You often have to follow directions on a map in Listening Section 2.
Candidates find this quite tricky because if you get lost at any point, you might lose points for the whole section.
This lesson will help you follow the speaker’s instructions and not get lost.
Please note that I have updated this post so that it includes other Section 2 advice and a full listening. Please find the latest post here.
Map Listening Tip 1: Find out where you are
Know where you are when you start, and which direction you are facing.
IELTS is not trying to trick you or send you walking round in circles. They just want to make sure that you can follow simple instructions.
‘Now let me give you some idea of the layout of the farm. The building where you bought your tickets is the New Barn, immediately to your right, and we’re now at the beginning of the main path to the farmland – and of course the car park is on your left.’
This tells you exactly where you’re standing.
There’s usually a clear first instruction to build your confidence.
Map Listening Tip 2: The question order
Notice how the thing that you’re trying to find (‘the scarecrow’) is mentioned right at the start of the sentence, so you know the answer is coming soon.
(15) ‘The scarecrow you can see in the car park in the corner, beside the main path, (…is a traditional figure for keeping the birds away from crops, but our scarecrow is a permanent sculpture. It’s taller than a human being, so you can see it from quite a distance).’
Map Listening Tip 3: Dealing with unknown vocab
Don’t panic if you don’t recognise or understand a word e.g. ‘scarecrow’ and ‘maze’. Just find out where they are by following the order of the text and the directions.
Map Listening Tip 4: Ignore the padding
Ignore all the ‘extra padding’ (in brackets) that comes between the answers.
This is designed to give you time to make notes on the map (even if you can’t spell the words, write notes on the map).
Map Listening Tip 5: Learn the language of directions
Notice how the speaker tells you the direction you’re facing in the next instruction:
(16) ‘If you look ahead of you, you’ll see a maze. It’s opposite the New Barn, beside the side path that branches off to the right just over there. (The maze is made out of hedges which are too tall for young children to see over them, but it’s quite small so you can’t get lost in it!)’
There’s some tricky vocab there (‘branches off to the right’), so it’s getting more difficult. Next, the speaker tells you where you’re facing again:
(17) ‘Now, can you see the bridge crossing the fish pool further up the main path? If you want to go to the cafe, go towards the bridge and turn right just before it. Walk along the side path and the cafe’s on the first bend you come to. (The building was originally the school house, and it’s well over a hundred years old).’
More ‘padding’ before the next answer comes up – don’t let it distract you from the directions:
(18) ‘As you may know, we run skills workshops here, where you can learn traditional crafts like woodwork and basket -making. You can see examples of the work, and talk to someone about the courses, in the Black Barn. If you take the side path to the right here, just by the New Barn, you’ll come to the Black Barn just where the path first bends.’
Typical vocab of directions will help you (‘on the right, to the right, opposite, cross the bridge’):
(19) Now, I mustn’t forget to tell you about picnicking, as I can see some of you have brought your lunch with you. You can picnic in the field, though do clear up behind you, of course. Or if you’d prefer a covered picnic area, there’s one near the farmyard: just after you cross the bridge, there’s a covered picnic spot on the right.
Map Listening Tip 6: Keep going
Don’t give up if you get lost. Make sure you keep going right to the end.
Here again, they tell you the location first (Fiddy House). Then give the instructions. So they are trying their best to help you, honestly!
(20) And the last thing to mention is Fiddy House itself. From here you can cross the bridge then walk along the footpath through the field to the left of the farmyard. That goes to the house and it’ll give you a lovely view of it. It’s certainly worth a few photographs, but as it’s a private home, I’m afraid you can’t go inside.’
Map Listening Tip 7: Don’t leave any gaps
Even if you think you don’t know the answer, write SOMETHING. There’s a 50/50 chance you could be right if you write down the letter you think is the closest to what you heard.
IELTS Listening Practice: MAPS
Jump to 11:00 in the video below to get more practice with following directions and labelling maps.
For a full audio of this lesson, go to my Listening Section 2 page, and try the task yourself! Let me know if you have any questions.
Get more listening practice here.