You have 30 seconds to look at the questions in each section before the recording starts. Use the time to read the questions, so that you know what you should be listening for.
The listening is played only once. If you miss something, you will not have another chance to hear it. The voices may be English, Australian or American, and there are many differences in these accents. (For example, a Cornish accent is different from a London accent.)
The recording starts with an introduction giving background information about what you are going to hear. This will be followed by instructions about what to do with the information.
There are 40 questions. They can be any of the following types. (The descriptions might sound slightly confusing, but will become clearer with practice.)
- Multiple choice
- Choose the right answer from a list.
Choose the correct picture or diagram.
Choose more than one answer to get a mark.
Choose more than one answer, and each answer is worth a mark.
- Short answers
- Usually one word or a number, but you might need up to three words.
(Numbers count as words, so 46, or forty-six is one word)
Short answers might be answers by themselves, or your answer might complete a sentence.
- Completing notes or a diagram
- Put words in different places.
Choose a word from a list.
Matchparts of two different lists (for example names and addresses.)
Label parts of a map or a diagram.
- Sort out a lit (for example sort people into groups).
Match up two different lists (for example match names with addresses).
The four sections of the exam are divided into two conversations, and two monologues. They are also divided into social situations and training/educational situations. So you will usually get a social conversation and a social monologue, and a training/educational conversation and a training/educational monologue. The listening takes 30 minutes plus 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.
Section 1. This a social conversation, often dealing with a 'transaction'. (For example someone asks for information or is buying something.) You will need to listen for specific information (for example names or prices).
Section 2. This monologue is something you might come across in everyday situations - for example a public announcement, instructions about how to do something, or describing a particular situation.
Section 3. This is a conversation related to education/training. For example a tutor and student discussing a test, or someone asking for an explanation. With parts 3 and 4 you must listen for facts, but also for opinions, and how people feel about the situation.
Section 4. This is an academic/training monologue. Someone will give an explanation or present an argument. (An argument here is not a quarrel, but joining ideas to reach a conclusion). You will need to understand the argument, the main points and ideas, and the conclusion. You may also be asked about specific facts or opinions.
Hints and ideas for preparation
Listen to a lot of English on the radio. Also listen to music in which the words of the songs are clear. Songs are a good way of learning the rhythm of a language, as the timing of a song is often an exaggerated form of the timing of everyday speech.
Train yourself to listen for particular information, for example in a radio interview. Try and predict what people are going to say in situations in films. Learn the signs that information is about to be given (For example 'Please remember that ...', 'I told you not to ..') when a question is asked, train yourself to know at once what type of reply is expected. (For example a name, a time or a number.)
When you get the question paper, read it carefully. Look for types of answer you might need. Look for keywords, and clues about what you can expect to hear.
Don't skip over the instructions. Check that you know what to do with each question. Make sure you know what type of answer is required.
When you are listening, if you hear something useful, like a name being spelled, write it down at once, even if you don't immediately know what you will do with the information.
Keep up with the recording. If you are more than ten seconds behind, you might need to skip some answers instead of trying to rely on your memory. (The information usually comes in the same order as the questions.)
Listen for people changing their minds or being corrected. Sometimes you may have to change an answer.
Listen for people giving answers in a way that you do not expect. For instance if a multiple-choice answer is 'six' the speaker on the recording might say 'half a dozen'.
When transferring your answers to the answer sheet, check for silly errors. However, if you are uncertain, leave your original answer. People taking the exam often change right answers to wrong ones at this point.
Answer all the questions. If you are not sure, go with your instinct. An answer that is possibly wrong is better than no answer.