Questions & Answers from IDP IELTS' Live Forum

Are you unsure about the IELTS Listening or Reading test?  Below are the questions candidates asked our IELTS experts, Laura Plotnek, Jane Prescott and Sarah Fabel at our live forum and their answers. We’ve summarised some questions and corrected any mistakes.

 

If you have other questions about any aspect of the test, do post them and we will respond as soon as we can – usually within 24 hours. For quicker responses, join one of our live forums. 

IDP IELTS Forum on Listening

What are popular topics in listening?


Laura Plotnek IELTS Expert

It depends on the section. This will give you an idea.

Section 1 - everyday conversation between 2 people. Normally set in an academic setting (such as a university library), a public facility/event such as a music festival, a gym or a theatre OR a business such as a car hire company or a shop.

Section 2 - monologue. Also set in an everyday situation. Candidates often have to label a map of a building or outdoor site and complete one other task type.

Section 3 - 2-4 people in education or training context. Multiple choice questions are common.

Section 4 - a lecture on one topic. Could vary from science and nature to the arts, history to business and anything in between!




How to improve spelling?


Laura Plotnek IELTS Expert

Next time you write a task 2 answer, do it on a computer with the spell check turned off. When you've finished turn it back on and look at your errors. Copy them onto a separate piece of paper. Ask yourself, are there any words that you often get wrong? Are there any patterns? Next practise spelling them correctly - use the say, write, cover and check method [say the word several times, cover it with a piece of paper, write it next to the original and check!] and check out this useful document.




What advice can you give me on Listening Section 4?


Laura Plotnek IELTS Expert

Section 4, for most candidates, is the hardest part of the test. To prepare yourself, practise listening to longer audio recordings that last for at least 7 minutes to improve your concentration. In terms of specific tips for these question types, they are normally quite long gap fill passages. Make sure you read the paragraph through before the recording starts and underline keywords before and after each gap. This will help you to know what to listen out for. Then, once the recording finishes and you have time to check your answers, read the whole passage back to yourself. This might allow you to spot any little grammatical or spelling errors.




Where is the best place to hear topics for Section 4?


Laura Plotnek IELTS Expert

Listening to lectures on TED Talks or documentaries on TV channels such as the BBC or Channel 4 (UK channels) is a really good way of familiarising yourself with the topics that might come up in Section 4 of the test. You can watch these BBC and Channel 4 documentaries on the internet.

These weblinks might help:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer

https://www.channel4.com/programmes/catchup/c4

https://www.ted.com/talks. Just search for documentaries on different topics.

Sarah Fabel IELTS Expert

I find the best places are podcasts which talk about general issues like the environment or education are useful. you can also watch documentaries about animals, archaeology, history and so on, as the subjects talked about can be very wide-ranging.




Is the listening test different for CD IELTS?


Laura Plotnek IELTS Expert

No, it’s not! You will have the same test as the paper-based version the only differences are that you have a set of headphones attached to your computer in an individual booth, so you have less distraction than being in a large room. You also type your answers into the computer as you listen so you have less time at the end to check your answers [2 minutes].

If you want some more information and tips check out the IDP Essentials YouTube videos here.




My spelling is bad. Will I lose marks for bad spelling?.


Jane Prescott IELTS Expert

A lot of my students ask this! Next time you write a task 2 answer do it on a computer with the spell check turned off. When you've finished turn it back on and look at your errors. Copy them onto a separate piece of paper and ask yourself if there are there any words that you often get wrong. Are there any patterns? Next practise spelling them correctly - use the say, write, cover and check method [say the word several times, cover it with a piece of paper, write it next to the original and check!] and check out this useful document.




What accents will I hear in the recordings?


Laura Plotnek IELTS Expert

You'll only hear native English speakers. Mainly from the UK, Australia, the USA and Canada or South Africa. So, on the run up to your exam, listening as much to native English speakers on the TV, radio and through the internet will really help.




Please can you suggest a good book to help me with listening?


Jane Prescott IELTS Expert

The ‘Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS Students Book with Answers’ is an excellent self study book which covers all aspects of the test. Also, wherever possible, choose something for listening practice where you have the option of seeing the words written down. This could be as a transcript from one of the practice test papers, subtitles or, if it’s a song, the lyrics. Play a short extract and try and write down what you hear. Pause this as many times as you need. Check by listening again and identify where you made mistakes, was it a word you didn’t know, or maybe it was the pronunciation? Remember native English speakers use weak forms and connected speech. Check out the last section of our listening masterclass for more information.





IDP IELTS Forum on Reading

I have problems with finishing the reading paper - what can I do?


Laura Plotnek IELTS Expert

Firstly, practise your speed reading skills - you should spend no longer than 3 minutes reading the text. So don’t try to read every word and, more importantly, don’t spend time puzzling over words that you don’t know. Instead think about the meaning from the surrounding words.

Make sure you check If there are any titles, or subtitles or any notes at the bottom or in the margins - you may have definitions of any words that are technical. Try to complete each section in less than 20 minutes so you have a few minutes at the end to check your answers and, if you’re doing the paper-based test, the spelling when you transfer them to the answer sheet.




Is the Reading test different for CD IELTS?


Jane Prescott IELTS Expert

A lot of my students ask me this and the answer is No it’s not!

You will have the same test as the paper-based version the only differences are that you have a highlighting tool that you can use to highlight the relevant parts of the text, and you can use the copy [CTRL C] and paste function [CTRL V] rather than typing your answers in, which cuts down on careless spelling mistakes. If you want some more information and tips check out the IDP Essentials YouTube videos




I took IELTS a few months ago and I had 6.0 but I need 7.0 How many correct answers do I need to get?


Laura Plotnek IELTS Expert

It really depends on the difficulty of the paper but for IELTS Academic, you normally need to get 30 out of 40 questions correct. If you're preparing for the General Training test, you are likely to need a higher score than this to achieve a band 7. Hope this helps and good luck with your preparation!

I am preparing for IELTS Academic.

So in that case, you need to aim to get at least 30 out of 40 answers correct when you're practising at home.




What are your top tips to get the best score?


Laura Plotnek IELTS Expert

Don’t waste time by reading the whole passage too closely (2 minutes max!) and also don’t spend too long on 1 particular question - you only have about 90 seconds per question, so if you get stuck, mark the part of the passage that contains the answer and come back to it later.

Answer global questions like matching paragraph headings first as these help you learn more about the passage and where the answers to the more specific questions will be. Lastly, don’t leave any questions unanswered particularly multiple choice.

Remember the questions come in order, so you don’t need to keep re-reading the text.




I have been told I can use all capital letters when writing my answers on the Answer sheet. Can I?


Laura Plotnek IELTS Expert

Yes. Capital letters are perfectly okay and I would say you should use them, if your joined up handwriting looks unclear. (Some nationalities add an extra character ‘stroke’ when writing so an ‘n’ can look like an ‘m’, or an ‘r’ can look like an ‘m’). In fact, as long as your handwriting is clear, you can write in either sentence case (using small letters but capital letters to start new sentences or proper nouns, such as names of people or places) in any part of the test.




I am not very good with the reading. Why is it so difficult? What is it testing exactly?


Jane Prescott IELTS Expert

The thing to remember is that it is testing the reading skills you’d need in an academic or professional working environment. It’s not testing your knowledge of a particular subject. So it’s designed to assess how well you can skim read or read to get the general gist or the main idea of the text (a skill you often use in your first language), how well you can scan or quickly locate a specific piece of information and then reading for detail – intensive reading of a specific part of the text to answer the questions




A friend has said to me that is important to read the questions first, not the text. Is true?


Jane Prescott IELTS Expert

My advice is to start by quickly reading the questions first to decide which reading skill is being tested skimming, scanning or reading for detail and then go to the reading passage.




What do you mean by skimming and scanning?


Jane Prescott IELTS Expert

Skimming - means reading a passage very quickly to get an overall understanding of what it’s about and how the information is organised, to help you find the answers to the questions more quickly later on. You would do this in your own language, if you had a long document to read quickly, by reading simply the nouns and verbs [the content words]. Scanning, on the other hand, is simply locating a specific word or piece of information in the text, imagine your eyes are like a wave moving up and down. A tip I tell my students, if they have problems with this, is to scan from the bottom up or right to left.




I have heard that the last passage is harder than the first one! Is it true?


Laura Plotnek IELTS Expert

Yes - each section is a little more difficult than the previous one but, at the same time, it does depend on your personal interests and knowledge. For example, Reading Passage 1 might be on the history of charcoal, which you might struggle with if your interest in this topic is limited. However, Passage 3 could be on a subject you find more engaging. If you do find Passage 3 more appealing, then it may well be easier than Passage 1.





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