The IELTS test is tricky. Even students with near-perfect English can succumb to a few misleadingly worded questions. Thankfully, the test uses the same tricks over and over again, so with a little prep, anyone can recognize these tricks and improve their scores.
One such trick happens several times in the Listening Section. When I talk about it with my students, I call it the Wrong/Wrong/Right Question. To explain what I mean, here’s a simplified version of an IELTS Listening question:
The owner believes that the best way to improve his business is to
Now, the listener should recognize the keywords for each choice: manager, marketing, and raises. These are the main ideas for each answer. The listener should be prepared to hear these words or related synonyms. (For example, instead of “marketing,” he could say “advertisements.”)
The IELTS test offers thirty seconds of preparation before each section, so the listener should take this time to identify each of these keywords. He can even circle each keyword if necessary. In a simpler test, all he would need to do is listen for one of these words and circle that answer.
This is where the trick happens. The IELTS recording will include all three possible answers in a wrong/wrong/right pattern. Here’s the example:
“Well, I truly want to improve my business. It would be easy to just increase my employee’s salaries, but I can’t afford that at this time. A simpler solution might be to just fix up our commercials and try to get new customers that way. However, I think the best option for me is to look for a new employee to place in the management position.”
Did you notice all the synonyms? He starts by explaining C, using “increase … salaries” to represent “raises.” Then he says B, replacing “marketing” with “commercials.” Finally, he settles on A, changing “manager” to “employee … in the management position.” Do you see what I mean by Wrong/Wrong/Right? He basically used synonyms to explain all the choices, but the last choice is the correct answer.
Now that you know this trick, try to hear it during all the multiple-choice sections of the Listening Test. Identify your keywords first, then check off the two wrong answers before settling on the right one.