Vocabulary in the Listening Section

February 23, 2018 by Ashlee Fisher

Having a wide-ranging vocabulary is crucial when doing the listening section of the IELTS test. Knowing how to spell is also vital to getting a good score. Here is some common vocabulary divided by section of the listening test.

Section 1

Section 1 of the listening test contains a variety of basic vocabulary that you would have studied when first learning English.

Days of the week: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday

Quick Tip: Commonly misspelled is the word Wednesday.

Months of the year: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Quick Tip: The first ‘r’ in February is often forgotten.

Colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, black, brown

Quick Tip: Colour spelled with a ‘u’ is the Canadian/British spelling. In the US, it is spelled ‘color’ without a ‘u’. Both are correct and a matter of preference.

Shapes: circle, square, rectangle, triangle, cylinder

Verbs: suggest, develop, borrow, persuade, discuss, review, concentrate, believe, crash

Quick Tip: Sometimes verbs are conjugated for gender, tense, etc. The difference could give you an incorrect answer.

Adjectives: beautiful, necessary, fantastic, comfortable, convenient, wonderful, terrible, temporary, permanent, knowledgeable, various

Transportation: automobile, truck, tractor, subway, aircraft, train

Other words that commonly appear in section 1 of the listening test are numbers, times, and currencies. When recording these words, it is suggested to write the corresponding number or symbol. This will help eliminate the possibility of spelling the word incorrectly.

For example, thirty dollars is the same as $30 on the listening test. Also, six o’clock and 6:00 are the same as well. Finally, ten thousand and 10,000 are also both correct. Writing the number or symbol allows you to feel confident in your answer.

Section 2

There are a variety of question types on section 2 of the IELTS listening test. For example, some questions involve maps so there is vocabulary that may be helpful to know.

Place markers: street, road, avenue, lane, drive, court

Rooms in buildings: kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room, dining room, den, library, gymnasium, cafeteria, classroom, waiting room

When doing a map question in section 2, there are some words that you should be listening for, but you may not have to write down. These words will allow you to follow the map more easily.

Directions: north, south, east, west, up, down, right, left, straight, across from, between, beside, diagonal, corner

Section 3

Section 3 involves academics so being familiar with related vocabulary may be helpful.

Subjects in school: Mathematics, Science, English, Physical Education, Art, Music

Subjects in university: Commerce, Biology, Psychology, Engineering, Marketing, Sociology, Physics, Chemistry, History, Geography, Architecture, Law, Philosophy, Economics

School terms: presentation, project, teamwork, pairs, organization, outline, proofreading, experiment, reference, lecture, assessment, tutor, attendance, specialist, knowledge, faculty, bachelor’s, schedule, management, leadership, questionnaire, statistic, percentage, laboratory

Quick Tip: North Americans pronounce ‘laboratory’ in three syllables: lab-bra-tory. British English speakers pronounce the same word using four syllables: lab-or-a-tory.

Section 4

Although section 4 is the most difficult section, the vocabulary used are still words that are common knowledge. Section 4 is also based on academics, and it will be on a range of topics. Here is some vocabulary that is frequently used.

Continents and Countries: North America, South America, Asia, Africa, Europe, Antarctica, Australia, Oceania, England, Canada, China, United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico, Switzerland

Animals and their habitat: mammals, reptile, primates, predators, prey, mountain, jungle, forest, island, pond, river, stream

Government: politics, senator, mayor, laws, regulations, senate, president, society

Quick Tip: The word ‘society’ is one of the most commonly misspelled words on the IELTS test.

Health: vegetarian, leisure, disease, vitamin, protein, carbohydrates, exercise, treatment

Environment: global warming, disaster, earthquake, tornado, blizzard, hurricane, pollution, temperature, drought

General: appointment, cooperation, employment, government, exhibition, occupation, aluminium, century, decade, millennium, individual, creativity, guarantee, satellite, opportunity, license, frequently, calendar, different

Quick Tip: The words ‘government’ and ‘different’ are also on the list of the most commonly misspelled words on the IELTS test. Also, ‘aluminum’ is pronounced with four syllables in North American English: a-lu-min-num. It is pronounced with five syllables in British English: al-u-min-i-um.

Being knowledgeable on a variety of topics and having a wide range of vocabulary to discuss those topics will help you feel confident, not only on the listening section but also on the rest of the IELTS test.

Ashlee has been involved in the ESL world for over ten years and has now planted her roots in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Nothing gives her more pleasure than watching students and candidates reach their language and IELTS goals.

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