It is time for the listening component of the test. You have got the booklet and the answer sheet and you are clutching that pencil as if your life depended on it. Suddenly, the invigilator hits the Play button of the CD player. For the first five to ten minutes you concentrate to the maximum and write down the answers. But at some point, maybe around half-way through the recordings or just after, your mind seems to drift away. By the time you come back to reality you have missed a couple of answers, at which point your brain goes into overdrive and you have no idea what you have to write and you miss one or two more answers.
This happened to me while taking the test and to a lot of people. Sometimes it is hard to concentrate for long periods in that kind of artificial environment.
There are other reasons for missing answers:
– The testing venue is near a road and traffic noises are suddenly louder than the recording. The test organisers will usually do their best to ensure this does not happen but they cannot stop ambulances or fire trucks from rushing to an emergency.
– Other test takers around you are coughing or sneezing or making noise.
– You have heard a word you are not familiar with and your brain is suddenly struggling to make sense of it, even though it may not be connected to any question.
These are things we cannot control, so you should not let them get to you. Becoming angry or upset on the test day is not going to help you get a good score.
What can you do before the test to prepare?
– Do some practice listening tests and listen without headphones to get used to ambient noises. You can find a lot online these days if you have not got the practice books with CDs.
– Watch the news or documentaries on TV (without captions) or listen to the radio, but not while you are doing something else. Set aside some time for this activity only to see how long you can concentrate to get the gist. You need to be able to do it for 20 minutes or more.
What can you do during the test?
If you have missed some answers, read the text or question again and try to guess them. Most times they will be everyday words and in some cases alternate answers can be accepted as correct. You will not lose any points if you give an incorrect answer.
If you need more help with the IELTS exam, you can find more information about its format and types of questions in Adriana Mucea’s eBooks on this topic, The IELTS for Beginners and The IELTS for Beginners Second Edition. They were written for first time test takers and draw on her experiences as a test taker and a teacher.