Speaking and Listening
Now I want to turn attention to the Speaking and Listening tasks on the exam. As with reading and writing, these two skills are linked. You can use language from your listening practice to help with your speaking. The more you practice the speaking the more you will be able to pick up on the listening.
- Can you share examples of issues you have with either of these skills?
- How have you been preparing for these papers?
If you have any suggestions, questions or problems then please share them.
Whenever you are listening to English if you find useful expressions and words write them down so that you can use them in your speaking. Don’t restrict your practice to text books, IELTS or otherwise ,what you really need is exposure to authentic language.
- Use what is around you- radio, music, TV
- Eavesdropping on other people’s conversations (preferably people you don’t know, on the bus etc.. or use the internet) can be very useful – but make sure you do it surreptitiously!
- Try to listen to a range of different topics and types of speaking (groups, interviews, talks etc..) this will help you with the different listening types in the exam and also give you information about topics for the speaking.
Approaches to the listening task
The thing you MUST do in the listening (and speaking) papers is concentrate. It is very easy to allow your mind to wander and drift away and thus miss an answer or main point.
- Prepare ‘markers’ by going through the questions for the listening very carefully and underline keywords.
- Use the information in the questions to anticipate what the content of the listening will be.
- The keywords will help you locate the answers.
- Listening for the keywords you have underlined will also tell you if you have missed a question.
- Use the time given between tasks to prepare the next section – don’t go over questions you have missed!
- If you miss a question go back at the end and use information you now have + common sense to choose an answer
- Still don’t know? Then guess; you won’t lose anything and you might be right!
During your practice don’t make everything a timed exercise. If you are good at spotting the correct answers you can easily practice speeding up the process. The important thing is to make sure your listening skills are good. Believe me even the most advanced students often produce bizarre answers which, when they consider with common sense, couldn’t possibly be right – skills first, speed later!!
Try this listening exercise – You’re no-one of you’re not on twitter (a bit if fun)
Top Tip: use both common sense and instinct in selecting the answers – don’t spend too long making your choice.
Approaches to speaking:
The speaking test is completely under your control. The examiner will give you the topics and guidelines but you will drive the test.
- Make sure you know what is expected – it isn’t just a chat.
- Your preparation for the other papers should give you a wide range of topics with plenty of ideas and information that you can use in potential speaking topics.
- Remember speed does not = fluency. Speak clearly and as accurately as you can you don’t need to rush (I am a native speaker but I speak quite slowly).
- We don’t learn about these topics in my country isn’t a good excuse, you’re expected to have read about them in English – use the internet and read the news sites regularly.
- As with your writing, give evidence for your statements and back this up with examples. Your answers need to be ’rounded’.
- Go through lists of possible topics and ask yourself – Can I talk about this? If not then find out about it.
Practice is the key with everything and get as much exposure as you can. Find people you can practise with. Give each other feedback.
Read this case-study about one of my students and how he improved his speaking skills.
Top Tip: become an ‘English’ chatterbox!
So, preparation is the key element in improving your IELTS scores along with making sure that you concentrate on your language skills and not just the test!
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