Approaching OET Listening Part C: Listening to longer stretches of discourse

Listening part C is often cited by candidates as being the most challenging of the listening sections of the OET exam. Like part B, it uses a multiple-choice format, however, unlike part B, the texts are of an extended nature, typically around six-and-a-half to seven minutes in length. Keeping focussed on extended recordings like this can be tricky, particularly as there is only one main speaker, meaning that more information can be included at a faster pace. So, here are some ways in which we can approach this task in order to maximise our potential marks.

 

1.  Begin with a top-down approach:

A top-down approach refers to an approach to a new text which allows us to engage our own background knowledge in relation to a topic. So, if we were about to listen to a radio documentary in our own language about the Zika virus, we would go into that documentary with certain ideas and expectations. We’d be thinking about things such as: where the virus began; the effects of the virus; how to avoid catching the virus; we might make comparisons between the Zika virus and other viruses we are knowledgeable about. All of these ideas prepare us to listen to an extended text. The logical expectations we have when we listen exist to allow us to make more sense more quickly of new information. Just as we would approach a text like this in our own language in order to help us make sense of it, we can take the same approach to an OET listening part C text. The first line will always tell us who is speaking and what the topic of the text will be. For example, here’s the first line from a sample OET question: “You hear an interview with a cardiologist called Dr Jack Robson, who’s an expert on Chagas disease.” So what is the topic going to be here? Hopefully, you can clearly see that it will be Chagas disease. Now you can begin to activate your background knowledge in a similar way to how you would do in relation to the Zika virus.

2. Use the interview questions as a guide:

OET listening part C has two extracts. They will either be in the form of a presentation with only one speaker or they will be in the form of an interview with two speakers. If it’s an interview, this can be useful as each time the interviewer asks a question it should act as a prompt to the listener that s/he needs to focus on a new question from the question paper. In the sample question above, for example, we are told initially that we will hear an “interview”. If we listen to the recording, we will hear the first question the interviewer asks: “what is Chagas disease and why is it referred to as a neglected disease?” If we look at the question paper, we will see the first question is “Why does Dr Robson regard Chagas as a neglected disease”. The next question the interviewer asks is: “Are there concerns in the USA about Chagas?” a the next question in the question paper is: “Dr Robson says concerns over Chagas in the USA are the result of…” Hopefully, you can see here that the interviewer’s questions and the questions on the question paper strongly match, so we have a very useful guide as to when we should be moving on to the next question. This is an important strategy as it can help us to navigate the recording and avoid missing answers.

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3. Listen out for signposting language:

If you’re listening to the presentation rather than the interview, then you will need to listen out for signposting language as your guide. Signposting language is language which indicates the beginning of a new idea or the end of an old idea and it helps to organise longer stretches of speech. This can be done by using sequencing adverbs such as “first”, “second”, etcetera or by using discourse markers such as “Now…” and “So…” to indicate a change of topic or the development of an idea. Here is an example of a presentation-type OET question: “You hear an occupational therapist called Anna Matthews giving a talk to a group of trainee doctors.” Now, there will be no interviewer here to break up the questions but if we look at how the speaker begins her ideas, we can still be guided. Near the beginning of the presentation, the speaker says “first, let’s think about what we understand by occupational therapy”. Very helpfully, this relates directly to the focus on the first question, which is: “Anna says that the main focus on her work as an occupational therapist is…”. The speaker then shows that she’s moving on to her next idea by saying: “Now, on to my case study. It involves a patient called Ted…”. The next question in the exam is, meanwhile: “When Anna first met the patient called Ted, she was…”. So, we can see here how the speaker uses this signposting language to help listeners navigate the questions. Practise listening out for it when you next do your OET listening part C practice.

 

4. Listen to interviews and presentations online

There is a wealth of English-language content out there which will help you prepare for what you will encounter in OET listening part C. Podcasts are particularly useful as, just as in the OET listening exam, you will only be able to access the audio (no visuals). BBC podcasts include a range of interviews and extended monologues. Other podcasts, such as Sam Harris’ Making Sense include long-form interviews and extended speech where you will get to listen to many different accents and here many examples of signposting language (links to recommendations are included below). Give this sort of content a regular listen and then try to write a short summary based on what you heard and what you learned. Doing this is a great way to build your exposure to English and to prepare you for what you will face in OET part C.

If you’re planning to take the OET exam, we’ve got live group classes, speaking mock exam classes, video courses and writing corrections as part of our OET packages. You can click here to learn more:

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Practice

  1.  Look at the following listening part C description: “You hear a presentation by a specialist cancer nurse called Sandra Morton, who’s talking about her work with prostate cancer patients, including a man called Harry.” Try to activate your background knowledge.  What sort of ideas come into your mind when you read the description? What sort of information or ideas would you expect to hear the nurse talk about? 
  2. Look at the question again, is it an interview or a presentation? 
  3. Look at the first two question from the sample task: 

“What does Sandra Morton see as the main aim of her work?” 

“When Harry was offered a routine health check at his local surgery, he initially…” 

What sort of signpost language might the speaker use to guide the listener with these questions? 

4. Now look at this description, is it a presentation or an interview? 

You hear an interview with a doctor and researcher called Dr Fox into the effects of passive smoking. 

5. Look at the above description again.  What sorts of questions would you expect to be asked of the doctor? What sorts of questions would you ask such a doctor? 

6. Access a mock OET listening part C test.  Approach it using the above tips.  How much did it help you follow the discourse? 

    Answers: 

    1. Possible ideas include: the effects of prostate cancer; who is most at risk; the risk of dying; potential recovery, etc 
    2. Presentation (clearly stated in description) 
    3. Possible language includes: First, firstly, now, moving on to, so, for example, etc 
    4. Interview (stated in description) 
    5. Possible ideas include: How dangerous is passive smoking? Who is most at risk? What studies have been done? Etc. 
    6. Answer will relate to individual’s personal experience 

    Join one of our OET course packages (starting at just $49)in order to get high quality practice and feedback from one of our OET UK teachers by clicking here:

    For doctors: https://www.swooshenglish.com/oet-packages-doctors
    For nurses: https://www.swooshenglish.com/oet-packages-nurses

     

     

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