VCE EAL: Preparing for listening comprehension

VCE EAL: Preparing for listening comprehension

This week, Insight writer and EAL teacher Michael Daniel provides tips on how to prepare for the EAL listening comprehension SAC.

By now you have probably done at least one or two practice listening comprehension tasks, and you may be wondering how you can improve these skills before you sit your listening comprehension SAC. To do well in the assessment, it is important that you understand the types of questions you may be asked, and be prepared for how to answer them.


What to listen out for

There are several areas you will need to have a sound grasp of, and you can find tips on how to answer questions relating to these areas listed below.

Literal meaning: Literal meaning is information that is clearly stated in the text. Consider the following statement: ‘After a busy day hunting for mice, the cat sat on the mat.’ A question asking for the literal meaning may ask, ‘Where did the cat sit?’

  • TIP: Develop your skills in identifying the literal meaning by practising summarising the main details in a text after you’ve listened to it. For example, the five-minute ABC news broadcast on Radio National 621, which is broadcast at the start of every hour, offers great material that you can use to practise listening for specific information.

Implied meaning: Questions that ask for implied meaning require you to infer or deduce something a speaker may be suggesting, but does not clearly state. Read again the statement about the cat above, and think about the following question: ‘Why did the cat sit on the mat?’ You should be able to infer that the cat was tired, though this is not directly stated in the text. You can infer this information because the text says that the cat had a busy day.

  • TIP: To answer this type of question, you have to connect what the speaker says with the question. You also have to think carefully about the extra meaning, beyond the literal meaning, of a speaker’s statement.

Evidence from the text: You may need to identify examples from the text to support the point that the speaker makes. Evidence from the text could include examples of language use or information about a speaker’s delivery. In some instances, a question may ask for direct quotes.

  • TIP: Practise writing out short quotes from a text as you listen to it. You may need to replay the text two or three times. Make sure to check the spelling of any key words in your dictionary once you’ve written them out.

Delivery: Some questions will ask you to show understanding of how the speakers convey meaning when they speak.

  • TIP: Listen for the speakers’ tone of voice, the pace at which they speak, what pauses or hesitations they make and what words or phrases they emphasise. Write notes on what you hear as you listen to sample texts.

Text type: Just like print texts, spoken texts come in a wide variety of types. They include casual conversations between friends, formal speeches, interviews, segments of a talkback radio program and telephone conversations. Compile a list of various audio text types and make notes about the features or qualities of each type of audio text you encounter. This will help you to become familiar with the different sorts of language (e.g. formal or informal) associated with different text types, and the different ways in which speakers are likely to interact.

  • TIP: Practise listening to a wide variety of spoken text types, including casual conversations you might overhear on the bus and formal interviews on news or current affairs programs. Make lists of adjectives to describe the language you hear and the interactions you observe.

Relationships between the speakers: If there is more than one speaker, you will need to show understanding of the way the speakers interact. The text type will be a critical factor in understanding the relationship between the speakers. For example, a casual conversation between friends will sound informal and relaxed. However, a radio host interviewing a guest they have only just met will be more likely to be polite and formal.

  • TIP: In answering questions that ask you to describe the relationship or interaction between speakers, provide an adjective.


Question variety

Questions can come in a variety of formats. These include but are not limited to:

  • filling gaps with a word or phrase
  • answering short-answer questions
  • completing tables
  • answering multiple-choice questions.

Some questions will ask you to identify specific information from the text, while others will require you to show an understanding across the whole or a significant portion of the text. You should practise answering a variety of questions in different formats, so you become comfortable presenting information in different ways.

  • TIP: Before answering, make sure that you read the question carefully to work out what you are being asked to provide. Underline key words in pencil and, if necessary, check their meaning in a dictionary.


Practice makes perfect

The best way to improve your skills is through repeated, targeted practice. Obtain as many possible practice listening comprehension tasks as you can and practise with them regularly leading up to your SAC.

Initially, practise completing a task by doing the following.

  • Play through the text once to familiarise yourself with the information, speakers and text type.
  • In the second play through of the text, stop and start the sound file when you need to. You may also choose to go over a portion of the text a few times until you are able to answer a particular question.

Once you have practised completing a few listening comprehension tasks this way, complete some practice tasks by playing the sound file through two times without stopping and starting the file, with a one-minute pause between the two playings. Write notes in pencil in the margins of the question sheet as you listen. After the second playing, try to answer the questions in pen in the space provided, using the notes you have made to assist you in answering the questions.


Remember that consistent practice throughout the year is the key to doing well in the listening comprehension Area of Study.


Need a comprehensive overview of the Year 12 EAL course? Purchase Insight’s EAL Year 12 2nd edition by Melanie Napthine and Michael E Daniel. This 2nd edition of the market-leading EAL Year 12 provides comprehensive coverage of the VCE English as an Additional Language course. The book includes tools, tips, models, word banks and cloze exercises to assist in progressively developing your writing skills, as well as your listening and comprehension abilities. 

 EAL Year 12 2nd edition is produced by Insight Publications, an independent, Australian educational publisher.

Photo Credit: Javier Brosch/shutterstock

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