Listen and count the words

Listening can be really difficult. In the IELTS listening exam, you are expected to listen, understand and answer questions. In the IELTS speaking exam, you have to listen to the examiner carefully and answer the questions you are asked.

Many IELTS students say that they find listening difficult because they haven’t had enough practice. Let’s face it, it can be really difficult to improve your listening skills if all you are doing is listening to recordings and answering questions. It’s important that all IELTS students try to identify their listening weaknesses and to improve their listening skills.

Many of my students complain that sometimes it sounds as though all of the words spoken are joined together and it is tricky to work out what exactly is being said. Many students complain that it is hard to identify what is important and what is not important because of this. It is very true that we can become so worried about what we don’t understand that we miss what we do understand.

A good exercise to help you really focus on what you are hearing is “word counting.” Listen to a sentence and try to count the number of words in it. This can be quite challenging at first, particularly if you haven’t ever tried to identify which words are weak in sentences. Are you always able to hear the contractions used? This exercise can also help your speaking in English. Our speaking can improve by copying what we hear.

Look at this sentence –

He’d never seen her before.

Clearly, it contains six words. The contracted auxiliary had (making the past perfect simple) is often missed by people “counting” the spoken word. A native listener knows it is there because the past participle (seen) tells us that there is an auxiliary before it. Do you think you would have spotted this if you were listening to the sentence?

Try to count the words in the recorded sentences below. Don’t write down what you hear. Listen and count. Can you count the number of words without using your fingers? Try to break down what you are hearing, thinking about the structure of the sentence. Once you have counted the words, think about the sentence itself. Can it make grammatical sense with the number of words in it that you think it contains?

[audio:|titles=count the words 1]

[audio:|titles=count the words 2] [audio:|titles=count the words 3] [audio:|titles=count the words 4] [audio:|titles=count the words 5]

The correct answers to this exercise are here . Why not post your answers in the comments below before you look at the answers?
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