The Listening Section: An Overview

In the Listening Section of the ELI-ASSET, you listen to three university lectures and take notes. The lectures are projected on a screen at the front of the room, and the sound comes through speakers mounted on the wall. The video and sound quality is very clear. This means that you can hear AND see the professors while they are talking. Each lecture will be played one time.

The lectures vary in length. They are prepared for non-experts in the field, so you do not need previous background knowledge about the topics to understand what the lecturer is saying.

During each lecture, you should listen carefully and write notes in the blue booklet that we give you. Your notes will not be scored, but you will be able to use them when you answer question about the lectures. You CANNOT use a dictionary or any other resource materials.

At the end of each lecture, you answer a series of questions about that lecture within a specified time limit. You will have 5 to 15 questions for each lecture for a total of 30 to 45 questions. The listening section takes between 45 and 55 minutes to complete depending on the length of the lectures and the number of questions asked.

The questions are printed in a test booklet. You will mark your answers on a separate answer sheet. You will NOT hear the questions; you will read them. You can use your notes while answering the questions.

After each lecture, the test administrator will announce how many questions you will answer and how much time you will have. The time limit is also printed in your test booklet.

Listening Skills and Strategies

To test your ability to comprehend university lectures, the listening section focuses on a variety of skills and strategies. Here is a list of the seven skills that will be evaluated. Please note that not all of these skills will be tested on every lecture or on every version of the ELI-ASSET.

Identifying the Main Idea: An important academic listening skill is understanding the main idea or "big picture" of your professors' lectures.

Main idea questions might be worded as follows:

  • What is the speaker's main idea?
  • What is the speaker's most important message?
  • What does the speaker mainly discuss in this lecture?
  • What does the speaker primarily discuss in this lecture?

Identifying the Speaker's Purpose: When listening to a lecture, it is important to know what the professor's purpose is. Is the purpose of the lecture to inform? Is the purpose to give you background information? Is the purpose to argue in favor of one theory or another? Is the purpose to convince you to take action?

Questions about the purpose of the lecture might be worded as follows:

  • What is the speaker's purpose in this lecture?
  • What is the purpose of this lecture?

Recognizing Details: Another important study skill is being able to identify important details in a lecture. The details support, explain, and develop the main idea. Details can be facts, examples, anecdotes, statistics, dates; they can be any specific information that relates to the main idea.

Detail questions might be worded as follows:

  • According to the speaker, + wh-question
  • Wh- question
  • A True-False Question

Understanding Inferences: Another important academic listening skill is the ability to infer ideas that the speaker does not state directly. Imagine for example, that you are getting ready to leave your apartment to go to class. Your roommate says to you: "Don't forget your umbrella." Without even using the word "rain," your roommate communicates to you, or implies, that it will rain. As the listener, you can infer from your roommate's sentence that it will rain today.

Inference questions might be worded as follows:

  • The speaker implies that....
  • It can be inferred from this lecture that...
  • What can you infer from this lecture?

Guessing Vocabulary from Context: While you are listening to university lectures, you will hear a lot of new vocabulary. Sometimes the speakers will define new terms for the class; sometimes, you will have to guess the meaning of the words from the context.

Vocabulary questions might be worded as follows:

  • The word "X" probably means...?
  • The word "X" is closest in meaning to...

Recognizing the Organizational Structure of the Lecture: Good speakers organize their lectures carefully so that they are easy for the listeners to follow and take notes. A history professor, for example, will organize his lectures by time order or by cause and effect order. A sociology professor might organize his lecture about two theories using comparison and contrast.

Good speakers also use signal words -- or road signs -- to let the listeners know where they are in the lecture.

Questions on organizational structure might be worded as follows:

  • What ideas will the speaker probably discuss next?
  • How did the speaker organize his lecture?

Applying What You've Learned: One important academic skill is being able to use, or apply, what you have learned to a new situation or context. This shows that you fully understand the ideas communicated because you can see how they relate to situations your professor did not discuss in the lecture.

Application questions might be worded as follows:

  • What concept from the lecture describes the following situation?
  • Based on what you learned from the lecture, what would you do in the following situation?

Read the following example. What idea from the lecture does it illustrate?