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5 Penalty Areas for Indian Students in IELTS Listening


Since Indian students are writing and speaking in English with Indian accent, with not much exposure to foreign accent, it can be the cause of some penalties they may face in IELTS Listening module. Let us know what these likely penalty areas are and how you can overcome these risk areas in order to achieve Band 9 in IELTS Listening.

1. Pronunciation – Alphabets/Numbers or Singular/Plural Words

The most common penalty area that leads to incorrect answers in Section 1 of IELTS Listening is related to pronunciation. You may be facing difficulties in correctly understanding the pronunciation of carefully such as alphabets (when a speaker is spelling the name or addres) or numbers (when speaker talks about phone number).
Another type of pronunciation issue one can find in IELTS Listening in other Sections as well is related to singular or plural words. Many a times, it is seen that candidates do not hear it clearly whether the word is singular or plural, for example, if the speaker says “admission forms”, candidates do not concentrate properly or not able to recognize whether they need to write the word “form” with or without “s”.

Useful Tip:

To overcome this, you should listen to foreign accent stuff such as group discussions, radio shows, talk shows etc. and also get used to the foreign accent pronunciation of every alphabet and number by listening to it again and again. Just Google for the pronunciation of alphabet/number in the UK/US foreign accent and keep on hearing it till you absorb the right pronunciation well.

2. Spelling Errors

One of the major issues you may face in IELTS listening section is to write the correct spelling of words spoken in the audio. While candidates are not sure about spelling of words and hence they go wrong in writing them correctly. It is also seen that there are some candidates who know the correct spelling but hurriedly, they may write them incorrectly or when they do not review properly what they have written.

For example, “accommodation” is often written mistakenly as “accommodation”

Useful Tip:

To deal with this hurdle, practice reading and writing more to learn the correct spelling. You can also practice online spelling exercises by searching in Google.

3. Grammar

Apart from the above penalty areas, grammar is another problem candidates face while giving IELTS Listening test. It may usually happen when you are more concentrating on the information only and do not see the nearby words to predict the answer grammatically. For example,
All the college students are required to submit all the …………for applying to the contest.
If you see, in the above question, “all” is the word that indicates that your answer in the blank should be a plural word, not singular.

Useful Tip:

Do check your answer grammatically or predict it within the given 1 minute before the audio starts.

4. Choosing Word Instruction

Another thing is to  write your answer according to the word instruction. If instruction is “NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS”, it implies that your answer should be of one word or two words. It does not imply that you have to write only two words. For example,



Parents willing to enjoy the…………….. with the students can register soon.



Parents who are waiting to join the most-awaited holiday trip with the students can register soon.


Holiday Trip

*Answer should be holiday trip, not most-awaited holiday trip

Useful Tip:

Focus on understanding too, apart from matching the words in the question with the words in the audio.

5. Understanding Paraphrasing

In some of the IELTS Listening questions, especially the MCQs, you may miss out a question or skip the audio when there’s paraphrasing used in the audio. You are likely to lose confidence in choosing the right answer and may go lost in the audio.

Useful Tip:

In this case, underline keywords and focus on understanding the conversation and relate it with the underlined keywords.

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