Signpost words in IELTS listening

Signpost words in IELTS listening


NOTE: we recommend you take a look at the post on linking words before beginning this page.

In the listening test, the type of linking words you hear can help you predict the general direction of what you hear. You can tell if points are connected as:

• comparisons
• concessions
• additions
• sequences
• opposites
• cause and effect constructions.

These are called ‘signpost words’ (also ‘discourse markers’), as they are a signpost to tell you what is happening next. Understanding and following signpost words can be a very helpful way to improve your IELTS result as it will help you better follow the conversation.

Listen to the recording. You will hear the first part of a sentence. What point do you think it will be followed by? Write the linking word that helped you decide. The first one has been done for you.

Sentence 1 (example): The next point is likely to be an opposite because of the word although.

Sentence 2: The next point is likely to be   because of the word
Show answer SEQUENCE because of the words ‘NEXT STEP’

Sentence 3: The next point is likely to bebecause of the word
Show answer ADDITION because of the words ‘NO ONLY…BUT ALSO’

Sentence 4: The next point is likely to bebecause of the word
Show answer CONCESSION because of the word ‘ADMITTEDLY’

Sentence 5: The next point is likely to bebecause of the word
Show answer CAUSE/EFFECT because of the words ‘AS A RESULT’

Sentence 6: The next point is likely to bebecause of the word
Show answer COMPARISON because of the words ‘IN THE SAME WAY’

Linking words in listening are only one example of discourse markers – the words and expressions used to show how speech is constructed. They are particularly useful for you in Sections 2 and 4 of the listening test as they indicate changes in the direction of a thought, idea or opinion. That means if you have a question asking about reading ability and the next question is asking about new additions to the school building, then you can expect to hear a discourse marker announcing the change of topic.

Here are some of the more common signpost words and phrases, with their meanings.

First = This it the beginning of a list of points.
Like = An example is going to be given.
Anyway = This could mean a change of subject or nearing the end of the talk.
I mean = The speaker is about to rephrase or give an example.
So = An effect or a result of a previous point is about to be stated.
Moving on = Another point is going to be introduced.
As I said = The speaker is going to recap an earlier point.
To make myself clear = The speaker is going to rephrase a point.
Right = This could mean the speaker is about to begin,change the subject or is nearing the end of the talk.
To put it another way = The speaker is about to rephrase a point.
This isn’t always so = The speaker is about to give exceptions to or contrasts to a previous comment
Now = The speaker is about to begin a new subject.
Talking about that = The speaker is going to expand on a point.

Test your skills! You can either try completing the text below using the list of signpost words presented above then listen, or you could just listen and complete the answers!

(1) I’d like to thank you all again for coming to this meeting, and to say that I have received apologies from Mrs Brownlow, who won’t be able to attend today. (2), I’d like to talk to you about our English language department. (3) in the last meeting, we are looking for some of you to act as mentors for our international students arriving over the coming weeks. Although our college prides itself on having a welcoming environment in which international students can feel at home from the very first day, we know (4). Feelings of homesickness, isolation and loneliness are somewhat unavoidable, but I would like, as much as possible, to reduce these factors by teaming new students with existing students who have been here some time. (5), I am looking for volunteers to show the new students around, introduce them to people and generally ease them into their studies, so if any of you are willing to help, then please come to my office anytime during the week and let me know. (6), I’d also like to talk to you about a temporary teacher who will be joining us for the next week or so. He will be teaching history and sociology, and substituting for Miss Kinsale until her recovery. (7), if anyone
wants to send her a card then just let me know by the end of the day as I will be going to the hospital this evening to visit her. (8), unless there is anything else you want to add, we’ll close the meeting. I hope to see some of you during the week.

Show answer 1. First
2. Now
3. As I said
4. This isn’t always so
5. To put it another way
6. Moving on
7. Talking about that
8. Right

Show All correct answers

In addition to discourse markers, the intonation pattern of the speaker’s voice can also indicate a change of topic. The tone of voice generally falls at the end of one topic, followed by a pause then starts on the next topic in a higher tone.

Here are 2 examples. In the first part, the speaker has clearly indicated that they have finished by having a falling intonation. The second speaker has a rising intonation, indicating more is to come.

Please help us reach more people by sharing!