Category Archives: IELTS Listening (lessons)

Predicting and anticipating in the IELTS listening test

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Predicting and anticipating in the IELTS listening test

Predicting and anticipating in the IELTS listening testAs the listening begins, you hear a voice on the recording telling you what section you are about to complete, as well as the question numbers. Then you are given a short amount of time to read the questions (more about timing here).

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During this preparation time, it is important that you read the questions, thinking about some of the language you might hear so that you can predict the approximate type of answer.

Here is a typical set of questions for a Section 1  recording:

APPLICATION FORM

NAME: Mary ________(1)
ADDRESS: _______(2), Lansdale Street, Meldon, Warwickshire
TELEPHONE NUMBER: ______________(3)
REQUIRED MEMBERSHIP TIME: ___________________(4)
MEMBERSHIP TYPE Circle as appropriate: FULL / GYM AND SWIMMING / GYM ONLY (5)
HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT US? ____________________(6)

Using the time you are given before the speakers begin, you should be able to logically predict or anticipate the following information:

General: the title of the questions says application form, so this is someone who is joining or enrolling in something. Question 5 refers to a gym so logically it is a gym enrolment form. It is likely to be for new members, not a renewal of membership because it is asking for basic personal questions.

Question 1: The answer here is likely to be a family name. Listening for ‘Mary’ will also be a useful indicator, as generally people in English speaking countries state their first name followed by their last name (in some cultures, it is common to use the family name first).

Question 2: This is likely to be a number (e.g. 14) or a number and a letter (e.g. 14 A), because the street address is given afterwards, followed by the suburb and the county.

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Question 3: This is highly likely to be a string of numbers, possibly including an area code.

Question 4: The answers here are given – it will be FULL, GYM AND SWIMMING or GYM ONLY

Question 5: Looking at this logically, the answer is likely to be something like ‘From a newspaper’, ‘On the internet’, ‘From a friend’ or something similar.

Important note: KEEP AN OPEN MIND!

Although it is essential to use the time you are given to predict or anticipate some of the answers, it is very important that you listen closely for the unexpected. For example, it is possible that for TELEPHONE NUMBER, the person may not have a telephone, meaning that the answer could be ‘NONE’.

Test yourself

Look at the following form and predict as much as you can. Remember that you will have a limit on the number of words, so think of possible answers that do not go beyond the limit.
Complete the following using NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS OR A NUMBER.
Evening Classes for Adults

a Courses will run for _____ .
b Maximum of _____ students per class.
c Cost will depend on _____
d Those interested should contact _____ Edwards on 263-8147.
e Evening courses will be held at the _____ .

Now listen to the recording and fill in the missing information USING NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND / OR A NUMBER

Predicting and anticipating

Predicting and anticipating for pictures / diagrams

Predicting and anticipating in the listening is also useful when you have to select a picture or diagram in a multiple-choice question. Look at the pictures below – they have the same context but there are obvious differences, and spending a few seconds thinking of those differences can help you identify the correct answer.

predicting-anticipating-listening

Click here to see some of the points you could have noted.

Legs – straight in picture A, left leg bent in pictures B and C

Head – faces straight down in picture A, to the side in pictures B and C and forward in picture D

Golf club – vertical to the floor in picture A and C, horizontal above the head in picture B and behind the back in picture D.

 

 

IELTS listening multiple choice questions

IELTS listening multiple choice questions

In both the reading and the listening test, one question type you may be required to answer is multiple choice, where you have to choose the correct answer from three or four given options.

There are two basic styles of multiple choice question:

1. Answering a short question

Example: What did the student say about the lecture?
A. It was boring.
B. He couldn’t understand.
C. He had heard it before.
D. He disagreed with the lecturer.

2. Completing a sentence

Example: One of the most notable changes in our leisure time is that
A. we have longer holidays
B. we get paid more for our holidays
C. people are increasingly going abroad.

Tip 1: Highlight the differences

Multiple choice in the IELTS test can be difficult because very often there is no grammatical or logical reason to reject any of the answers. When the answers have similarities and differences, the first thing you can do is highlight the differences between the options. Also remember that in most questions, parallel expressions may be used to express the same information

For example, in the question below, listening only for the word flower is obviously not good enough, as all the options include that word. Instead, concentrate on the differences between them – in this case, it is the colours.

The pohutukawa tree has…

A. yellow flowers
B. dark orange flowers
C. red flowers.

 

Tip 2: think of parallel expressions

In some multiple-choice questions, however, there are no real similarities. In this case, the second thing you can do is think of other ways the information may be expressed. Look at the example below.

Question: What does Professor Roberts say about sports injuries?

A. Apply an ice pack to the injured area
B. Bandage the area firmly and rest
C. Call for medical help only in serious cases

  • Option A could be rephrased as: Put/press / something cold/frozen / painful/hurt
  • Option B could be rephrased as: Wrap/bind tightly/hard / relax/sit down
  • Option C could be rephrased as: Contact the doctor/ an ambulance / not trivial/light

 

Tip 3: All options may be mentioned

It is common in the IELTS listening test to hear a reference to some or all of the options in the multiple choice question, but only one answer will be correct. Be careful to think about what is being said, what is being contradicted (directly or indirectly) and what is not exactly being said.

Here’s an example:

Question:

The doctor says the patient…

  1. should take regular exercise
  2. should not spend any time standing
  3. should stay in bed as much as possible
  4. should not go back to work yet

Transcript:

“Well, you are certainly looking better than the last time I saw you. For the next few weeks, I recommend that you do some gentle exercise but only when you feel you have the energy. Try to spend some time on your feet rather than keeping immobile for too long. At this point, I would suggest arranging for another week away from work.”

1. should take regular exercise

This is not exactly what is being said. The speaker says ‘only when you have the energy’, so therefore not ‘regularly’

2. should not spend any time standing

This is directly contradicted. The speaker says ‘try to spend some time on your feet’.

3. should stay in bed as much as possible

This is indirectly contradicted. The speaker says ‘rather than keeping immobile for too long’, which is an indirect way of saying not staying still, in bed.

4. should not go back to work yet

This is correct. The speaker says ‘I would suggest arranging for another week away from work’

 

Tip 4: Be sure to match the whole meaning of the option

In the IELTS test (both listening and reading), it is important to match the whole meaning of the option. To illustrate, look at the question below and the notes the candidate  has made. What’s wrong with the notes?

Sports psychologist Dr Johnson argues that today’s top athletes

A. win because of a positive mental attitude         CANDIDATES NOTES: They feel positive.
B. occasionally use performance-enhancing drugs       CANDIDATES NOTES: They take drugs.
C. are under considerable pressure from the media.       CANDIDATES NOTES: They talk to people from newspapers, etc.

What's wrong with the notes?
  • A. The candidate’s notes do not refer to ‘win‘ which is an essential part of the option
  • B. ‘occasionally’ has been ignored
  • C. they don’t talk to, they are under considerable pressure from

 

Now practice with this short test. Use the 4 tips above to answer this question. Listen to the recording and put a letter (A–D) in each of the columns below.

According to the speaker, why do more people rent rather than buy their houses?
A Most people do not have the money to put down as a deposit.
B There are fewer worries about maintenance and repairs.
C Job mobility means people do not want to make long-term commitments.
D There is a risk of buying a house and losing money.

The correct answer
Show answerC – ‘fluidity in the job market’

Directly contradicted
Show answer D – ‘house prices are stable’, a direct contradiction to losing money.

Indirectly contradicted
Show answer A –  ‘This is not a reflection of financial pressures’ which indirectly means ‘do not have the money’ is not correct.

Not exact
Show answer B – ‘there is no need to worry’ is not an exact match for ‘fewer worries’

 

Show the transcriptGiven the general standard of living in New Zealand, many people are surprised by the decline in the level of home ownership over the last 15 years the number of homeowners has fallen by over 7%, yet this is not a reflection of financial pressures. House prices in New Zealand are relatively stable, so there is no need to worry about a house losing value, and few people are dissuaded by the cost of maintenance on the building itself. The reason for the increasing popularity of renting is in fact the result of fluidity in the job market, and the fact that obligations involved in a house often tie people to specific locations which do not support this lifestyle.

Now test your skills with this complete practice exercise

 

IELTS short answer questions

IELTS short answer questions in the listening test

IELTS short answer questions in the listening test

IELTS short answer questionsIn the listening test, one of the common types of questions are short answer questions, where you have to write one, two or three words or a number as an answer.

As with all question types, make sure you read the question instructions carefully before you answer. Do not write more than the number of words / numbers the question asks for. Generally the instructions and limits on word numbers are written in CAPITAL LETTERS, with bold and italic script.

For example: Answer the following questions USING NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS

If you write three words for the answer here, your answer will be marked as wrong even if you have included the two words that are correct. However, it is OK to use only one word.

Here are some common instructions for this type of question:

Answer the following questions USING NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS

This means the answers will be either one or two words.

Answer the following questions USING NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS OR A NUMBER

This means that at least one of the answers will be just a number – a useful tip!

Answer the following questions USING NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS AND / OR A NUMBER

This means that at least one of the answers will include a number and probably another word as well

Answer the following questions USING NO MORE THAN ONE WORD

This means that all of the answers are single words only

Practice with this short answer style sample

Listen to the recording and answer the three questions below:

Short answer questions in the listening test

Free IELTS listening practice


Tips and hints for IELTS short answer questions in the listening test

One of the most useful techniques with this type of question is to look at the question word being used. In the three questions above, the questions words are ‘What (festival)’, ‘when’ and ‘how many’. This should tell you that you are looking for the name of the something for the first answer, a date or time for the second answer and a number for the third answer.

Here are some common question words and the type of information they are most likely looking for.

Who – A name, a person, a company, a group or community, an institution, a job title

When – A date, a time, a part of the day (morning, evening etc)

Where – A place, a location

Why – A reason, an explanation

What – A thing, a name

Which – One of a given or limited choice

How – A description

How many – A number of times

How often – A frequency (monthly, daily, every hour etc)


Now practice a more difficult example by answering the 5 questions below.

Answer the following questions USING NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND / OR A NUMBER

Short answer questions in the listening test #2

Free IELTS listening practice test

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Listening – writing numbers as answers

IELTS listening – writing numbers as answers

numbersIn the listening test, some answers may be in number form. Often, the instructions will indicate whether a number is required if it states NO MORE THAN (ONE/TWO/THREE) WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER. When transferring your answer, make sure you write it correctly as often an easy point is lost for making a simple mistake.

  • One thousand = 1000
  • Half a million = 500 000
  • One million = 1 000 000
  • One billion = 1 000 000 000*
  • One trillion = 1 000 000 000 000*

*British English and American used to have different numbers for billion and trillion. However, they have been standardised since 1975. Thanks go to Asha for this update!

Practice by converting the words below into numbers  (NOTE: these are slightly harder than anything you will need to do for the IELTS test).

Example: Four thousand six hundred and eighty two = 4682

  1. Twelve thousand six hundred and eighteen Show answer
    12618
  2. Seventeen thousand and two Show answer
    17002
  3. Seventy four thousand two hundred and seventy two Show answer
    74272
  4. Eight million four hundred thousand Show answer
    8400000
  5. One million, four hundred and twenty-two thousand six hundred and nineteen Show answer
    1422619
  6. Eight hundred and eighteen million six hundred and fourteen thousand Show answer
    818614000

About the IELTS listening test

The IELTS Listening test

*Note that the listening test is the same for the General Training and Academic Module test

Timing and requirements

About the IELTS listening testThere are four sections in the IELTS listening test, with each section having one recording. The recordings are approximately 6 minutes long, and you need to answer 10 questions in each section. At the end of all four sections, you are given 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. This is important, as it means you shouldn’t waste time during the recordings writing answers neatly on the answer sheet; instead, use this time to pre-read the questions for the next recording.

IMPORTANT TIP: there is a short break in the middle of the recording for Sections 1, 2 and 3. However, there is NO break in Section 4 – this will play through from the beginning to the end. The sections become progressively more difficult, with Section 1 being approximately pre-intermediate level and Section 4 being an advanced level.

Specific timings for the IELTS listening test

  1. Introduction and one example: around 45 seconds
  2. Break: 30 seconds to pre read the first set of questions for Section 1
  3. First part of Section 1: around 3 minutes
  4. Break: 30 seconds to pre read the second set of questions for Section 1
  5. Second part of Section 1: around 3 minutes
  6. Break: 30 seconds to check your answers for Section 1
  7. Section 2 is announced: about 5 seconds
  8. Break: 30 seconds to pre read the first set of questions for Section 2
  9. First part of Section 2: around 3 minutes
  10. Break: 30 seconds to pre read the second set of questions for Section 2
  11. Second part of Section 2: around 3 minutes
  12. Break: 30 seconds to check your answers for Section 2
  13. Section 3 is announced: about 5 seconds
  14. Break: 30 seconds to pre read the first set of questions for Section 3
  15. First part of Section 3: around 3 minutes
  16. Break: 30 seconds to pre read the second set of questions for Section 3
  17. Second part of Section 3: around 3 minutes
  18. Break: 30 seconds to check your answers for Section 3
  19. Section 4 is announced: about 5 seconds
  20. Break: 40 seconds to pre read ALL questions for Section 4
  21. Section 4 played without a break: around 7  minutes
  22. Break: 10 minutes to transfer your answer to the answer sheet

The difference between the sections in the IELTS listening test

Section 1 is a conversation between two people on a non-academic subject. For example, it could be two people talking about membership to a library or a shop assistant talking to a csutomer about a product. Section 2 is a single speaker talking about a non-academic subject, such as buying your own home or a presentation about a holiday destination. Section3 is a conversation between two or more people about an academic subject, such as completing an assignment or working together on a project. Section 4 is a single speaker discussing an academic subject, such as academic regulations at a university.

Recordings are played once only

You only hear each recording once, with the exception of the first example in section 1. All sections of the test have approximately 30 seconds reading time before the recording begins and 30 seconds after the recording ends to pre-read the questions or check your answers. In sections 1 to 3, there is a pause midway through the recording for you to pre-read the remaining questions in the section. In section 4, there is no break in the recording.

IELTS listening test question types

  1. Short answer questions
  2. Sentence completion questions
  3. Form/summary/table/flowchart/notes completion questions
  4. Labelling a diagram
  5. Matching and classifying
  6. Multiple choice

What accents do they use for IELTS listening?

The IELTS test is not a purely British English test. You can expect to hear a range of a accents – British, American, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and even non-native English speaking English. It is important to use a range of different sources in your IELTS preparation so that you can become familiar with them. However, you will NOT be required to distinguish between accents.

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IELTS listening improving your result

IELTS listening improving your result

So you’ve practiced, you’ve listened to the radio, taken practice tests, you’ve even taken the IELTS test – often a number of times – and you’re still not getting the result you’re looking for in the IELTS listening test. What’s going wrong?

Here’s a handy 7 point checklist for IELTS listening to work through when taking practice tests to help you identify your weakness and strengths.

1. Using the available time

Throughout the listening, there are breaks in the recording where the narrator will tell you ‘You have now time to…’. Some of these breaks are to give you time to read the next set of questions, but there are also breaks given so you can check your answers from the previous part. Although checking your answers is important, remember that you have 10 minutes at the end of the test for this too, so spend the majority of the ‘free’ time you are given moving on to the next set of questions. The more prepared you are for what is coming, the better the result will be.

DO: use the time given to check upcoming questions.

DON’T: spend too much reviewing answers you have already written down.

2. Did you answer all of the questions?

Never leave an answer empty! In the 10 minutes given at the end of the listening test, put an answer that (a) seems logical (b) suits the requirements of the question – e.g. if the instructions say NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS, your answer isn’t three words (c) very often is a word or words from the text. Remember that you do not lose points for giving the wrong answer, so there’s no harm in taking an educated guess!

DO: Put an answer for EVERY question

DON’T: leave an answer key blank

3. Is there one particular question type that is causing more difficulty than others?

By looking at your answers, check if there is a particular question type that you seem to make more errors with more often than others. For example, did you know that most multiple choice questions will have at least part of each option mentioned? Knowing some tips and hints for each question type can definitely help.

DO: identify question types that you find difficult, study any tips and hints about those question types, practice them repeatedly

DON’T: keep making the same errors with the same question type!

4. For questions you answer incorrectly, do you understand why the given answers are correct and why your answer was incorrect?

Analysing your own work, focusing on the answers you got wrong, retracing why you put that answer and spending time looking at why the correct answer was correct will help you work a lot faster through the listening test. Taking practice tests is a good plan, but you need to spend at least the same amount of time working through the test after you know the answers. Reading through the transcript where available (let us know in the comments section if we’re missing a transcript!) while listening to the recording again can help you improve your overall listening ability.

DO: spend as much time analysing your incorrect answers as you did taking the test, even if that means playing the recording or reading the transcript repeatedly until you can see the logic of the correct answer.

DON’T: simply move on to a new practice test hoping it will improve – without looking at your own mistakes, your result is likely to stay the same!

5. Maintain your focus by using active listening

This is a tricky skill to master for IELTS as you are not allowed to make any noise, but ‘active listening’ means being a part of the conversation or monologue that you are listening to. Imagine you are there as part of the discussion – what are the speakers wearing? How old are they? Are they smiling or looking stern? By imagining yourself in the recording, it’s a lot easier to keep focused and stay with the flow of the conversation. You can nod your head, smile in agreement or shake your head in disagreement – all of these actions have the ability to fool your brain into thinking that you are there, and natural good manners means you will keep listening rather than drifting of thinking about other things.

DO: Become an active (although silent) part of the conversation

DON’T: think of yourself in a room taking a test

6. Always be one question ahead

So you’re listening carefully for the answer to Question 2, which you’re sure is a person’s name, but you don’t hear it. Then you find that you’ve been waiting for the name for so long that you’ve missed the next two questions! To avoid this, be prepared by knowing what the next question is too. If you hear the answer to Question 3 before you hear the answer to Question 2, then you’ll just have to accept that you missed it and move on – losing one point is better than losing two or more because you lost your place!

DO: know what the next TWO questions are

DON’T: focus only on the next question

7. Make the question paper your own

Once the test is finished, the test invigilator will collect all of the papers on your desk. However, your answer paper is separated from the questions and the markers will not see what you have written on the question paper, so make a mess of it! Underline key words, put large circles around qualifying words – even write synonyms for words you think might be rephrased.

DO: Write on your question paper; underline / circle key words

DON’T: leave your question paper in a neat and tidy state!

 

We hope the 7 point checklist helps, but we’re always open to new ideas, so if you have a technique you think would benefit other IELTS candidates!

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IELTS listening multiple choice questions practice exercise 1

IELTS listening multiple choice questions practice exercise 1

Before attempting this exercise, make sure you have read this page about multiple choice questions in IELTS listening.

Listen to the recording and answer the 6 questions below:

Multiple choice listening

Free IELTS listening multiple choice

Tips for IELTS listening

Tips for IELTS listening

On this page are tips for listening in the IELTS test. If you have a question or a tip that you think would benefit others, let us know using the message form at the bottom of the page.

*Note that the listening test is the same for the General Training and Academic Module test

 

tips-for-ielts-listeningSpeaker giving the wrong answer first

One of the common traps in the IELTS listening test  is when a speaker makes a statement which is then changed. For example: ‘My phone number is 833 6634 – oh no, sorry, that’s my old number – my new number is 356 8232′. It is important to keep listening to the following sentence or two to confirm that the answer has not changed in any way.

Keeping focused on the listening

A common issue with the IELTS listening test is not staying focused on the recording so that you catch the answer when it comes. It is surprising how often, even though you are serious about passing the IELTS test, your mind can start to wander when listening to a recorded conversation, and you can easily miss an answer. One technique to help is to imagine that you are actually part of the conversation, even though you are not actually saying anything. Think about where they are, how old you think the speaker or speakers are, what they are wearing etc. By putting yourself ‘in the picture’, it is often easier to keep focused.

Always be two questions ahead

Having only the next question in your mind as you are listening means that you can lose points quickly – if you miss the answer, you may find yourself waiting and waiting, only to find that the answer has gone as well as the next two or three answers. Get into the habit of planning the next questions ahead. For example, if you are waiting for the answer to Question 3, also make sure you know what is required for Question 4 – if you hear the answer to Question 4 first, then you have already missed Question 3 (the answers come in order). You may have lost a point, but at least you are back on track.

Pre-read the questions

In between Sections 1, 2 and 3, there is a short break for you to read the questions, but at the end of each of these sections, you are also given half a minute to check your answers. Although it is worth having a quick check to make sure you have an answer for each question, this time should be spent pre-reading the next set of questions, not reading old answers. The more prepared you are for the next set of questions, the better your results. Remember that you are given time at the end of the recording to transfer your answers to the answer paper, so don’t worry about writing neatly on your question paper.

Highlighting key words

In the time you have to pre-read the questions, make sure you are highlighting key vocabulary or points that you think will help you identify the correct answers. You are given a question paper and a separate answer sheet, so you can write on, underline, circle or otherwise mark your question paper as you see fit. Underlining or circling key words will help you stay focus and be clear about what you are listening for.

ALWAYS write an answer

You are not penalised in the IELTS test for an incorrect answer in the listening or reading sections, so even if you are not sure or don’t know, always write something, even if it’s just a guess. You might get lucky, and it certainly won’t harm!

IELTS Listening for personal information

IELTS Listening for personal information

You should also take a look at the lesson ‘Listening for details in IELTS

In the first section of the IELTS listening test, it is common to have to take a note of some personal information from one of the speakers. This can be there name, their address, a telephone number or other similar details.

IELTS Listening for personal informationIn this section of the test, it is also common for the speaker to spell a word (for example, that speaker may say ‘I live in Arlene Road, that’s A – R – L – E – N – E Road’.).

Here are just some of the points you may need to listen out for when listening for personal information:

  • Surname / Family name
  • Other names (this could include nicknames of abbreviations)
  • Telephone number
  • Current occupation
  • Marital status (e.g. single, divorced, married, separated)
  • Educational qualifications
  • D.O.B (date of birth)
  • Nationality
  • Current address

These questions can often be the easiest way to pick up points in the IELTS listening test, but points can also be lost for not spelling the answer correctly. Practice by listening to the recording below and putting the word you hear in the boxes below. To simulate the real IELTS test, don’t pause the recording – see if you can keep up with the spelling.

 

Listen to the recording and type the names you hear in the boxes below.

You should also take a look at the lesson ‘Listening for details in IELTS

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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

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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.