Avoiding distractors in the IELTS Listening test
Listening
Avoiding distractors in the IELTS Listening test

Why might you get an answer wrong in the IELTS Listening test? You may not understand a speaker’s accent or the vocabulary they use, you may not be able to keep up with the recording or lose concentration, or you may make a spelling mistake or write too many words for a particular answer. There’s also another common reason IELTS test takers get answers wrong in the Listening test: Distractors! Distractors in the IELTS Listening test A distractor is when an alternative but incorrect answer is included in the recording. For example, in the IELTS Listening Part 1 dialogue below from The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS, there are several dates given but only one is the correct answer to the question ‘What date will they leave?’. A: Right, so, you need to book some flights, is that right? B: Yes, for me and my family. We’re going to Scotland for my sister’s wedding. A: Oh, lovely! When’s the wedding? B: It’s on 21st July. A: That should be wonderful, but I assume you’ll want to fly in earlier? What about the 20th or even the 19th? B: It will have to be the 18th. I’ve actually got to attend a special dinner on the 19th. The answer is, of course, the 18th of July but, if you listened to this under test conditions, you may well write down the first date you hear (21st July) and then start listening for the answer to the next question. All of the alternative dates are distractors and are designed to test that you really understand the details of what you hear rather than only a word, two or three words and/or a number. So, now that you know what a distractor is, how can you avoid choosing them and getting answers wrong that you could get right. How to avoid distractors There are three main ways to avoid distractors:  Before you listen, predict when a question may include a distractor. While you listen, write down all possible answers to each question (if you have time) and cross out the distractors. After you listen, recognise when and why you chose a distractor so you’re less likely to make the same mistake again. Predicting when a question may include a distractor (or more than one) involves knowing the different types of distractor used in the IELTS Listening test. A distractor can be… a suggestion by someone that isn’t taken (like in the example above) a mistake by someone that they or someone else then corrects the opposite to what the question asks a particular word in the question (or in a multiple-choice answer) that’s used in the recording as part of an incorrect answer Look at the four questions below (from Parts 1 to 4 of an IELTS Listening test) and predict what type of distractor could be used for each. For example, in the recording for question 2, the speaker could make a mistake with the day and then correct themselves or say that the day of the visit was Monday last week but will be Tuesday this week. (Click to enlarge) Now listen to the recording, write down each possible answer, cross out the incorrect ones (the distractors) and select the correct ones. (This is something that’s very useful to do when practising parts of a Listening test but that you may not have time to do in your real test).     When you check the answers below, it’s important to recognise whether you chose a distractor and why you chose it as this may prevent you from making the same kind of mistake again. If you chose ‘Tuesday’ for question 2, for example, was it because you heard the word ‘farm’ when the speaker said: “You’ll love the market with all the local farm produce on sale”? Download the transcript and check against the answers below to see if you got these correct and avoided the distractors: (Click to enlarge) Practise these ways to avoid distractors the next time you do a practice Listening test and see your score improve! Pete

Pete Jones

24 September, 2020

Avoiding distractors in the IELTS Listening test

Avoiding distractors in the IELTS Listening test

Why might you get an answer wrong in the IELTS Listening test?

You may not understand a speaker’s accent or the vocabulary they use, you may not be able to keep up with the recording or lose concentration, or you may make a spelling mistake or write too many words for a particular answer.

There’s also another common reason IELTS test takers get answers wrong in the Listening test: Distractors!

Distractors in the IELTS Listening test

A distractor is when an alternative but incorrect answer is included in the recording.

For example, in the IELTS Listening Part 1 dialogue below from The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS, there are several dates given but only one is the correct answer to the question ‘What date will they leave?’.

  • A: Right, so, you need to book some flights, is that right?
  • B: Yes, for me and my family. We’re going to Scotland for my sister’s wedding.
  • A: Oh, lovely! When’s the wedding?
  • B: It’s on 21st July.
  • A: That should be wonderful, but I assume you’ll want to fly in earlier? What about the 20th or even the 19th?
  • B: It will have to be the 18th. I’ve actually got to attend a special dinner on the 19th.

The answer is, of course, the 18th of July but, if you listened to this under test conditions, you may well write down the first date you hear (21st July) and then start listening for the answer to the next question.

All of the alternative dates are distractors and are designed to test that you really understand the details of what you hear rather than only a word, two or three words and/or a number.

So, now that you know what a distractor is, how can you avoid choosing them and getting answers wrong that you could get right.

How to avoid distractors

There are three main ways to avoid distractors: 

  1. Before you listen, predict when a question may include a distractor.
  2. While you listen, write down all possible answers to each question (if you have time) and cross out the distractors.
  3. After you listen, recognise when and why you chose a distractor so you’re less likely to make the same mistake again.

Predicting when a question may include a distractor (or more than one) involves knowing the different types of distractor used in the IELTS Listening test.

A distractor can be…

  • a suggestion by someone that isn’t taken (like in the example above)
  • a mistake by someone that they or someone else then corrects
  • the opposite to what the question asks
  • a particular word in the question (or in a multiple-choice answer) that’s used in the recording as part of an incorrect answer

Look at the four questions below (from Parts 1 to 4 of an IELTS Listening test) and predict what type of distractor could be used for each. For example, in the recording for question 2, the speaker could make a mistake with the day and then correct themselves or say that the day of the visit was Monday last week but will be Tuesday this week.

Listening Practice - Avoiding Distractors

(Click to enlarge)

Now listen to the recording, write down each possible answer, cross out the incorrect ones (the distractors) and select the correct ones. (This is something that’s very useful to do when practising parts of a Listening test but that you may not have time to do in your real test).

 

 

When you check the answers below, it’s important to recognise whether you chose a distractor and why you chose it as this may prevent you from making the same kind of mistake again.

If you chose ‘Tuesday’ for question 2, for example, was it because you heard the word ‘farm’ when the speaker said: “You’ll love the market with all the local farm produce on sale”?

Download the transcript and check against the answers below to see if you got these correct and avoided the distractors:

Listening Practice Answers from Pete

(Click to enlarge)

Practise these ways to avoid distractors the next time you do a practice Listening test and see your score improve!

Pete

Pete Jones

Pete has been helping IELTS test takers and teachers for many years and really enjoys helping people improve their English and their IELTS band score.

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