5 ways to better prepare for IELTS Listening part 4
Listening
5 ways to better prepare for IELTS Listening part 4

Which of the four parts of the listening exam do you think is most difficult? When students, teachers and examiners are asked this, many would probably say part 4. Why? Well, it's about an academic subject for a start – something we may not hear about if your listening tends to be from TV shows and films.  Secondly, it's something we call a monologue – that means it's one person speaking – so there aren't the same clues to help you in a natural conversation between two or more people. This talk lasts for around five minutes and while that may not sound long, there's no real break, and so it really tests your levels of concentration. So, with all of this in mind, here’s my top tips for how you can prepare effectively:    1. Choose the right type of listening Part 4 of the Listening test isn’t the usual dialogue that you may hear when you stream your favourite TV shows and films. To make things easier, start by choosing a topic you’re interested in.   The key here is that the subject is an academic topic – something you may hear at university or school. There are many good sources for this, both video and audio. Podcasts, audio only, as well as video from sites such as YouTube can work well here. TED.com is particularly good for many reasons, and I’ll say more about this later, as the topics are always monologues and generally similar to the themes you may encounter in part 4 of the exam. 2. Build up your listening stamina Choose something that is roughly the same length if possible. As i’ve said before, five minutes may not seem like a long time but this will test your ability to stay focused. If you need to build this up, start with shorter ones and move onto longer ones. It’s a good idea to be used to listening to longer recordings to make the listening exam not feel too long. 3. Add or reduce difficulty by changing the speed of the listening In many cases, you can download podcasts and videos using a free online tool – there are a number available but please remember that there are copyright issues if it’s not just for your own use. Once downloaded, play it through VLC player – a free playback resource. Under the option of ‘playback’, you can vary the speed to make it faster or slower. There are other software options here too and if we look again at TED.com, there is an in-built function to change the speed.   4. Check your understanding by creating and using an audioscript How do you know if you’ve understood what has been said? If there aren’t questions and answers provided as you find with specific IELTS practice activities, one great way to see how well you’ve done is to take notes of the main points and compare them with a script.  Many videos and podcasts may already have transcripts – TED.com does for example have a great interactive transcript. YouTube videos have automatically generated subtitles and this makes listening easier but doesn’t really help here. One effective solution is to do the following: Find the video or audio you want to listen to and have it ready to play on your phone.  Take your phone and place it near your computer.  Open Microsoft Word and press ‘Dictate’ in the top right corner – Google docs has a similar function.  Once the record button is showing, play the recording from your phone. You should see words appear on your Word document. It’s important to remember that this won’t be 100% perfect for every word but should still be accurate enough.  Compare this script with your notes – this also gives you reading practice.  5. Find resources which already have questions or make your own with friends Apart from IELTS resources, you may not be able to find questions to use with your listening practice. Interestingly, TED-Ed – the site dedicated to specifically educational purposes – does have questions for you to test yourself with. Alternatively, why not generate your own questions and share these with the answers to test your friends. You can find or generate a script and then create similar questions to ones you find in part 4 of the IELTS Listening exam. Ask your friends to do the same and then swap. Either check your answers by using the answers your friends provide or check by using the script. Follow the above steps and you’ll hopefully be ready to do well in the final part of the IELTS Listening exam.  Good luck! Jishan  

Jishan Uddin

24 April, 2020

5 ways to better prepare for IELTS Listening part 4

5 ways to better prepare for IELTS Listening part 4

Which of the four parts of the listening exam do you think is most difficult? When students, teachers and examiners are asked this, many would probably say part 4. Why? Well, it's about an academic subject for a start – something we may not hear about if your listening tends to be from TV shows and films. 
Secondly, it's something we call a monologue – that means it's one person speaking – so there aren't the same clues to help you in a natural conversation between two or more people. This talk lasts for around five minutes and while that may not sound long, there's no real break, and so it really tests your levels of concentration.
So, with all of this in mind, here’s my top tips for how you can prepare effectively: 

 

1. Choose the right type of listening
Part 4 of the Listening test isn’t the usual dialogue that you may hear when you stream your favourite TV shows and films. To make things easier, start by choosing a topic you’re interested in.

Listening Top Tip

 

The key here is that the subject is an academic topic – something you may hear at university or school. There are many good sources for this, both video and audio. Podcasts, audio only, as well as video from sites such as YouTube can work well here. TED.com is particularly good for many reasons, and I’ll say more about this later, as the topics are always monologues and generally similar to the themes you may encounter in part 4 of the exam.

2. Build up your listening stamina
Choose something that is roughly the same length if possible. As i’ve said before, five minutes may not seem like a long time but this will test your ability to stay focused. If you need to build this up, start with shorter ones and move onto longer ones. It’s a good idea to be used to listening to longer recordings to make the listening exam not feel too long.

3. Add or reduce difficulty by changing the speed of the listening
In many cases, you can download podcasts and videos using a free online tool – there are a number available but please remember that there are copyright issues if it’s not just for your own use. Once downloaded, play it through VLC player – a free playback resource. Under the option of ‘playback’, you can vary the speed to make it faster or slower. There are other software options here too and if we look again at TED.com, there is an in-built function to change the speed.  

4. Check your understanding by creating and using an audioscript
How do you know if you’ve understood what has been said? If there aren’t questions and answers provided as you find with specific IELTS practice activities, one great way to see how well you’ve done is to take notes of the main points and compare them with a script. 

Many videos and podcasts may already have transcripts – TED.com does for example have a great interactive transcript. YouTube videos have automatically generated subtitles and this makes listening easier but doesn’t really help here. One effective solution is to do the following:

  • Find the video or audio you want to listen to and have it ready to play on your phone. 
  • Take your phone and place it near your computer. 
  • Open Microsoft Word and press ‘Dictate’ in the top right corner – Google docs has a similar function. 
  • Once the record button is showing, play the recording from your phone. You should see words appear on your Word document. It’s important to remember that this won’t be 100% perfect for every word but should still be accurate enough. 
  • Compare this script with your notes – this also gives you reading practice. 

5. Find resources which already have questions or make your own with friends
Apart from IELTS resources, you may not be able to find questions to use with your listening practice. Interestingly, TED-Ed – the site dedicated to specifically educational purposes – does have questions for you to test yourself with. Alternatively, why not generate your own questions and share these with the answers to test your friends. You can find or generate a script and then create similar questions to ones you find in part 4 of the IELTS Listening exam. Ask your friends to do the same and then swap. Either check your answers by using the answers your friends provide or check by using the script.

Follow the above steps and you’ll hopefully be ready to do well in the final part of the IELTS Listening exam. 

Good luck!
Jishan
 

Jishan Uddin

Jishan has been an English teacher mostly at UK universities for over fifteen years and has extensive experience in teaching, co-ordinating and leading on a range of modules and courses. He is also an author for Cambridge University Press for whom he has written students' and teachers' books for IELTS exam preparation courses.

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