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skills while listening

Skills during the recording
♦ Listen for keywords.

The kind of words you should be listening for to not only help you follow the conversation but also help you get the correct answers are – proper nouns / capital letters (e.g. names of people, company names), numbers, (e.g.. years, dates), negatives (e.g. “He’s not going to school today).

Look at questions 1–5 and pick the best keywords. The first has been done for you.

Notice here that there are no proper nouns, numbers or negatives to underline. In this case pick words that you think must be in the conversation.

Practice 1

  1. How many people are the rooms for?
  2. How many beds are required?
  3. How many nights will they stay?
  4. On what date will they leave?
  5. What time is the wake-up call?
Answers
  1. How many people are the rooms for?
  2. How many beds are required?
  3. How many nights will they stay?
  4. On what date will they leave?
  5. What time is the wake-up call?

The underlined words in Question 1. above are people and rooms as it is very likely that they will still be used in the conversation. Remember that sometimes synonyms might be used for some words and you have to be prepared to notice this.

Also, remember that from the pre-listening exercise above you should also be thinking of what kind of answer you are listening for. All five questions above have numbers as answers.

♦ Listen for signpost words and synonyms of keywords in the question.

As mentioned above you might pick a very good keyword but when you listen to the conversation a synonym is used. Look at the exercise below and match the original keyword to its synonym.

Practice 2

  Keywords   Synonym
1 develop A BMW
2 dog B crowd
3 car C bad weather
4 storm D improve
5 people E pet

Answers

  Keywords   Synonym
1 develop D improve
2 dog E pet
3 car A BMW
4 storm C bad weather
5 people B crowd

 

Signpost words are very important when you are completing sentences, forms, notes, tables, flow-charts, and summary completion. Look for the word just before or just after the missing word and that is the signpost word.

For example:

  1. One of these students became a prominent ________
  2. Scholastic House became ________ in 1963
  3. The college has a tradition of learning and ________

There is a very good chance that you will actually hear the words that come just before the missing answer. Be aware that they might also come after the missing answer due to a rearrangement of the sentence being spoken. These words are shown here in bold. If you look closely there are also other words (keywords) in each question that you are likely to hear.

  1. students / prominent
  2. Scholastic House / became – 1963 might come after the answer is given or it might come before the answer is given to fool you. So, remember that information can come in the opposite order seen in the question.
  3. college / tradition / learning and

Remember that for this type of question you need to make sure that the notes or sentences you are completing are written using good grammar. Do not repeat words which are already in the question. For example, do not write – and morality – for Question 3. because the word – and – is already in the question.

♦ Work on the current question and look ahead to the next question.

All of the questions in the listening test are in order. One thing you must avoid is a situation where you miss, for example, the answer for Question 6. but don’t know you have missed it. If you only listen for this one answer you can easily miss many answers and then find it difficult to know where the speaker is in the text.

To avoid this you can listen for the keywords and signpost words and be aware of the type of answers you expect to hear for two questions.

♦ Skip missed answers and move on.

Get into the habit of listening for two answers at the same time (it’s not as difficult as it sounds) by using the words you underline in the text to help you.

Then, if you realize that you have missed one answer continue listening for the next answer and start listening for the question that follows it so that you are always listening for two answers until the end of that section.

♦ Watch out for distracters (incorrect answers)

It is very common, especially in Section 1, for information to be given in such a way that you think it is the answer. As you are happily writing this down, the real answer is given but you miss it because you have stopped listening. A typical conversation might be:

Example 1

Woman: Could you give me your telephone number please?

Man: Certainly. It’s 0983-447-688

Man: Sorry, That’s 668.

Notice that the distracter is when the man makes a mistake with the last three digits of the telephone number and has to say the last three digits again – this time correctly.

Example 2

Woman: What is your family name?

Man: My family name is Erickson

Woman: Do you spell that E – R – I – C – S – O – N.

Man: No. It is E – R – I – C – K – S – O – N.

The distracter here is the different spelling of the family name. The second version is the correct version.

In both cases this might be an overload of information where you lose focus and only get the first – incorrect – answer. Knowing that this can happen can help you be ready for it and listen just a little longer to make sure the answer remains the same.

Test instructions – Luckily the test offers places within the test itself where it is possible to focus less than at other times. At the beginning of each section the speaker will give an introduction to the context of the situation.

For example – “You are now going to hear a conversation in a police office. Mary is talking about her lost bag to a police officer.”

You will then be given instructions

For example – “Read questions 1 to 6. As you listen to the tape, write the correct answer in the space provided.”

You are then told to look at the questions

For example – “First you have some time to look at questions 1 to 6.”

The tape is then silent for about 30 seconds. Then the speaker will repeat which questions you have to answer.

For example – “Now listen and answer questions 1 to 6.”

At the end of each section you can use the time to refocus a little onto what is coming next. Look for keywords that you are pretty certain you will hear and these words help you to keep listening in the right place in the test.

Also, think about what sort of answers you are listening for and how many words you are allowed to write down.

Avoid panicking  – If you hear a word that you do not know – do not panic – in many situations the definition of a less common word will be followed by its definition. If you panic, you lose focus and you will miss this extra information and may totally lose where you are in this part of the test.

Context – By becoming familiar with common phrases for saying things it becomes much easier to know why a person is talking. They might be, for example, explaining, thanking, inviting, complaining, apologizing, persuading and so on. Understanding the context helps you to see the bigger picture and understand what type of information might be coming next.

Also, knowing where the person is can immediately focus you on the type of vocabulary you will hear. He might, for example, be in a ticket office, a police station, a fitness centre, a hospital, a university and so on. This can help you to focus on specific vocabulary.

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