IELTS listening strategies for section 4
Over the 4 sections of the IELTS listening test, the recordings and questions become more challenging, so by the time you reach Section 4, you should expect it to be the most difficult. In order to get a good result, here are some useful tips and suggestions. Thanks to Khaled Manasrah for questions that led to creating this post!
Tip 1 – be prepared!
Knowing what to expect when the Section 4 recording begins is a great advantage, so here’s what you can expect. Unlike Sections 1, 2 and 3, Section 4 does not pause midway through the recording for you to read the next set of questions. However, you have more time before the recording begins to read through the questions (40 seconds instead of the normal 20 seconds).
Tip 2 – use the time given in Section 3
At the end of Section 3, the recording will say ‘You now have 30 seconds to check your answers’. However, we strongly recommend you use this time to only briefly check your answers to Section 3 – it is more important to quickly move on to Section 4 and start looking through the questions there.
Tip 3 – underline, circle and highlight important words in the questions
As you look through the questions in your preparation time, make sure that you are identifying key words and qualifying words in the question. Don’t just read them – circle them, underline, highlight them – anything that will make it easier to focus on the key points.
Tip 4 – use the questions to help you understand the recording
As Section 3 ends and you start looking through the questions for Section 4, you should be building a mental picture of what the Section 4 topic relates to. Are they talking about people, places, animals etc? As Section 4 begins (but before your 40 seconds preparation time), the announcer in the recording will give a brief description as well (e.g. ‘You will hear a lecturer talking about the subject of deforestation’) – this should add to your understanding of the recording and make following the context easier.
Tip 5 – use the questions to show you where the recording may change direction
Keeping track of where you are in the recording in relation to the questions is very important, so before the recording begins, try to identify where the focus of the questions changes. For example, if the first three questions are talking about one particular place, then the fourth question refers to a person, this should indicate a change in direction for the speaker and will let you know where you are in the recording.
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Tip 6 – always read one question ahead
This is not specifically a tip for section 4 only – it is a good idea to know not just the next question, but the next two questions so if you miss one answer you are prepared for the next. It is particularly useful in Section 4 because if you lose your place in the first few questions, there is no midway pause for you to catch up!
Tip 7 – be realistic about getting ALL the answers
During the test you may find that you are waiting for an answer that you don’t hear, but you do hear the answer to the subsequent question. Because the questions in the listening test are all answered in order, this tells you that you have missed an answer. The main point here is not to panic or become stressed about that missed answer – simply move on with the recording. Remember that at the end of the test, you have 10 minutes to check your answers, so will have time then to make an educated guess for any missing answers.
We hope these tips have helped, but if you have a tip or suggestion that you think could help others, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.