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Choosing answers in the listening test

Friday, February 24, 2012


Choosing answers in


the listening test




Use the instructions, the context and

logical thinking to guide your decision


Bow, a doctor preparing for the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam, asked the following:

“I’ve practised listening in IELTS books, and I’ve noticed that sometimes answers require a verb and a noun, or an adjective and a noun, for example, ‘attracts dust,’ ‘inconvenient position,’ ‘protect members’ health’ and ‘registered charity.’

“I wonder if these kinds of question can be found in the real exam. Can I answer just ‘dust,’ ‘position,’ ‘protect health’ and ‘charity’? If I can’t, how can I know how many words I should put for an answer?”

Watch word limits

Let’s first consider Bow’s last query: how many words should you write? The instructions given for each set of questions will clearly state what you have to do. Here are three sample instructions:

Choose the correct letters A-C.

Complete the table below. Write NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS for each answer.

Complete the form opposite. Write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER for each answer.

Sometimes, you’re asked to write a letter (as in the first instruction, for a multiple-choice question). Other times, you’re asked to write words.
Whenever you have to write words, the maximum number of words allowed in your answers will be stated clearly (e.g. NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS). The maximum is always written in CAPITAL LETTERS to help you see it.

Always read the instructions carefully so that you know exactly how you’re expected to answer the question.

When you have to write words, pay attention to the word limit. If you write more words than the maximum, your answer will be regarded as wrong. You’ll get a zero mark.

For instance, if the correct answer is “box of chocolates” and there’s a three-word limit, then “a box of chocolates” (a four-word answer) would be incorrect. Even though you’ve understood the information in the test, you would not get any mark for the answer (not even a half mark).

 Be careful, too, when moving on to the next set of questions. Don’t assume that the word limit for the previous questions will apply to the next group of questions.

For example, one set of questions might specify a three-word limit for answers, but the next set could specify a maximum of two words. Candidates who don’t notice the change in the maximum might write three words for some of their answers to the second set of questions. If this happens, all answers over the two-word limit would get a zero mark.

To avoid any careless errors like that, you should always carefully read the instructions for each set of questions to see what the word limit is. As well, underline or circle the word limit so that you can easily look back at it later while the recording for that group of questions is playing.

Be logical and accurate

Answers must relate logically to the questions. For instance, the answer to the question, “Where was the photocopier before it was moved?” could be “in an inconvenient position” or, simply, “inconvenient position,” depending on the word limit.

However, the word “position” by itself would not be a clear and logical answer, so it would be unacceptable.

 As well, answers should be long enough to communicate the essential and accurate meaning of what is said.


As an example, the recording might say, “We managed to climb 32 peaks that were over 3,000 metres high, including Toubkal, which is, of course, the highest in North Africa.”

If the question stem says, “Climbed highest peak in...,” the correct way of completing this sentence would be to write the answer, “North Africa.” The answer, “Africa,” which refers to a different part of the world, and which may (and, indeed, does) have higher mountain peaks, would be unacceptable. It’s simply not accurate enough.

Use the context

Let’s look at a related query from another candidate, Day:

“In the test, I wasn’t sure if the speakers said ‘Hall resident’ or ‘Hall Residence.’ They sound so similar, and I couldn’t catch the difference. Is either answer correct, or do I have to use the correct spelling?”

When you hear the recording, you’ll almost certainly be unable to clearly hear the difference between consonant endings in some word pairs. That’s why it’s hard to
distinguish between the “ent” in “resident” and the “ence” in “residence.”
Similarly, you can have difficulty hearing the difference between the “s” in “likes” and the “ed” in “liked,” and the “tch” in “watch” and the “sh” in “wash.” Even native speakers of English can find this difficult.
How do you know the correct answer? You must use your knowledge of grammar to help you decide on the correct answer. As well, make sure your answer is correct logically.
This is usually done automatically and unconsciously by native speakers. However, if you’re the typical IELTS candidate, with a listening level of around Band Score 6.0, you need to make a conscious effort. In other words, don’t just rely on your ears use what’s between them, too.
For example, if the question is, “Where does John live?”, the answer could only be “Hall Residence” (i.e. the name of a place − consistent with the question word “where”).
However, if the question is, “Who showed John the way to the library?”, the answer could only be “Hall resident” (i.e. a person − consistent with the question word “who”).


©Copyright David Park 2012. Reproduction in whole or in part,
and in any formwhatsoever,is not permitted without
the prior and express permission of DavidPark.

This article was written by David Park, a highlyexperienced IELTS teacher. Ajarn David teaches at Paradigm Language Institute.

If you have anyquestions about IELTS that you would like Ajarn David to answer, or if you wish todo an IELTS preparation course, write to:
 

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