A graphic image of a podcast album cover next to the words IELTS listening part 1

IELTS Listening Part 1

Most students think that IELTS Listening Part 1 is the easiest part of the test, but I disagree! I have seen many high-level student lose marks here, which can be a complete disaster if you are aiming for the highest band scores, like an 8.0  for CLB9. So today, I want to show you the 4 most common reasons why students make errors in this part of the test, and explain what you can do to avoid falling for these IELTS “traps”.

This is an interactive episode so please have a pen and piece of paper ready so that you can join in the activities. 

Below, you can find a summary of the episode, which includes all of the links to useful materials and the times of each part of the discussion (so you can go directly to the part you want to listen to) 🚀

Subscribe to My IELTS Classroom podcast on Apple podcasts here 
Subscribe to My IELTS Classroom on Google podcasts here

My IELTS Classroom Podcast Summary: IELTS Listening Part 1

00:00 – 04:51 Introduction (Our IELTS 30 Day Motivation Challenge has ended and the big question is, how much weight has Nick lost?!)  

04:52 – 08:45 Listening Part 1 Basic Facts A quick review of the basic facts for IELTS Listening Part 1. If you are new to IELTS, you may want to go back and listen to our Introduction to IELTS Listening episode to find out more basic information like this about every part of the listening test.

  • like all parts of the IELTS listening test, Part 1 contains 10 questions and you will listen to the recording ONCE to answer them
  • you will have some time before you listen and in the middle of the part to look at the questions
  • Part 1 is always a transactional conversation between two speakers – this means one speaker is usually asking for information from another. The conversations usually involve people doing everyday activities such as booking a holiday or joining a childcare facility. In other words, conversations that you would probably have if you were living in another country.
  • There is no longer an example at the beginning of Part 1,  as this was removed in January this year.
  • The questions in Part 1 almost always include note or table completion and you are usually asked to listen for only one word and / or a number.

08:46 – 22:05 Reason One: The false answer The main reason why students make errors in Part One is that they fall for one of the other plausible answers that IELTS provides. This simply means that for most questions you are likely to hear more than one word that can logically go in the gap. Your job is to follow the conversation to decide which word is the answer and which word / words are the false answers there to confuse you. Let me give you an example. Imagine you are asked to listen for the colour t-shirt the man is going to wear tomorrow, and you hear this conversation:

Woman: Are you going to wear your blue t-shirt tomorrow?

Man: No, it’s in the wash. I thought about wearing my yellow one, but it’s too small since I started going to the gym, so I think it will be the pink.” 

There are three colours here but only ONE is the correct answer (pink!). Once you see this trick, you will notice that IELTS uses it again and again. Why do they do this? To stop weaker students just listening for a key word. If all you are listening for here is “a colour”, you will probably write down the first one that you hear and that is almost never the answer.

So, what do all of these false answers mean for you? Well, I think it means that you shouldn’t write down the first possible answer that you hear because it could be one of these trick false answers. My advice is to keep listening in case you get more information that leads you to change your mind! I have noticed that when students write too soon they are so focused on writing down the false answer that they miss the correct one!

Listening practice answers:  48 North Avenue/  WS6 2YH / 01674 553242 /  £7.50 / 50%

22:36 – 44:45 Reason Two: Numbers Even though counting is often the first thing people learn to do in a foreign language, numbers can be confusing. And Part 1 uses a mix of lots of different numbers:

  • date
  • time
  • telephone number
  • passport number
  • money (cost)
  • percentage

In the episode, Nick and I go through how each of these are spoken and explain what you can do to make sure you get the right answers.

44:46 – 52:43 Reason Three: Spelling Yes, the dreaded spelling! You know that in very IELTS Listening Part 1 there is going to be at least one answer that is spelled to you – usually a name or a street. I have never met a student who doesn’t have a problem with at least one letter in English. Usually it is a vowel sound (a, e,i,o,u) but depending on your first language, it could also be a number of consonants too. Letters that are commonly confused are:

  • a / e
  • j /g
  • m /n
  • u / w

However, as I said, every student is individual, so in the lesson I read four names that contained every letter of the alphabet. Hopefully, you have written those down so you can check them against the correct spelling here:

  • Zina Ng
  • Verity Bowdem
  • Axel Hoptroff
  • Jackie Squier

How many did you get right? If you got all four correct, I salute you and give you a massive round of applause. If you did make some errors, don’t worry! At least now you know the letters that you have problems with. Try to spell words with those letters every day until you can write them without pausing.

Listening practice answers: Yuichini / Keiko / J06337

52:44 – END Reason Four: Lack of Focus! I get emails almost every week from students asking me how they can focus better in the listening exam. Personally, I have only ever struggled with this in IELTS Listening Part 1 because the conversation can be so slow (and frankly so boring!). So, to finish this lesson I have devised a special activity that should force you to focus more on the text.

What is it? You will have to listen to find out! If you have already listened, then let me know if it worked – I really am very interested if you found it useful or not!

Another good way to resolve this issue would be to maybe spend some time each day doing a mindfulness practice. I personally find anything where I have to sit still in one place for more than 5 minutes really boring, but I have been doing these breathing exercises from Wim Hof for almost a month now and I have found them really transformative, so maybe you can have a try as well.

Listening practice answers:  4 / 46 Wombat Road / Monday and Thursday / 8.30 am / red / lunch

In today’s episode, we listened to short clips from seven Cambridge IELTS books:

  1. Cambridge IELTS 8, Test 1, Part 1
  2. Cambridge IELTS 12, Test 8, Part 1
  3. Cambridge IELTS 14, Test 3, Part 1
  4. Cambridge IELTS 12, Test 6, Part 1
  5. Cambridge IELTS 15, Test 1, Part 1
  6. Cambridge IELTS 7, Test 4, Part 1
  7. Cambridge IELTS 10, Test 3, Part 1

I strongly recommend that you use these books to practice as these are genuine past papers and give you the best chance to assess your overall level. Just don’t do test after test after test. Read more in this blog post to find out why! You can purchase these at any good book store in countries across the world.

The front cover or 15 Cambridge IELTS books with a cross through them to signify the worst way to prepare for IELTS reading and listening
Never take multiple tests without reviewing your performance Read more here!

Would you like expert help you improving your Listening?

We offer a 5-day intensive course for IELTS test-takers every month that covers all aspects of listening, from how to approach every type of question, to how to use key words to follow a lecture, and avoid the distractors in Multiple Choice questions. Even better, with every course having no more than 8 students and being run by an ex-examiner, you will be getting personalised advice that is guaranteed to help you to improve your score.

Find out more about the course and how it can help you hit your target score here.

Free IELTS Advice?

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive regular tips, tricks and special offers!