TEDxIELTS: Ideas for Listening Practice

TED x IELTS Listening Practice 3

TED x IELTS Listening Practice 3: Why Is ‘X’ the Unknown?

Try these IELTS listening practice questions based on a TED talk about the letter X in mathematics. Take one minute first to read through the questions before you listen. You can also download these questions as a PDF.

Questions 1-5 (Summary completion) Write no more than one word for each answer. 

The Arabic language is extremely 1. _________________________. Because each part of a sentence is very precise and informative, constructing a sentence in Arabic is bit like writing an 2. _________________________. This partly explains many so-called Western sciences such as mathematics and 3. _________________________ actually have their origins in the Middle East. For example, the English word ‘algebra’ has Arabic roots. Many kinds of Middle-Eastern wisdom arrived in Europe via 4. _________________________, where they were first translated. However, certain Arabic sounds can’t be pronounced by Europeans without a great deal of practice. They also can’t easily be written using existing European 5. _________________________.

Questions 6-10 (Matching). Match the following statements with the letter or symbol they refer to.

6. It was familiar to Spanish mathematicians. _____

7. It was eventually replaced by another letter. _____

8. It was known throughout Europe. _____

9. It has been in use for nearly six centuries. _____

10. It is unpronounceable in Spanish. _____

  • A. The mathematical symbol X
  • B. The Arabic letter SHeen
  • C. The Greek letter Kai
  • D. The Latin letter X

Make sure you check spelling carefully before you check the answers.

Teacher’s Note

This is the kind of talk you might hear in Section 4 of the IELTS Listening test, a lecture on an abstract or academic topic. In this case, not only is the subject unfamiliar, but you need to do a lot of reading while you listen. This will be a real test of your multitasking skills! If you’re not good at reading and listening at the same time, you could try taking notes instead and then looking at the questions later. I wouldn’t usually recommend this strategy, but it could be effective during a summary completion task like Questions 1-5 above.

Further Practice

Want more IELTS Listening practice? Check out similar posts here.

Using this IELTS Listening practice in a real classroom? You may want to try these follow-up questions with your students.

This is an unofficial educational use of a TED talk. For official learning materials based around TED content, please visit the TED-ed website.


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