How important is it to spell words correctly in the IELTS Listening test? The British Council’s LearnEnglish site answers this question clearly and succinctly: ‘Everything must be spelled correctly.’ That means that if you spell a word wrongly in the test, you will lose a point. In this blog post we’re going to look at one common pitfall – spelling out names.
In the IELTS Listening test, you may have the answer spelled out for you. For example, one of the speakers might spell their name, and you have to copy it down. It might be a dialogue like this:
Speaker 1: And your name please, for the delivery form?
Speaker 2: It’s McDougal.
Speaker 1: McDougal? Can you spell that for me please?
Speaker 2: Sure. M-C-D-O-U-G-A-L.
Speaker 1: OK, thank you Ms McDougal…
This can present a number of challenges if you are not used to listening to words being spelled out in English:
- Some English letters sound similar to each other: m and n, for example, are very similar so you have to listen carefully.
- Some English letters sound like different letters in other languages. For instance, j in English sounds like g in French.
- Two English letters may simply sound the same in your language. A Spanish speaker might find it difficult to tell the difference between b and v.
Here are two exercises you can practice to try to overcome these problems.
Start with this video, which will take you through all the letters of the alphabet as they are pronounced in English.
- Watch the first 45 seconds of the video. Listen, stop and repeat the letters out loud. Check that you are pronouncing them correctly. Alternatively, read the whole alphabet into the audio recorder on your phone. Then alternately play the video and your recording to make sure they sound the same.
- Start the video again (at approximately 1 minute) and minimise the page. With a pen and paper, write the words you hear. You may find the words (e.g. apple) fairly simple. Remember that you are focusing on the way the letters are pronounced rather than trying to recognise the words.
- Open up the video again and watch from 00:47. You should now check your spelling.
Once you have had a go at listening to the way English letters are pronounced, you should move on to more focused IELTS Listening practice.
Now try listening to names.
- Watch this video.You will hear names being pronounced at normal, native-speaker speed — just like in the test itself. The speaker spells out 20 names for you to practise with.
- Make sure you minimise the page so you don’t see the answers straight away. With a pen and paper, write the words you hear.
- Open up the video again. You should now check your spelling.
Improving your spelling will help you not only in the IELTS Listening test but also in the IELTS Reading and Writing sections. British Council Manager Peter Hare said in this blogpost: ‘The problem is that spelling in English is notoriously difficult. The only effective way of improving your spelling is to learn words one by one…’ Peter gives advice on how to improve your spelling and where to focus your efforts. Click in and have a read!
Of course, spelling is just one aspect of the IELTS Listening test. In order to prepare for the test efficiently, you need to go through the experience of the test itself to identify your current IELTS level. From there you can pinpoint your weak areas and figure out a study plan.
Do you know the approximate band score you would get if you took the IELTS Listening test today? Follow the steps below to find out:
- Click here. Then click on Try Academic or Try General Training to open Road to IELTS. On the front screen, choose Listening, and then Test Practice. Print out Practice Test 1 (or do the CD IELTS version), and when you are ready, click to start the audio. Complete the test.
- When you have finished, download Answer Key 1 and mark your test. You will have a mark out of 40. In the CD IELTS version your mark is automatically generated for you at the end of your test.
- Then click on Resource Bank at the top of the screen. Type your Listening and Reading practice test scores into the Score Calculator. The Calculator will convert this to an estimated IELTS band score.
Going through this process will help you understand how much practice you need in order to achieve your target band score. If you want to learn other ways to prepare for the IELTS Listening test, you can take a look at this blogpost or visit IELTSPractice.com for more information.