Today’s post is the second in a four part series about the most common mistakes IELTS candidates make in each of the four papers of the IELTS exam.
Last week we discussed how your band score could be lowered by making careless errors and avoidable mistakes that have nothing to do with your language ability. Even advanced level candidates are susceptible to this if they are not aware of the things they should take care over in the exam.
Today’s post is about common mistakes candidates make in the Listening paper.
- Listening ‘blind’
By this, I mean sitting down to listen without thinking about why you are listening (other than to pass an exam!) or what information you need to listen for. You will put yourself at a disadvantage if you are unprepared for what you are about to hear, because you will have to make sense of everything in order to extrapolate the answer! So, before each listening section, think about the context of the audio you are about to hear. Look for clues in the instructions and any text or visuals given. This will activate your vocabulary and language in preparation for listening.
- Not using prediction skills
The context for the listening might be obvious from clues on the page but this isn’t all you need to know before the audio starts. In order to listen strategically, you need to predict what kind of content you are going to hear AND what specific information you need to answer the question. Underline key words in the questions to focus your attention and think about any paraphrases or synonyms you might hear.
- Not using the time given to read ahead
Too often, students use the time given between each section to finish off questions in the previous section instead of planning ahead for the following section. This means they risk being unprepared for what they will hear, as described above in number 1, or worse, losing their concentration and not being able to catch up and/or missing important information.
- Losing concentration and place
It’s possible to be completely thrown by one of the questions in the Listening paper and this could cause you to lose your concentration. It is important to try not to get hung up on one tricky question otherwise you might lose your place and miss important information for the following questions. If this happens to you, try to stay calm – remember that no one question is worth any more than another so don’t panic and simply move on to the next question.
- Not paying attention to distractors
Students should be aware that distractors are a common feature of IELTS Listening. One example of a distractor is when a speaker says one thing but then corrects himself. Another example is when you have multiple choice questions and you hear all of the possible choices but only one is the correct answer.
- Not following instructions
Sometimes there is a specific requirement for your answer, for example the instructions will say “no more than one word” or “no more than two words” or “your answer must be a letter.” It might not seem important to you whether you write one word too many but it is! In other cases, you might be asked to circle more than one answer, and so if you only circled one, your answer would be incomplete and therefore wrong. Make sure that you do exactly what the instructions state.
- Incorrect spelling
Yes, spelling counts! Any misspelt answers will be marked as wrong so take great care with this.
- Grammar mistakes
Likewise, mistakes like leaving off the plural ‘s’ or confusing countable and uncountable nouns will also be marked as wrong. Be careful!
- Leaving an answer blank
You do not lose marks for a wrong answer so if you are not sure of the answer, guess. NEVER leave an answer blank as you will just be throwing away a mark, whereas if you guess, there is a chance you could be correct!
- Writing answers on the answer sheet during listening sections
The audio is played only once, not repeated, so it is crucial that you do not get distracted, lose your place or miss hearing information. If you are flitting between your answer sheet and the question paper as well as trying to listen attentively, you risk confusing yourself. You are given ten minutes after the audio finishes to transfer your answers from the question paper to the answer sheet to avoid this.