidence - just as a judge and jury would do in a court of law - and putting it all together into your own independent thought-through point of view.
Tip: note down the following useful vocabulary:
*thought-through is an adjective here. It means that the person has thought carefully about his/her point of view. He/she has thought it through.
Last September I wrote a lesson in which I suggested doing quick transcriptions as a way to improve your listening skill. Let's try this today.
The recording below lasts 55 seconds. Can you transcribe (write) what you hear?
Critical thinking is all about asking questions...
(To see the full video recording, visit this page)
Someone recently asked me about test 2, question 27 in Cambridge IELTS 7. The answer to this question is "1882 to 1883", but the student thought he heard "1892 to 1893". Students in my classes have often made the same mistake.
So, why do people hear 1892 when the speaker says 1882?
The reason is that you hear the letter 'n' at the end of '18' e.g. eightee-n-eighty-two. If the speaker is talking quickly, it might sound like the 'n' is the first letter of the number that comes after 18.
However, you should ignore this 'n' because it is simply the last letter in the word "eighteen". Instead, you need to hear the "ei" vowel sound in "eighty" instead of the "ai" sound in "ninety". For me, the difference between 1882 and 1892 is very clear, because I hear a completely different vowel sound.
Listen to the following excerpt from a recording of a university professor who is speaking about the importance of learning to write well.
Fill the gaps to complete the summary below.
Teaching people to write is extremely _____ _____. Marking a good essay is easy, but in a bad essay, the words are wrong, the phrases are wrong, the sentences are wrong, the sentence _____ is wrong, the paragraphs aren’t _____, and the whole thing _____ no sense. Students should learn to write well because there is no _____ between writing and thinking. Thinking makes you _____ effectively in the world and win the battles you _____.
(If you would like to see the full video of the professor's speech, click here)
Last Tuesday I wrote a long list of tips for multiple choice questions. But the most important tip is this: do lots of practice. Here's a quick exercise:
Listen to the following short talk about cave paintings.
1. In which continent are the cave paintings that the speaker is describing?
2. How were the painted caves discovered?
A) By children
B) By artists
C) By tourists
3. How can visitors experience the cave paintings nowadays?
A) They can’t see any paintings because the caves are closed
B) They can go on a tour of the original cave
C) They can visit a reproduction of the original cave
Last Tuesday I asked you to think about how to deal with difficult multiple choice exercises, particularly in section 3 of the listening test. People shared some great tips in the comments area below the lesson, and I'll try to summarise their advice (and mine) here.
First, some general practice tips (when practising at home, not in the test)
Analyse your performance very carefully
Add variety to your practice. Here are some possible practice exercises:
Finally, here are some test tips (i.e. what to do during the exam)
Quick summary: do lots of practice, experiment with exam techniques, and analyse everything!
A couple of weeks ago, in this lesson, I said that section 4 was the most difficult part of the listening test. But several people wrote comments below the lesson telling me that they found section 3 to be the most difficult.
The problem with section 3 is that it often contains a big multiple choice exercise. Here are a few reasons why multiple choice questions are so tricky:
So how can you deal with all of these problems? How can you train yourself to be better at the multiple choice questions in section 3?
Feel free to share ideas or ask questions in the comments area below this lesson. I'll read the comments, take the best tips, and add my own advice; I'll give you my multiple choice training tips next Tuesday.
For multiple choice questions in the listening test, try to underline just one or two keywords in each choice before the recording starts. It's much easier to focus on the difference between each choice if you've underlined the right keywords. Here's an example (from Cambridge IELTS 10):
What helped Rob to prepare to play the character of a doctor?
A) the stories his grandfather told him
B) the times when he watched his grandfather working
C) the way he imagined his grandfather at work
Transcript of Rob speaking:
I have to write about the role I played, the doctor, how I developed the character. My grandfather was a doctor before he retired, and I just based it on him. He must have all sorts of stories, but he never says much about his work. I'd visualise what he must have been like in the past, when he was sitting in his consulting room listening to his patients.
Notice that all three choices (A, B and C) are about the grandfather, so the keywords that I underlined are stories, watched and imagined. Which is the right answer?
Section 4 is the most difficult part of the listening test for the following reasons:
Here's my tip: Don't worry too much about this section. Spend most of your time practising sections 1, 2 and 3.
Try to get as many points from the other three sections as you can, and this will allow you to lose points in section 4. Remember that you can make 10 mistakes and still get a band 7.
About a month ago, I wrote this advice about collecting collocations. One way to build your collection of collocations and phrases is by listening to native speakers as often as possible.
But listening alone is not enough. You need to notice and write down the collocations and phrases that you hear, and you need to start using them yourself.
For example, watch the first 2 minutes of the following presentation, then fill the gaps to complete the collocations and phrases below it.
Collocations and phrases from the first 2 minutes:
Of course, if you find the talk interesting, watch the rest of it!
Listen to two students talking about lectures and seminars at university, and fill the gaps in the summaries below.
Don't worry if you have to listen several times to get the answers. This is an exercise that I made myself, not a real IELTS question.
University lectures involve everyone on a course ______ up and receiving information from one of the ______ about a particular topic. Seminars, on the other hand, are ______ group meetings in which students discuss in detail the ______ of ideas that they heard about in a lecture.
A university timetable will consist of a ______ of lectures and seminars. The number of people in lectures can ______ depending on the course. For my course we have about 400 people in a big lecture ______. The number of people attending a small-group seminar ______ between 10 and 20.
The people who do well in the listening test are those who have a "good ear" for English. In other words, they are able to follow fast speech and distinguish individual words easily. How did they develop a good ear? They listened to a lot of English.
If you're trying to improve your listening score, stop searching for techniques! Spend your time listening to as much English as possible. Expose your ears to the language and they will gradually become better at hearing it.
Listen to the following excerpt from a lecture about effective teachers.
Choose three characteristics of effective teachers from the list below.
A) They use the largest number of exercises
B) They know how to choose examples
C) They pick the right technique at the right moment
D) Being older can be an advantage
E) They are chess players
F) They pay more attention to students