I am sure that you have experienced the problem of hearing the correct answers in IELTS Listening just to find out that your recording of them on the answer sheet is not exactly the same as the key and frustratingly your overall score is much lower than it should be!
This is indeed a tragedy but it is also a very common occurrence. I see students again and again failing to reach their desired score simply because they didn’t take enough care in writing down their answers.
These errors can manifest themselves in many ways and it is worth being extra vigilant when you transfer your answers so you don’t throw away points. This transfer time is also an opportunity to check anything you had a doubt about as you write down your answers. Generally during the test there isn’t time to do this.
Transferring your answers is a part of the test so it’s a good idea to practise it as part of your listening preparation.
Here are the main areas where mistakes in transferring answers can happen:
Unless the word is quite uncommon in which an approximate spelling may be accepted, all spelling errors are counted as wrong answers. It is therefore important to use correct spellings. UK and US spellings are acceptable but it is probably best to be consistent in which version you use. Check your own spelling.
Are there words which you generally write incorrectly? If so then make sure you learn these so that you don’t make the mistake in your test. We, as native speakers spend a lot of our primary education on spelling and learning spellings as in English this can be tricky so, there are no short-cuts you simply have to memorise the spellings. In the long run it will be worthwhile for writing as well as listening.
Grammar is important in language and where a grammatically correct answer is required it will be wrong if you don’t produce this. The main question types where this is key are sentence completion, short answers and any kind of summary (more common in reading than listening). This is because these are cohesive as opposed to note-writing so must be complete phrases or sentences. Sometimes you may need to change what you hear slightly and the question will tell you this.
If you hear a singular noun but the question doesn’t have an article you may need to make the word plural. It will not be too hard to do this as you have very little time in the listening to put down your answers but understanding the need to change to fit the grammar is part of good English and this is one thing you can double check when you transfer answers.
Deciding on the number of words can be hard at times. The instructions will inform you of the maximum but it may be 2, 3 or just 1, even when there is a 3-word limit. You need to decide whether you hear 3 words that go together and if you need them all (or just 2 words). Often students will write down the two or three words they hear and not take enough notice of the question.
This results in repeating a word and sometimes also making a grammar errors which will lose the question even though the main information is correct. Time is limited during the listening test but again you can check these things when you transfer answers. The examiner will take the answer at face value – they will know that you have inadvertently repeated the word but they are only interested in whether the answer is correct and as it stands, with a repeated word, it isn’t.
This is opposite to the point above. How do you know whether to use 1,2 or 3 words. The question should tell you. Remember nouns are generally plural with an ‘s’ or they need an article. Where you have a table or chart look at the options which are already there and follow this as a guide – if the words are all plural make yours plural too if possible.
There is often, in the listening test, more than one way to answer and as long as just using one or two words makes sense than you should be ok. At the end of the day it’s about the language and whether your answers fit the question and are well-expressed.
The more you practise, the more you should get a feel for this.
Some students decide to write everything in capitals so as not to make any mistakes in punctuation – this may land you in hot water with some questions. Punctuation is part and parcel of writing well in English and so the best course of action is to follow the rules of punctuation – names of people and places, the first word in a sentence (in a sentence completion for example) should have capital letters.
Again the question paper may give a you a guide for your answers but if not then just stick to the conventions. It’s better to be safe than sorry.