IELTS Listening Online – Sample 2

Listen to the video and complete the summary below.

Then, scroll to the bottom of the page for the answers and a transcript of the recording.

Why perfect grades don't matter

Complete the summary below.

Write ONLY ONE WORD for each answer.

Striving to achieve high grades in school can cause students a high level of 1 …………….. . In a study of 24,000 thousand high school students, 64% confessed to 2 ……………………. in tests due to pressure to do well. Yet interestingly, research on university graduates In 2014, research showed that students with high test scores did 3 …………………… in college than those with poorer exam results but good high school grades.

Another study conducted over a 14 year period deduced that although high academic achievers generally have successful 4 ……………………., they don’t tend to be entrepreneurial. Some US educators are calling for a rethink over the use of test and grading in schools. They cite the case of 5 ……………….. where these are kept to a minimum and yet their education system ranks as one of the world’s best. In the future, the emphasis in education could be to develop a love of 6 ……………………. rather than just remembering information.

Answers & transcript

Scroll down for the answers and recording transcript.


1.  anxiety

2.  cheating

3.  worse

4.  careers

5.  Finland

6.  learning


Why perfect grades don’t matter

For many kids growing up in America's schools, it's easy to get the message that good grades are everything. Straight A's, along with high SAT scores, are seen as the key to gaining entry into elite colleges and prestigious careers. But does a 4.0 ensure success later in life.

The US grading system was created more than a century ago as a measure of academic achievement but in recent years grades have become an overwhelming source of anxiety. A 2002 University of Michigan study revealed 80% of students based their self-worth on their grades. The lower their grades, the lower their self-esteem. And self-esteem isn't the only thing that suffers. Research shows that chasing after perfect grades discourages creativity and reduces academic risk-taking over time. Some kids even lose their desire to learn, their only motivation to study just enough to ace the next test.

The constant quest for perfect grades can lead to high stress and mental health problems. A recent study by New York University's College of Nursing tracked students attending to highly selective private high schools. 80% of students reported feeling a great deal of stress or somewhat stressed on a daily basis. Some students feel the need to resort to cheating to boost their GPAs. In a national survey of 24,000 students from 70 high schools, 64% admitted to cheating on a test. With college entrance exams like the SAT and a CT the pressure can be just as intense.

While one might think students with the highest scores do better in college, that's not always true. A 2014 study followed more than a hundred and twenty-three thousand students who attended universities with test optional admissions policies. The goal was to compare kids who submitted test scores to those who didn't. The researchers found that when it came to grades and graduation rates, the SAT and a CT test scores didn't correlate with how well student performed in college. Students with top grades in high school but only mediocre test scores actually did better in college than students with higher test scores but lower grades. That's because high school grades demonstrate a pattern of commitment to hard work but a test taken once during an afternoon only reflects performance on a single given day.

What about top academic achievers? Do valedictorians go on to have disproportionately more success than their peers? A Boston College researcher tracked more than eighty valedictorians over 14 years to find out how they fared in the real world. Overall, the best and brightest ended up well-adjusted, successful adults with professional careers but none that were categorised as visionaries or trailblazers. Many of the valedictorians admitted they weren't the smartest students. Instead, they described themselves as the hardest workers who gave the teachers what they wanted rather than exploring the material on a deeper level and taking risks. If grades don't correlate with long-term success and they take a toll on well being, is there a better approach in a worldwide study of student assessment?

Finland constantly ranks at or near the top and academic achievement far ahead of the US. In Finland, tests and grades play a much smaller role and Finland is still credited as one of the best systems in the world. Ninety-three percent of students graduate from academic or vocational secondary schools. For the first six years of school in Finland there's no measure of a student's academic abilities. The only standardized test given is a final exam at the end of senior year in high school, yet Finland students rank top 10 in the world for academic performance year over year.

A growing number of educators in the US are calling for new ways to teach kids instead of simply memorising information. Experts say kids need to learn to think for themselves and develop the motivation to succeed. Tests and grades are unavoidable for most American students but they aren't everything. For many, the key to success will be finding a lifelong passion for learning that extends beyond good grades, test scores and graduation day.

Source: TED Ed – Created by The Atlantic

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More IELTS Listening Practice Samples

Here are a few examples of the many practice activities I've created:

Sample 1 – The science of cotton

Sample 2 – Why perfect grades don’t matter

Sample 3 – The loathsome, lethal mosquito

Sample 4 – Will there ever be a mile-high skyscraper?

Sample 5 – The history of African-American social dance

Sample 6 – Families - The generation gap

Sample 7 – Greeting the world in peace

Sample 8 – How cigarettes affect the body

Sample 9 – How do oceans currents work?

Sample 10 – How to make red lentil fritters

To see the full list of practice samples, click this link:

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