English & EAL

EAL Listening Practice and Resources

Cici Feng

April 12, 2021

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Contents

1. List of Listening Resources That You Can Access For Free
2. How To Use These Free Resources (a Step-by-Step Guide)
3. Let Me Walk You Through How I approach These Listening Exercises
4. Time to Test Your Listening Skills

For an overview of the EAL study design plus tips and tricks for reading comprehension, time management and more, check out The Ultimate Guide to EAL.

The listening tasks of the EAL exam are worth 20% of the total exam marks.  Since this section was introduced to the exam fairly recently, limited past exam questions are available for students to practice. In this blog, you will find a comprehensive list of external resources that are accessible for free. Although they are not designed specifically for the purpose of VCAA exams, they can still boost your marks if used wisely. I will offer some advice that helped me receive a perfect study score in EAL and give you a step-by-step guide on how to use these listening resources to better prepare for EAL listening.

1. List of Listening Resources That You Can Access For Free:

ABC Radio National

ABC 7:30

Randall’s Listening Lab

TED Talks 

ESOL 

ABC 5 minutes more (this is super fun and easy one to listen to, perfect for times when we feel a bit lazy)

BBC The Newsroom

Speeches

And for my fellow Chinese friends, I recommend 可可英语. It pretty much includes all major news sources worldwide including the Voice of America, CNN, ABC, National Public Radio, NBC News, BBC, The Economist and National Geography. I particularly love the fact that both the website and its free app offer English transcription and Chinese translation side by side.

2. How To Use These Free Resources (a Step-by-Step Guide)

I recommend you listen to the audio three times. Below, I have broken down what you should pay attention to during each listening exercise.

1st Time Listening

Step 1: Read and Annotate Background Information 
  • Read the background information if available. This mimics the ‘Background Information’ given at the very start of each question in the VCAA exam. In most cases, it provides a general introduction to the speakers and gives you a brief idea of what to expect in the upcoming audio. 
  • Highlight the name of the speakers.
  • Underline important information.
Step 2:  Read and Annotate the Questions
  • Familiarise yourself with the questions during reading time and annotate them. 
  • Develop an annotation system that works well for you personally.

1. I usually underline key information that gives me information on  ‘what’, ‘why’, ‘how’, ‘where’ and ‘when’ (refer to the table in Step 4 below for definitions for these ‘W’ words).

2. Highlight the main person/subject that the question is referring to. This will help you during note taking and formulating your answer. Under the stress of exams, we might lose track of which speaker is talking, especially when the two speakers sound similar. By highlighting the name of the speaker in the question, it reminds us which speaker to pay attention to when answering the question.

  • If you are playing the audio clips by yourself for practice, make sure you give yourself time to analyse the questions before hitting play! If you have a friend or family member who can act as your ‘exam facilitator’, as soon as reading time ends, highlight or underline the keywords before your exam facilitator plays the audio clips! 
Step 3:  Listen to the Audio Only (Without the Visual)

This is pretty self-explanatory!

Step 4: Write Down Side Notes
  • Write down as much information as you can to practice speed writing
  • Some ‘W’ words (see table below) may not apply to all audio clips so free feel to only use the ‘W’ words that are relevant

2nd Time Listening 

Step 1: Fill in the blanks and try to be aware of words you don’t quite ‘get’.

Step 2: Note down how the speakers convey their attitude, feeling, ideas, etc.

Step 3: Interaction between speakers. 

There will typically be a question that asks you to describe the interaction between the speakers, such as, ‘Suggest 2 words to describe the interaction between A and B’. The answer you need to provide will typically be a two-word answer. I would encourage you to learn the adjectives used to describe a range of interactions, for example: 

Words to describe positive interactions include:

  1. Friendly, respectful
  2. Professional, formal, polite
  3. Relaxed, warm
  4. Amicable, sanguine

Words to describe negative interactions include:

  1. Embarrassed
  2. Teasing, childish
  3. Tense, unpleasant, disappointed
  4. Confrontational

3rd Time Listening  

Listen to the audio while you read the transcript if available.

3. Let Me Walk You Through How I approach These Listening Exercises

Now that you know the steps, let’s see them in action. Below, I will demonstrate the step-by-step process of how you can make full use of the listening resources above.  

We’ll use this video clip from ABC Life Matters as an example: Is the internet becoming more 'ethical'?

Download this worksheet so that you can work through this listening task on your own too!

1st Time Listening

Step 1: Read and Annotate Background Information
Step 2:  Read and Annotate the Questions
Step 3: Listen to the Audio (Without the Visual)
Step 4 : Write Down Side Notes

For practice, I recommend taking notes in a table format, using the ‘W’ words I mentioned above. We are going to designate a separate table for each speaker in the audio.

2nd Time Listening  

Step 1: Fill in the blanks and try to be aware of words you don’t quite ‘get’.

This is where you have the opportunity to fill in the blanks for the challenging words that you did not pick up in the first round. For example: Ubiquitous, monopolists, admirable, immersed, sophisticated and algorithm 

Step 2: Note down how the speakers convey their attitude, feeling, ideas, etc.

Step 3: Interaction between speakers. 

I will use ‘friendly’ and ‘polite’ to describe the interaction between the interviewer and Jocelyn Brewer. As you listen, see if you can identify why I have chosen these two words to describe the interaction. Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong answer here as long as your choice of descriptive words suit the audio clip.

3rd Time Listening  

Usually I would read the transcript in this third and final step, however, since there is no transcript available for this piece, I will skip this step.

4. Time to Test Your Listening Skills

Using the same audio clip and worksheet, have a go at these VCAA-style questions that I wrote up, and then check out my sample answers to see how your own answers compare. You will probably notice that a lot of the information you gather from the  ‘W’ words actually provides you with the answers to the majority of the questions here.

Sample Questions:

  1. What are the problems with internet use today? (2 marks)
  2. What is it that can draw people in and what example does Brewer use in relation to this? (2 marks)
  3. What is Beverley Wang’s opinion on some apps showing many ‘likes’? Support your answer with an example of word choice and language. (3 marks)
  4. What are the costs people have to pay, as Brewer suggests, for the use of Internet? (2 marks)
  5. What does Ecosia try to recognise? (2 marks)
  6. Give the word that the company officer of Ecosia uses to describe Google’s dominant power over the search engine. (1 mark)
  7. What are the two adjectives Beverely Wang uses to praise Ecosia? (2 marks)
  8. What are the challenges faced by companies like Ecosia, according to Brewer? (2 marks)

Sample Answers: 

  1. The problems of internet use lie in its prevalence in society and how powerful the technology is. The apps are designed to mimic the best psychological behaviours and maintain our interest. 
  2. Users are drawn in by a range of psychological hacks employed by the app designers. For example, Facebook has adjusted the size of the font to keep us engaged and immersed. 
  3. Beverley Wang expresses her opinions that some apps can foster addictive behaviours and can be scary by using a frustrated and alarmed tone. Additionally, by repeating the term ‘consuming’ four times in a row, delivered in a fast pace, Wang affirms the unethical and addictive nature of the apps.
  4. Brewer suggests people have to pay with time and attention.
  5. Firstly, Ecosia aims to be an ethically-orientated company by planting one tree for every 45 web searches. Secondly, it promises to be a ‘privacy-friendly’ platform and endeavours to expose the shameful motives of some search engines such as Google. 
  6. ‘monopolists’
  7. ‘noble’ and ‘admirable’
  8. Since using Ecosia requires ‘people-poser’, the public need to be more aware of the benefits of switching from an ‘automatically-preferred’ search engine to Ecosia. Ecosia receives ‘56 enquiries every minute’ compared to ‘40 thousand’ enquiries on their competitor’s web engine. 

For further tips and tricks on tackling the EAL Listening Exam, check out How To ACE the EAL Listening Exam.

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