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April 17, 2018


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This is my method:
1. When you are confident enough to do well on Section 1 and Section 2, you can manage to take time reading questions in Section 3 even when the exam audio is running at before or after Section 1 and 2 (of course at this point you have read questions in Section 1 and 2). This means that the speed you process questions in Section 1 and Section2 before actually listening should have been very quick.
2. When you read multiple-choice questions, you have to mark (by circling or underlining quickly) keywords in the question and all answers so that you can easily recognise the difference between answers.
3. You cannot choose the right answer just by listening for keywords. In fact, most keywords in all answers will be mentioned in the audio. You have to really understand what they say thoroughly. Reading answers before actually listening only helps you to reduce workload for your brain so that when you listen, you don’t have to read the choices, and then when you understand what they say, you can pick the right answer quickly.
4. The only way helps you improve marks for this type of question is to really practice listening, listening to understand rather than for the question itself. While you are preparing or practicing (not in the exam condition), just notice the question (not focus too much on or even not read the choices), then listen to the audio carefully and find the answer by yourself. If there is something you cannot hear or understand, you listen to it again and again. Then you can check script to see why you cannot hear something, whether it is new vocabulary or because of connected speech or you pronounce it wrong. You learn from this mistake. Finally, when you can hear and understand everything, picking up the right answer is not a big deal.

I can share 2 strategy;

First of all - try to read questions on Section 3 when the exam audio is running before Section 1 and 2 and of course before section 3. (But don't forget to skim the very hard part (compact section) of Section 4.

Secodnly - answer intuitively to the most MCQs, and try to justify or ignore your answers when listening the audio.

I reckon the best way to overcome this problem in section 3 of listening is to save time and read questions beforehand and choice the key words correctly. Also, many many thanks for your training tips. Bunch of thanks from Iran, Tabriz

My tiny method is that I imagine the situation as a picture, a story, an event that i understand what happened in recording.
I wouldn't confuse with many tasks.
It is my tiny point.
In that method,I can learn either the culture or English.

Listening recordings instead of tracking questions is the most valuable lesson to me.

Thanks @Ngoc @ilkin and @Amor for your invaluable informations.

However, I'm waiting for Simon’s strategies.

My method to tackle task three in listening test is that I only read a heading and questions, and use my imagination what they might be going to talk about. Also, I always underline on keywords. Then If you still have time, read the choices closely. If you can hear what they said, and image the situations, it would not be very hard to choose the answers afterwards.

I call this type of question "getting ideas" (compared to "getting exact words" in completion exercises).
Positive point of this is that you can still find a right answer if you don't miss too much words by both excluding wrong answers that you hear later and guessing right ones based on the speakers' attitude/intonation.
However, the most effective way is listening to English a lot (do multiple choice exercises, listen to lectures,..), which helps the brain process words and information more and more quickly.
I found most exercises mention all the answers. Therefore, spending time to understand the question and distinguish the answers is most important. It takes time a lot and depends on your reading skills.

I personally think that you should underline the key words or salient points of the multiple answers, then grab the main ideas and memorize them. Though we might be stressed because of the limited time, we increase the pace of reading. However, I continuosly wait for further advice.

I think practice and practice and absorb the question pattern

I applied Ngoc's formulas 1 and 2 last day. It's really workd. Those techniques are obviously helpful.

hi simon your blog is really helpfull.usually I read the whole passage to answer the questions but towards the end of the passage i dont get time to finish it ...as per my experience i think sometimes we need to read full and could you please suggest any other methode to get the answers so fast....thank you for your lessons .

This is my method
Since you don't have enough time to go through those questions and choices, you should ONLY focus on the questions and underline key words. When a certain question is mentioned, you should just write down details you heard as simple as possible. When this section is over, then go back to the test and choose the correct answer.

@Victoria, it's rather tough to write down possible details. Carefull attention in Lang talk is much btter instead.

I have a big problem with these questions.. please tell me wgat i should do

Yeah its difficult to find answers in part 3 & 4. Simon please give your advice on this issue.

The listening test is purposely designed so that sections 1 and 2 are relatively easy, and test lower level candidates. To get a score of Band 6.0 or above, all those questions need to be answered correctly. See the chart here:


Sections 3 and 4 are designed to be more difficult and weed out those who are only band 6.5 or around 7. That is why they are harder. Note that Band 7 requires less than ten mistakes. Most of these will come in Section 4.

Band 8 represents a "very good user", who "handles complex detailed argumentation well". So the last five questions may well seem very difficult indeed.

Band 7 represents a "good user", who "has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriate words and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning."

So you can expect to be tested on your ability to listen to and understand "complex language" and "detailed reasoning".

I found out what this meant when I attended my first business meeting in a foreign language; my boss rambled on for two and a half hours .... after an hour my mind just struggled to follow. But that is not enough for Band 7: that is not understanding detailed reasoning etc.

So what was my problem?

1) Not having enough relevant vocabulary!

2) Not being able to cope with an unusual accent.

3) Not having the brain speed to process the incoming stream of thoughts and think in the language of the moment

4) So busy straining to catch the detail that there was no spare time or brain capacity to take in the ideas.

From this come some guidelines:

a) Vocabulary! Vocabulary! Vocabulary! Without it you are sunk. Reading and listening around IELTS topics.

b) Listening over and over again to the same piece until you get every last word. I use audio-books, because I like them.

c) Sometimes listen to strong accents - Scottish/Irish/Australian - so you are prepared for that.

I took IELTS exam on 7th April, contrary to usual expectation section one and 2 were multiple choice questions and matching ones(the ones that were really hard to me) and section 3 and 4 were just filling blanks and easy.


There are some great tips here. Thanks for sharing guys!

You can now read my multiple choice tips here:


My strategy is to just understand questions but not going to the choices, and then keep listening and quick take short notes of almost every sentence i hear . and mach choices at the end of section.

Simon, Please tell me how to practice questions type-wise in the listening module

I agree with ngoc.. i tried to read section 3 before section 1 and 2...and it worked... but i need more suggestions as section 3 and 4 are harder

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