memoGuide | Listening to an authentic English text

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Why?

We practise listening to authentic English texts to prepare you for a world in which English is more and more prevalent everywhere. Understanding original news from the BBC or CNN, listening to an inspiring TED talk, following a conversation between two English speaking persons or speaking to someone from overseas: The occasions in which during your life you will have to understand English are unpredictable. So prepare yourself for it!

In which way?

The ways in which we examine your listening skills are usually based on so-called closed assessment tasks. That means, that the answers are unambiguous, which means, that they are not open to more than one interpretation. These closed assessment tasks can take on the following forms:

  • multiple choice tests; in several varieties:
    • There is only one correct answer. (“Tick the one correct solution.”)
    • There is more than one correct answer and the number of correct answers is given. (“There are two correct answers.”)
    • There is more than one correct answer and the numbers of correct answers is not given. (“Tick all the correct answers.”)
  • matching tasks,
  • gap filling exercises,
  • short answers.

We examine the listening based on a variety of different authentic English texts from different social and regional backgrounds:

  • radio interviews or podcasts,
  • TV shows,
  • lectures,
  • and many more!

How can I do my best?

First and foremost: Don’t panic. The more structured, the more relaxed you listen to these texts, the more you will see that in the end it is not that hard. What is important, however, is that you immerse yourself in English. Listen to podcasts, interviews… whatever floats your boat! And try to understand them as well as possible.

The exam situation, however, is a more rigid one. Make sure you have your markers, pencils (best: in different colours!) and pens ready! 

Here is a typical course of a listening exam (click on the cards to reveal the aim of that particular phase):

Pre-listening

In the pre-listening phase you read the tasks well and study any unknown words.

First listening

In the first listening, you try to understand the audio as well as possible and look out for solutions.

First answering phase

Now, you try to find good answers for all the exercises and identify any open questions.

Second listening

In the second listening phase, you listen out for those parts that were unclear to you.

Second answering phase

In the second answering phase, make final decisions on the items that were hard to answer.

Pre-Listening

This phase is all about your preparation. Read the tasks well and look up any unknown words. Take a marker and highlight the number of answers needed – or any other type of answer that you are expected to produce.

Also, you can try to predict a lot of things. This helps you to engage your mind and to develop a sense of the topics and words you are going to listen to.

  • As you know the topic already, write down a few ideas on what the audio is going to be about.
  • If it is an interview, you most likely know the number of speakers. This helps you to prepare your notes visually, e.g. in a table.
  • When you study the tasks, you can also reflect on what might be the most probable answer. Even if it’s not this one, you’ve already thought about a possible outcome.

While listening

Most importantly: Try to relax and breathe! You don’t need to understand everything in order to answer the questions well. Listen out for items that you are prepared for. If you need to write down short answers, don’t write down full sentences now – take notes that you can complete later.  Use a pencil that you can erase easily after – this helps you to tick two possible solutions if you are unsure. You can always use a real pen in the answering phases.

Answering phases

Use the first answering phase to make notes on what you want to look out for in the second listening phase. This helps you to “sharpen your ears” and prepare your mind for the second round.

If the answers in the multiple choice task seem odd, find your own way of answering this question and then compare with the solutions there. This helps you to use your common sense.

Even if it seems wrong to you, answer all the questions in the end! There is always a chance that you answer the question correctly, even if you are not sure. 

Where can I find practise material?

Nowadays, there is an incredible number of excellent podcasts – and many of them don’t cost you anything to listen to. The Guardian’s Today in Focus comes to mind as well as the BBC’s Global News. There is loads of material from CNN Audio, or this excellent list from Timeout Magazine.

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