• christopherianwils

IELTS Listening: Short Answer Questions

Updated: Apr 20

The IELTS Listening test sample in this lesson is a short answer question. These come up regularly in the exam and can appear in any section of the test. They are particularly common in Section 2 which will be a monologue set in an everyday social context, for example, a welcome talk for new college students.

You must listen to the recording and write a short answer in each blank space provided. Sometimes, more than one answer will be required, for example,

What are the TWO major concerns new students have regarding accommodation?

Here are two IELTS Listening test sample questions to give you an idea of what to expect.

The first is from a past test paper and the second has been created specifically to teach you the strategy for answering this type of question and to illustrate some tips.


IELTS Listening Test Sample – Question 1


IELTS Listening Test Sample – Question 2


We’ll be using this second example as our IELTS Listening test sample question to practice the strategy and tips I’m about to show you.



Strategy & Tips

You will have a short time to prepare before the speakers begin talking. Use this time to familiarise yourself with the question and focus your mind on what you need to listen out for.

1) Read the instructions

Read the instructions carefully, paying particular attention to how many words you are allowed to write for the answer as this does vary.

The instructions for our sample question state that you must,


Write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER for each answer.

If you write more than three words, your answer will be marked incorrect even if the information you give is correct.

Instructions do vary and the limit could be TWO WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER or ONLY ONE WORD, so don’t get caught out.


2) Answer order

The answers will come in the same order in the recording as they are listed in the question so, for this question, you will hear answer 1 first, then answer 2 and so on. This makes it easier to pick out the answers than if they were in a random order.



3) Predict the answers

Try to predict what the answers might be. This will focus your mind on what to listen out for in the recording.

Occasionally, you’ll be able to predict the actual word but mostly it’s one or more of these things that you’ll be able to determine:

  • The type of information required, e.g. name, date, time, phone number, address, price.

  • The type of word required, e.g. noun, adjective, verb.


Any clues you can get will help you to understand the audio and identify the information needed for the answers.

Have a go at predicting some of the answers in our short answer question. Then have a look at my predictions below.

Here are the questions:


There aren't enough clues in the questions in this instance to guess any of the words but we can make these predictions:


Predictions

1 – a time

2 to 5 – a noun (& adjective?)



4) Synonyms and paraphrasing

Synonyms and paraphrasing will be used extensively in the recording. So, you will not only be listening for the exact words that are used in the questions but also, different words and phrases that have the same meaning.

In your preparation time, scan the questions and underline key words that are likely to be replaced by synonyms or paraphrased. Then, quickly think of words that might be used instead.

I’ve underlined some important key words in our practice question. Can you think of some synonyms for them or ways the information might be paraphrased?


  • What time does the farm park open?

  • Which TWO attractions are most popular with visitors?

  • Name TWO improvements that are planned for the venue next season.


We’ll look at the synonyms and paraphrasing that have actually been used when we review the answers.



5) Problematic vocabulary

There are 6 types of vocabulary that can cause particular problems for students and some of them are regularly used in short answer questions. The 6 types are:

  • Time

  • Numbers

  • Prices

  • Dates

  • Letters

  • Addresses


You must be able to recognise them in speech and to write them correctly in your answers.



6) Watch out for distractors

The examiners may try and catch you out with distractors. A distractor is a word or a phrase that changes or corrects the original piece of information given. So, you may be given an answer and then have it taken away again.

Here are some sample sentences containing distractors. I’ve highlighted the relevant words.


  • For most of the year, we are open from 9.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. but now that the dark days of December have arrived, we welcome visitors from 10 a.m. and close at 4 o’clock.

  • The birds of prey have long been our favourite display with visitors. However, this year the sheepdog trials have proved even more popular.

  • Entrance price was £6.50 per person until May 1st when it increased by 20p to £6.70.


The use of ‘but’ and ‘however’ are particularly common distractors but there are many different words and phrases that can be used to change or correct a piece of information so be alert for them.



7) Guess if necessary

My final tip is to never leave a blank space on the answer sheet. If you miss an answer, take an educated guess. This gives you at least some chance of getting it right. Don’t stress about a missed answer or it will affect your ability to answer the next set of questions. Just make your choice and move on.

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