The map-labelling task often occurs in Section 2 of the Listening test, although it can appear in any section. Section 2 involves listening to one speaker and you have to connect the information you hear with the information provided on the map. This usually means you have to follow directions in order to find and label certain places, such as landmarks or buildings. Sometimes the labels are provided in written form and you have to match them with a number or letter on the map. In other instances, you have to write in the word/s yourself. The information you need to answer the questions is in the same order as on the recording.
Some candidates think that this activity will be easy because, after all, there is a picture and all you have to do is label it! However, for some this is not as easy as it might sound. Here are some common complaints from candidates about the map-labelling activity.
- When giving directions, we use very specific vocabulary and functional language. It is not difficult to learn but if you have not prepared for this type of activity and are unfamiliar with the language, you may have difficulty following along.
- It involves you multi-tasking. You have to understand the visual information you are given, listen for information, follow instructions and write answers at the same time.
- This multi-tasking also means that spelling can be an issue, especially in the tasks where you are not provided with the names or labels and have to write them yourself. You are doing so many things at once that it is easy to make spelling errors.
- Interpreting the visual information – ie. making sense of the map. You have never seen this plan before and have to rely on your imagination to visualise it. Some candidates find this more tricky than others.
A possible listening strategy
- Read the instructions carefully.
- Familiarise yourself with the map and the features on it.
- Identify where the numbers start and finish because the numbers follow the order of the listening.
- Try to predict the answers (eg. if you are in a town, it is likely that you might hear the words café, library, church, sports centre, etc).
- Pay particular attention to things close by – eg. if number 16 is by the ‘cafe’, it is likely that this will be mentioned just before number 16.
- Take note of any other clues given to you, eg. arrows showing particular directions; or if there is a compass with N, S, E, W in the corner of your map, it is possible that the words North, South, East or West will be used in the directions.
- Listen to the beginning of the talk carefully so that you understand the context (eg. where you are; where you are starting from) and can follow the talk more easily.
- Look at two questions at once, so that you are less likely to lose your place and miss an answer.
- Pay attention to signposting language, like “The next stop on our tour is the museum”.
- Make notes as necessary all over your question paper.
- Don’t worry about spelling at this stage. You can focus on that at the end of the test when you will have time to transfer your final answers on to the separate answer sheet.
- Make sure you are well prepared before the exam and are familiar with all the language of location and directions.
- If you hear the answer to, say, question 16, you will know you have missed 15. Forget about this and move on. Don’t risk missing any more answers.
- Be careful of distracting information, eg. “this used to be the reception desk but we decided to relocate it opposite the main office”.
- If you can, try to visualise the place that the speaker is describing whilst they are talking.
This week’s free resource is a list of the most common phrases and expressions needed for map-labelling activities in the IELTS Listening test. Just click on the green button below.
And for a REALLY useful tip I found today on Youtube, check out Professor IELTS’s video by clicking here.