English & EAL

Tips on EAL Listening

April 18, 2022

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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 section of the curriculum was introduced by VCAA in 2017 and I highly recommend having a look at the examination reports from 2017 onwards as they provide valuable insight into what the examiners are looking for in high-scoring responses. In this blog, I will explain three key tips that helped me receive a perfect study score in EAL so that you can better prepare for EAL listening. 

Tip #1: Pay Attention to the Choice of Delivery 

Delivery of speech can be described from 5 aspects:

  1. Pitch

Pitch refers to the highness or lowness of a sound. High-pitch can be used to heighten the emotion; conversely, a low-pitched voice is often softer and quieter or used to make an important point.

  1. Pace 

Pace is the speed at which the speech is delivered. Pace can be described as ‘fast’ or ‘slow’.

  1. Presence of pauses, repetition, hesitation

These are often used in conjunction with pace and pitch of voice to illustrate the speaker’s feelings, attitude or views towards a certain issue.

  1. Emphasis/stress on certain words

The emphasis a speaker places on specific words or phrases serves to draw the listener’s attention to the most important information.

  1. Tone of voice

When I first started learning how to nail the listening component, I made an extensive list of descriptive words for tone of voice that can be incorporated into my answers when it comes to SACs and the exam:

It is, of course, awesome and somewhat satisfying to have a glorious list of A+ words under our belt, but they are of no use if we are not comfortable using them. By this, I mean we need to make sure we know the meaning of these fancy words and how to incorporate them into sentences. 

Although the full list is very useful, I found myself frequently tending to use a certain few as highlighted below. This helped me to memorise the words I found most versatile, rather than trying to memorise ones I was unlikely to use. You can select the words that work best for you individually - no right or wrong here!

Tip #2: How To Tackle the 3 Marks Question!

Usually, towards the end of a listening task, you will get a 3 marks question that asks for ‘choice of language and delivery’.

Note: For background information on this ‘Gidon’ question, see this blog. And, if you’re not sure why we have highlighted and underlined certain words, see here.

So how do we formulate a cohesive response for this question and ensure we can get 3/3? The train of thought for answering this question is similar to that of analysing how language is tailored to persuade the readers.

The following is an example of what your final answer might look like: 

Describe Gidon’s response to the change made to hospital fees. Support your answer with his word choice and delivery. 3 marks

Gidon is very happy and proud of the change in hospital fees. Gidon uses a cheerful and hopeful tone (1st mark) to deliver the message that the change brings him ‘a really good feeling’ and he feels ‘unbelievably proud’ that ‘small people can make great change’ (2nd mark). In addition, Gidon states this in a high pitch and at a fast pace, demonstrating that he is pleased and satisfied with the reduction in hospital parking fees (3rd mark).

For background information on this ‘Gidon’ question and its answer, see EAL Listening Practice.

Here is another sample answer question and answer (see this blog for background information):

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)

Beverley Wang expresses her opinion that some apps can foster addictive behaviours and can be scary by using a frustrated and alarmed tone (1st mark). Additionally, by repeating the term ‘consuming’ four times in a row (2nd mark), delivered at a fast pace, Wang affirms the unethical and addictive nature of the apps (3rd mark).

Tip #3: Build Your Vocabulary to Describe the Interaction Between Speakers 

In EAL listening, you are often expected to describe the interaction between two or more speakers. This allows you to comment on how multiple speakers express their ideas. 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. Here is a list of words that I frequently used to answer questions like this: 

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

Hint: You have probably noticed that a lot of the words used to describe the tone for language analysis overlap with the ones you employ to describe the interaction between speakers. This is a bonus since once you have learned these adjectives, you can use them for both sections of the exam. 


I hope you found these tips useful! For further tips and tricks on tackling the EAL Listening Exam, check out How To ACE the EAL Listening Exam.

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