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The Situation

At the beginning of each IELTS listening section, the mysterious, beautiful voice on the tape will describe the situation or context for you. For example:

Section 1: You will hear a customer buying a bus ticket.

Section 2: You will hear an announcement about a new museum opening.

Section 3: You will hear two students discussing the topic of their research project.

Section 4: You will hear a lecture on the subject of dinosaur archaeology.

Most students have already started reading the questions so they don’t even hear this part.

But…it’s important to read the questions.

But…it’s also very important to listen to the situation or context.


Because if you know the situation you are much more likely to be able to understand the listening.

Imagine turning on the TV but closing your eyes. You won’t be able to understand what’s happening.

Open your eyes and it becomes crystal clear.

If you picture the situation in your head before you start reading the questions the listening will become clearer.

For example, if section 1 begins:

“You will hear a customer buying a bus ticket.”

So you already know some of the content that will come up – the cost, the destination, the length, where it leaves from, seating options, the number of stops, etc.

There’s also a second reason it is important to picture the situation.

Picturing the situation (and reading the questions) will start to activate vocabulary related to the topic in your brain automatically.

If the topic is ‘Monkeys’ your brain will immediately and unconsciously activate related vocabulary: bananas, forests, fur, and so on.

Share this post if you want to help a friend with their listening. Here are some other basic tips as well!

Now it’s your turn! Put your answers in the comments.

At the beginning of section 1 you hear:

“You will hear a man applying for a job at a restaurant.”

What questions might you hear in the listening?

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