Listening

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The listening test is designed to check your ability to understand spoken English in healthcare and topics of general medical interest.

It is common to all health professionals taking the test and consists of two parts: Part A and Part B.

In Part A of this test, candidates listen to a consultation between a health professional and a patient and have to take notes on the consultation under relevant headings. The duration of Listening Part A is between 20-25 minutes, and it's worth 50% of the total listening test score. The recording is played once only and contains pauses to allow candidates to complete their notes and prepare for the subsequent question.


Pauses appear as follows:

A one minute pause at the beginning for students to read through the test paper

  • - A 20-second pause after a question finishes for students to finish their answers.
  • - A 10-second pause to prepare for the next question.
  • - A one minute pause at the end of the test to check through all answers.

Between the 20 and 10 second pauses, there is an announcement that explains that the students should read through the next question and also states what it will be about.

For example, if the next question is question 3 and the question asks for "patient's dietary habits," the announcement would say,
"Now look at question three. Take notes on Maria's dietary habits."

Tips to score well:

Attempt to get a wide experience of listening in English and use audio materials regularly. Your ability to perform well in the Listening sub-test can be improved by listening to material from a variety of sources, not just test-related contexts.

Listen to podcasts to:

  • Improve your listening skills
  • Become familiar with different accents and styles of speech
  • Build your vocabulary
  • Understand native speakers, even when they speak quickly

Listening Part A test strategies

  • Reduce your notes to essential words to convey meaning – Do not write complete sentences
  • Use note-taking shorthand – use abbreviations, keywords, symbols, creative spelling to represent ideas clearly and quickly
  • Spellings is not important as long as the word is identifiable
  • Do not write everything that is spoken, rather listen for information relevant to the heading
  • Use the pauses optimally to complete the answers as well as getting ready for the following question
  • Ensure that your handwriting is legible

Sample Question

Let's try an example:

The consultation is divided into sections with brief pauses between the sections. Assume that you are listening to a recording of a consultation between Maria and her general practitioner. Your question asks you to take notes on Maria's lifestyle.

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Transcript:

Doctor: Maria, could you tell me something about your daily routine?
Maria: Well, on the weekdays, I am really busy. Work keeps me busy, and I usually have competing demands on my time. A typical day starts at 8 am and ends around 10 p.m. I wake up at 8 am after which I get ready for work. I pick up something to eat on the way and reach work by 9 am. I eat my lunch around 2 and afternoons are usually occupied with client meetings. I get free from work around 6 pm. I am usually so tired after work that I go straight home, order food, and watch some television and then sleep around 10. On the weekends though, I like to have a good time. I like to go out with friends and have a few drinks, or probably catch up on my shopping. Sometimes, I also like to watch a movie that has just released or visit an exhibition or fair in the city.

Sample Answer:

Maria's daily routine

Weekdays - v. busy /hectic - Day start 8am - end 10 pm Wake 8 am - get ready work- eat on way- reach work 9 am - lunch at 2 pm- leave work 6pm- go home- order food in- television- sleep 10 pm.

Weekends (relaxed)- go with friends -drinks, shopping, movie, exhibition/fair

General tips to improve listening

Take targeted practice to improve different listening sub-skills. For example :

  • Listening for gist
  • Listening for specific detail
  • Listening to understand speaker's attitude or viewpoint

Develop awareness about detecting signposting language or structural cues that can help in making predictions about what is likely to be heard in sequence.

Practice good quality tests to familiarise yourself with the test format.

In Listening Part B, which is of approximately 20-25 minutes, students listen to a monologue on a health-related topic and answer questions, including multiple-choice questions, fill-in-the-blank, and open-ended questions.

Tasks include but are not limited to:

  • Multiple-choice questions
  • Sentence completion
  • Short-answer questions
  • Summary completion
  • Lecture notes completion
  • Table/flow-chart/mind-map completion
  • Word replacement response
  • Matching responses

Pauses appear in the recording to allow the students to read the subsequent question and complete their answers.

  • - A one minute pause at the beginning for students to read through the test paper.
  • - A 20-second pause after a question finishes for students to finish their answers.
  • - A 20-second pause to prepare for the next question.
  • - A two-minute pause at the end of the Listening test to check through all answers.

Just like in Listening Part A, there is an announcement to read the next question between the two 20 second pauses that occur between each question. However, unlike Listening Part A the announcement does not state what the next question will be about.

Effective Listening Part B strategies:

  • Use reading time effectively – quickly flick through the paper to see which task types are included but then focus on the first 2-3 sections making sure to read the instructions carefully, notice and perhaps underline key words and predict what type of information you will need to provide to answer each question.
  • Listen and read the example section at the same time as it is being said on the recording. This will help to familiarise you with the voice of the presenter and provide an opportunity to hear the answer within the recording.
  • During the pause between sections, try to complete your answers to the previous section as quickly as possible and then read the questions in the next section. When the recording for the next section starts, try to hold the next two questions in your memory, so you do not lose your place in the section if you miss the answer to the first question.
  • Spelling is not important if the word is identifiable with the answer on the rubric, so do not waste time worrying about whether your answers are spelled correctly.
  • Paraphrasing of answers, including the use of abbreviations, is also acceptable and so are grammatical errors which don't affect the examiner's ability to comprehend the answer.

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For example, if the answer to a question were "several transient ischemic attacks" the following answers would be acceptable:

  • Many TIAs
  • Multiple mini-strokes
  • Several transiant iskemic atacks (i.e. a misspelt answer which is phonetically close to the proper answer)

These answers, however, would not be acceptable:

  • Transient ischemic attack (because the omission of quantity changes the meaning of the answer)
  • Many strokes (because TIA is a type of "mini" stroke, the answer needs to communicate this
  • Severed transient ischemic attack (because the spelling mistake has changed the meaning of the answer)
  • Sevar dransant iskemy adack (because these spelling mistakes mean the answer cannot be understood. It could also be suggested that this error has come from mishearing the answer rather than just misspelling.)
    • During the 2 minutes for checking answers at the end, look back through their answers, making sure they make sense in the context of the question and that they are as complete and legible as possible.
    • For gap-fill questions, get into the habit of reading the text before and after the gap – both might affect your answer.