How can I improve my performance on the Listening sub-test?

Our test developers and Assessors for the Listening sub-test have identified a number of areas for improvement which apply to many candidates at each test session. We hope you will find these useful.

How can I improve my language proficiency?

1. Develop your skills outside test contexts
Listening skills at the level required for OET Grade B are developed by listening regularly to a wide range of speech, at natural speeds, from different speakers in different contexts. Don’t limit your listening practice to test preparation materials: broaden your ability to deal with new content and unfamiliar voices by listening to programmes on the radio and online lectures. Try to listen to sources where a speaker is giving their own point of view. This will give you good practice in identifying and following a speaker’s line of argument and attitude, which is a different skill from picking out factual content.

2. Use the right skills for each part of the sub-test
Listening Part A (patient/ professional consultations) is about gathering specific information, usually from the patient. You can write the information exactly as you hear it on the recording. You don’t have to spend time making sure your grammar is perfect. Often, grammar words such as articles or prepositions are provided in the answer key as a non-essential part of the answer. OET Assessors are trained to accept small grammatical and spelling errors.

Listening Part B (workplace communication) is about understanding the gist (main idea) of communication between two healthcare colleagues, a healthcare professional and their patient or by a healthcare professional to a group of colleagues. You need to choose the best option from 3 which represents the content of the communication. All the answer options may be mentioned, so it’s important to check which one is covered completely.

Listening Part C (healthcare presentation/ interview) involves two main types of listening: understanding direct meaning and understanding inferred meaning. For questions about direct meaning, you will for example be asked about the speaker’s main idea. Questions about inferred meaning might focus on the speaker’s attitude. Like for Part B, you need to choose the best option from 3 to answer each question. In Part C you need to demonstrate deeper comprehension of the meaning of what has been said rather than the main idea.

For all parts of the test, use the pauses included in the recording to read the question booklet carefully; this will help you identify what you need to listen for. Remember that to answer correctly it may not be necessary to understand every word you hear. In multiple choice tasks, be careful not to choose an option just because you hear a word or phrase from it on the recording. Think about the whole meaning of what is said and match it to the closest option. In Part A where you have to write down information as note completion, listen for words which indicate the structure of what the speaker is saying. This includes names or terms which match headings on the page. These will help guide you through the information on the page and choose answers which fit logically.

3. Manage your time in the sub-test
In the test you hear the recording only once, so it’s important to write your answers as you listen. But remember to check your answers afterwards. There are short breaks between each question where you can do this, and also a 2-minute period at the end of the sub-test. Use this time to check that you have clearly answered each question and written your answers for Part A legibly.

4. Complete the question booklet correctly
In Part A, write your answers directly onto the lines provided for the two extracts in the question booklet. The length of the line should be sufficient to write the correct answer. Parts B and C are computer marked so it’s essential that you follow the instructions provided on the front page of the question booklet when entering your answers. You must fill in the circle containing your chosen answer A, B or C using a 2B pencil. Working as quickly as you can, shade in the whole of the circle including the letter with your pencil so it can be clearly read by the computer. If you want to change your answer, erase it and fill in the circle of the answer you now want to choose.

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