Listening

Task 

Description

Skills tested

Short Conversations

The task is to match 6 short recordings to pictures / diagrams /short texts (6 recordings and 8 texts)

understanding the overall idea, understanding main points, distinguishing between fact and opinion

Making Notes

The task is to complete the gaps in notes (9 gaps)

understanding the main points, picking out important specific information, following discourse

Radio Programme

The task is to answer 10 multiple choice questions

understanding the main points, listening selectively, understanding and utilising features of redundancy, understanding some detail

 

Preparing Students for the Listening Test

The three tasks of the listening test focus on a range of listening skills, and preparation should focus on developing these skills and working with the types of texts and tasks one finds in the test. Given that the texts are presented as audio recordings, students should become accustomed to listening under such conditions where the speaker is not visible, and both teacher and students should bear in mind the special challenges of dealing with audio recordings.

Specifically, to prepare students for the first task, the teacher should try to find recordings of short conversations, and give students practice picking out important information such as the speakers’ location, their relationship, and the gist of the conversation. Success at this task doesn’t require that the candidate understand the whole of each dialogue; their ability to recognise where the dialogue is taking place is more likely to depend on them recognising a phrase, even a few words, or perhaps just the style (e.g. the informality – meaning it’s probably not in an ‘official’ situation at least).

The teacher can prepare a variety of tasks that exploit this: read out a phrase, and ask students where it might be heard (e.g. “That’ll be 10 pounds” – could be in a shop, a petrol station, unlikely to be a restaurant); get students to brainstorm all the things one might say in a particular location.

To help students with the second task, recordings of someone giving directions, instructions or explaining a process, should be used, and tasks focused on understanding the main points and picking out important, specific information. This could involve students choosing from among summaries for the most accurate one, ordering pictures, or filling in gaps with key words for instance. In addition, any classroom work on procedural language, and discourse that contains a high density of logistical information, will be useful. In doing the exam task, the candidate can get a head start by looking at the gapfill and imagining what words, or kind of words, could fit in the gap. While it is unlikely that they’ll guess the exact word, this will give them a sense of the overall meaning, and orient them to the order of information on the recorded text.

Material for practising for the third task – radio interviews – is readily available, and students who regularly tune in to English-language programmes will have a considerable advantage in this section. Consideration should be given, however, to the grading of the material, and coursebook material that is graded at the students’ level, but of the same genre (e.g. radio recordings), are most suitable. As the content is generally topical, current, and of interest to students, a wide range of classroom work can be built from such texts. This can range from discussion/debate to writing or listening comprehension tasks. Any work with these types of texts that motivate students will contribute to their preparation, as it increases the likelihood that they will listen to TV/radio in their free time. The teacher should also give students practice in the multiple-choice comprehension question format, and particularly get them to explore the items they get “wrong”, in order to build their understanding of how distracter items are designed to catch the listener.