The IELTS listening test has four parts. Listeners will find 10 questions in each section. The first segment gives a recorded clip of a conversation between two native speakers. The objective of the first part is to familiarize non-native speakers with practical conversations. You will find a different set of fictive settings in this part. Let me introduce you to one scenario. Here, you will see one front-desk officer talking to a customer. During their conversation, the administrator will take out some personal information from the recipient. You will find them either as fill in the blanks or Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs). The IELTS listeners are required to fill up the form without spelling errors. It does not matter whether you follow the American or British English variants. As long as your answer is correctly spelled and accurately given, you will get 1 mark for each question. Remember, your test-centre will play their recording once only. They will not allow to hear the recording again.
In the first part of the IELTS listening test, you will face easier questions. At times, the speaker gives out details about credit card/passport information; social insurance number; mail/email address; telephone/fax number; name and nationality. Usually, candidates face MCQs, and fill in the blanks in the first part. For doing well in the first part, it is important for you to understand different sounds and phonetic symbols. Make sure you get your spelling correct. Otherwise, you will lose 1 mark for every misspelled word.
While listening to conversations in all the parts, try to read the questions before you begin listening. The 30-second-break you get before each listening part is sufficient for you to read all the questions as quickly as possible. Try to highlight the keywords of each question. In the Computer-Generated Test (CBT), you will be able to have the option of using highlighters of a variety of colours. You need to choose one colour before on the eve of your listening test. I chose yellow, and my choice of font-size was medium.
Coming back to the second part of the test, listeners will need to listen attentively to the information that is related to the assigned questions. Do not focus too much on irrelevant information. Map-making is the most onerous task of this test. For locating the information of the map successfully, you will need to follow the directions the speaker rolls out. Moreover, you need to know where the route of navigation is. Before beginning my practice sessions, I always had hard times finding out the difference among north, south, east and west. If you stand up, your frontal side is pointing at the northern direction, right hand eastern, left western, and backside southern. If it is the Northeast side, it means the right side of your head, Northwest means the left side. If it is the southeast side, it is the right side of your right thigh, and the left side of your left thigh is for the northwest side. While locating information, you will need to hear where the speaker is directing at, and how he or she is transitioning from the previous place to the current/next place.
The third part of the test is mostly an interaction between a research supervisor and his or her supervisees. The maximum number of supervisees I heard of in a recorded conversation was 4, and the minimum was 2. Usually in the clip, the supervisor asks his students some questions about the topic(s) they have been working on. Then the students begin to discuss their topics in details. During your listening time, pay attention to the switching of conversations among the speakers. If all of them are of one specific gender, you will need to be careful about their differences in names, pronunciations, accents and intonations. The last part of the listening test comprises a radio host/ news reporter/ public speaker/ seminar discussant shedding light on an important archaeological/scientific discovery. During the test or practice session, you will come across fill in the blanks, and multiple-choice questions.
Before you answer questions, please read the instructions carefully. If you are advised to answer not more than three words in fill in the blanks, your minimum word limits are three. If you exceed the minimum word count, it will be a wrong answer. In MCQs, you will be required to answer the best available answer. Some of those questions will confuse you. At that time, you will need to eliminate the least correct answers from the question options. Also, I came across one practice test which instructed me to find the best available options for each question. In that case, it could be more than 1. Also, check out on matchings and headings.
In fine, I would say that I had my biggest fun while doing listening practices. In the test centre, expect some distractions. You will face the sound of honking cars coming from outside. At times, your invigilator might walk around, and open the door that might create a groaning sound. That could be a distraction, too. My invigilator was constantly walking and standing two feet behind me. Let none of it bother you. I did not get distracted at all. During my practice sessions, especially in the daylight, my children would run around and play without silence. Their noise would get me easily distracted. However, by the course of time, I learned how to shut the outside noise, and enter my own zone amidst all the chirping noise.
The writer is lecturer, department of English, Chittagong Independent University