An Important Tip for IELTS Listening

Recently, I have been asked whether synonyms are allowed when answering questions in the IELTS Listening test. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this. If you have been doing lots of practice using past IELTS test papers and going through the answers at the end, you may find that there are strict instructions where you should follow certain conventions. And these are quite commonly found in note-taking tasks. When writing names, for instance, the answer:

  • must be correctly spelled with a capital ‘P’
  • must have capital ‘F’

There are other occasions where certain omissions are also acceptable, as in the example below:

Complete the notes in NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS.
Students may have problems with (1) _____ and attendance.

The correct answer is: deadlines.

However, there can be some flexibility in which similar answers are correct as well. The candidate could also write:

  • meeting deadlines
  • deadlines for essays

but not

  • meeting deadlines for essays, as this answer would go over the three-word limit.

If the candidate has written cutoff dates, time limits, or closing dates, these may be marked wrong, even if they are grammatically correct, have similar meanings to the answer, or meet the word limit.

So, my advice is, to stick to what you hear in the recording. If you don’t hear the word, don’t write it down. There is no place for risk-taking in the IELTS Listening or Reading test. You are asked to provide evidence of what you hear or read, so this is what you should aim to do.

Until next time!

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