IELTS Listening – Vowel Problems (Mini-tip)

Do you speak a language where the vowel sounds are different from English when we spell words?


English A = /eɪ/ like way     E = /i:/ like me       I = /aɪ/ like why       O =  /əʊ/ like no       U = /ju:/ like university

Spanish A = /æ/ like cat      E = /eɪ/ like way    I = /i:/ like me           O = /ɒ/ like what     U = /u:/ like food

Other problem letters can be g / j and f /v.

In part 1 of the listening, you will often have to listen to people spelling names and addresses, and you will have to write the correct spelling of these words. This can be a problem if your alphabet has sounds which are mixed up with English sounds.


I saw one of my students today write the sounds of the vowels and g / j at the top of her question paper right at the beginning of an IELTS listening practice paper. She is Spanish and she wrote:

a = ei   e = eeeee    i = ai   o = phone    u = you     g = jeeee     j = jay

She then got the correct answers on the part 1 spelling, having previously found these really difficult!

Give it a try!


IELTS Listening – Matching Tasks

Have a look at this task. I’ve found that it can sometimes confuse students because there is a lot of information to follow. A few simple tips should help with this task.

Listening Task Type 6

You can’t remember all the information in A-G, so stressing about keywords and synonyms won’t help much. Instead, have a quick read of the questions, then forget them!

  • As you listen, make a few notes next to each name as it appears.
  • After the end of the task (during your 30 seconds checking time), match your notes to the letters. Then, complete this part during your ten minutes transfer time at the end of the test.

My current students have found this technique very helpful – give it a go in your next class or self-study period!


IELTS listening – spelling tips

As you know, incorrect spelling in the IELTS listening results in a wrong answer. Even one letter wrong will mean a wrong answer. Here are a few tips to help you.

  • Dates – write the dates like this: number + ordinal + month, so…… 14th January. Get in to the habit and then you won’t confuse yourself by having too many choices. Then, make sure you can spell the months. These are:

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Now, check you know the days!

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday

There are other ways to write the dates that will get you marks, but I think it’s sensible to choose one system and stay with it.

  • Pronunciation practice – part one. There will almost always be a number than ends in ‘-teen’ or ‘-ty’ because the pronunciation difference is quite small. Practise saying these: 15 / 50, 16 / 60 etc. Notice that the stress on ‘-teen’ words is on the second sound and the stress on ‘-ty’ words is on the first sound.
  • Spelling practice – I have heard teachers tell students that if there are any names, then they will be spelt for you. This isn’t completely true. Names will be spelt for you unless the sound matches the spelling, or it is a common word that you should know. Learn how to spell these surnames:

Smith, Jones, Walker, Brown, Green, Davis, Johnson

Now, take a look at this map (click on it and it will enlarge):

IELTS listening map spelling

You can see lots of street names here. If you look at all the streets that start with “Harold”, the second words are very common. You need to learn the following:

Mount, Avenue, Crescent, Road, View, Walk, Place, Grove, Terrace, Street, Place, Rise

Don’t worry about the meaning – it’s not particularly important. You will be expected to spell these without help though.

  • ‘s’ or no ‘s’?! You need to listen carefully to check if words are plural or not. If you miss the ‘s’, you will lose your mark.

Just to check…. can you spell these words (and do you know what they sound like)?

Accommodation (uncountable), language, university / universities, fortnight (learn this word – it means “two weeks” and often appears), budget, assignment, essay, square, government, authority / authorities, library / libraries, scientist, luggage (uncountable)

I hope this helps you!