Do you remember a little while ago we gave you some advice on how to face an exam in English? Well today is the day that we are going to give you some tips to pass a listening exam, because we know that it is one of the biggest challenges you will face when learning English.
A listening exam, evaluates your ability to listen and understand an audio in English. It is a fundamental skill to be able to communicate, but at a didactic level, this usually occupies a secondary position.
Surely it reminds you of learning English in high school? When they made you complete listening exercises about grapes and pears, as if they were trying to fill in or finish off the remaining time until the next class. This is a clear indicator of the importance given to this linguistic skill.
The educational plans for the English language are focused on grammar, vocabulary, and hopefully some “speaking”. Since listening is given so little attention, it is usually the one skill that is the most challenging to overcome.
Although, do you want me to tell you a secret? If you do you language training with a centre like Nathalie Languages, this will not be a challenge for you.
A few months ago, we gave you some tips to work on your listening comprehension, which we are sure you have found useful. You may wonder what we have done with this first tip, but the reality is that it is a basic thing that must not be forgotten.
The best way to prepare your ear to pass a listening exam is by doing as many audio exercises in English as you can.
On the internet, there are many interesting resources to practise from that are in an audiobook format. It is also worth watching English TV series with subtitles and listening to music with the original lyrics to hand.
Don’t be one of those people who spends their life singing in English and inventing everything on the go. It can be good fun, but like this it doesn’t help you improve. They are two very effective and enriching ways of learning a language, with which you can also work on different linguistic skills: speaking, listening and reading.
Don’t make the mistake of wanting to learn all the words at once. This is will not help you. Try to identify the main words and understand generally the meaning of the listening.
A very useful way of putting listening comprehension skills into practice is by learning to deduce the meaning from the context. If you stop at each term you don’t know, you will lose time, concentration and rhythm.
3. Pay attention to intonation
Do you know what word stress is? It has nothing to do with being stressed. It is what in our language we know as the accent, an aspect that will be very useful to pass a listening exam. Accentuation can give you many hints about what we want to convey.
Looking at the pronunciation of an accent and the intonation will be very useful to deduce the intention and the meaning of a listening comprehension.
If you have been studying English for a long time, you will have noticed that the voices of the audios are very similar to each other. This is because these recordings are made by professional. A natural as they try to be, they are still part of a script prepared by experts.
When they make these listening comprehensions, they always follow very specific pronunciation and intonation rules, using markers or connectors throughout the audio. This is called signalling, by doing this a speaker focuses attention towards the most relevant part of the audio. They are there to direct and provoke the desired response. It is especially useful for the classic gap fill exercises.
With practise you will be able to recognise the patterns of the voice actors from the listenings. Familiarising yourself with the way they speak is the key to understanding the audios. In case you haven’t noticed they never give the answer to two questions consecutively. Typically, there is a time interval in which the speaker prepares their next answer.
To get overwhelmed, listen, relax and wait for the next response to appear.
4. Be foresighted
Ready for this tip to pass a listening exam? You must learn to predict the content and not with a crystal ball. Here common sense is very useful.
If you are able to quickly figure out what the exercise is about, you will be able to predict the kind of the words you will be confronted with. A very useful plan is to predict possible responses and consider the type of word you should put in the gaps. When you finish the listening, check that everything you have completed makes sense and when in doubt follow your intuition.
5. Watch out for “distractors”
One last very useful piece of advice to pass a listening exam. What do we mean by “distractors”? Well you have to be very careful with all the expressions that are only in the exam to distract you from the true meaning of the audio.
A good listener must know how to separate the redundant and irrelevant information from what is really important. “Distractors” are there to break your focus from the fundamental aspects of the exam and make you lose your way. They take the form of expressions that seem correct, but they don’t really fit with what the exercise is suggesting.
Have you ever wondered how many multiple-choice questions there are? The examiners are very clever, and they usually make sure to include, in addition to the correct answer, an alternative that is closely related in subject, but it will not provide the relevant data or fit with the rest of the phrase. They will also add a contradictory answer and another answer that is not even mentioned.
Pay close attention to the words that are actually mentioned, because they are usually the real distractors. Choosing an option just because you have heard the word in the audio can cause you to make a mistake.
What do you think of these tips to pass your listening exams? We hope that it was useful, like that post we made about how to fully take advantage of conversation classes in English.
And if you want to improve all your linguistic skills, may be it is the moment to study english in England, don’t you believe?