EAL: Preparing for the listening comprehension task

EAL: Preparing for the listening comprehension task

Insight writer and EAL teacher Michael E Daniel discusses preparing for the EAL listening comprehension task.

The listening comprehension component of the examination will test your understanding of spoken texts and will be the first task you undertake in the examination. You will have to listen to two or three texts. The total length of the texts is likely to be approximately 10 to 12 minutes.

There is a range of things you can do to prepare for the listening comprehension task. Since listening comprehension is about how well you understand a spoken text, the most effective preparation is to practise listening to aural texts as much as possible. Every time you talk with another person and listen to what they are saying, you are in fact developing your listening and comprehension skills. It is best to practice with aural texts rather than audio-visual texts (such as TV programs or YouTube videos) because when you watch an audio-visual text you are interpreting the meaning of the text largely from visual cues.

If you are not already doing so, you are strongly encouraged to listen to the radio every day, for at least 15 minutes. You could, for example, listen to the news on various radio stations or to podcasts on ABC Radio National (RN), which are available on the ABC RN website. Some useful RN programs include Life Matters, Future Tense and Background Briefing. These programs contain many segments of between 10 and 20 minutes, and deal with a range of human interest topics.

You should also practise taking notes – a few times each week – as you listen to texts. This will help you develop your note-taking skills for the examination, and will also improve your active listening skills.

Select an audio text to practice with. Play the text once, taking notes as you listen. Then play the text a second time. While the text is playing for the second time, check over your notes and add further details. While practicing, you can pause the sound file if you need to, but remember that you will not be able to do this during the exam.

Your notes should not simply summarise what the speakers are saying. Try to identify other aspects of a spoken text that you might be asked questions about. For example, consider the following.

  • The speakers’ delivery. How is each person speaking and what does their delivery suggest about their attitudes towards the topic and towards each other?
  • What the speakers might be implying. Do the speakers suggest certain beliefs, points of view or attitudes that they want listeners to agree with?
  • The relationship between the speakers. Do they know each other well or have they just met? Why are they speaking with each other?
  • How the speakers interact. Are they friendly and polite, or are they rude, confrontational or disdainful towards each other? (Remember that people might still be polite towards each other even if they disagree.)
  • Whether differing viewpoints are presented. If so, how do speakers who have differing points of view interact with each other?
  • The language choices made by the speakers. For example, do they use persuasive language techniques such as emotive language or rhetorical questions?
  • The key words or phrases used by the speakers. Practise identifying and transcribing these.

Try to obtain as many practice listening comprehension tasks as possible from your teacher, or from friends from other schools. Insight Publications’ EAL Year 12 textbook includes a range of practice tasks. These tasks are designed primarily to develop your listening comprehension skills, rather than being practice examination tasks. Insight Publications have also recently published EAL Exam GuideArea of Study 3, the third volume in the EAL Exam Guide series. This resource contains a number of practice listening comprehension tasks that are similar to the type of task you might expect to see on the end-of-year examination.

It is also important to familiarise yourself with the types of questions that might be asked in the examination. These include short-answer questions, fill-in-the-gap questions and multiple-choice questions, as well as questions that require you to fill in tables with various types of information.

While undertaking practice listening comprehension tasks, look carefully at what the question is asking you. EAL Exam Guide – Area of Study 3 contains some good advice about the types of questions that might be asked, how to interpret the meaning of a question and what type of information a question is asking for. Underline key question words and terms (e.g. who, when, what, why, how, to what extent), as well as key direction words and terms (e.g. ‘list three examples’, ‘identify a word or phrase’ etc.).

When undertaking these practice tasks, it is important that you take notes as the texts are being played. You should then use the time during pauses to answer questions. This approach should help you develop the skills you will need to succeed during the exam.

You should also be familiar with the possible time sequence/format for this task. The table below will give you an idea of what to expect during your end-of-year examination.


Need help preparing for the EAL exam? Purchase our EAL Exam Guides by Michael E Daniel, Melanie Napthine and Samantha Anderson. Our EAL Exam Guides provide students with revision strategies and activities to prepare them for the VCE EAL exam. From time management during the exam to proofreading responses, Insight’s EAL Exam Guides cover all knowledge and skills required for success in the EAL exam.

Any purchase of EAL Exam Guide: Area of Study 1 or the EAL Exam Guides: Areas of Study 1, 2 & 3 Value Pack comes with 64 FREE high-level sample essays, including one high-level sample essay on each List 2 EAL-designated text (8 in total).


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