Listening comprehension & note-taking



Standard Listening Comprehension Exercise.

Try this exercise with any listening material you can find: lectures, news programmes, radio talks etc.


1. Think about your reasons for choosing your listening text. Did you choose it because:

  • you were told to/have to
  • you are interested in the subject
  • you want some specific information
  • you want some general background information
  • you want to learn some new vocabulary related to this subject
  • you had no particular reason for choosing this text
  • another reason(s) _________________

How will your reason for choosing your text affect the way you listen?

2. Look at the title of any other printed materials which go with the listening text.

  1. Write down 5 things which you already know about the topic.
  2. Write down five questions to which you would like answers.

3. Now write down as many words as you can think of which are connected with the topic. Write down the words in a list or make word stars. For example:

Word Star


Look at these questions and then start listening. You could listen straight through and answer your questions when you the talk is finished, or you could write down your answers as you listen. Answer all the questions.

4 . How many speakers are there? Where are they? What sort of people are they? What are their relationships to each other?

5. Did you hear any of the words that you wrote down in 3. above?

6. Were your questions in 2.ii above answered?

7. Write down a few sentences that you think describe the main ideas of the talk.


8. Listen to the first few sentences. What information is given about the structure of the talk?

9. Draw a diagram or flow chart to show how the talk is organised.

10. Listen to the talk and try to identify the parts identified in 8 and 9. Which words helped you?

11. Were there any parts of the talk that you found very difficult? Listen to these again. Try and decide why they are difficult. Ask for help if necessary.

12. Find as many of these as you can:

  1. definitions; classifications
  2. statements of aims; statements of scope
  3. comparisons or contrasts; opinions
  4. sentences containing causes; reasons for opinions
  5. sentences containing results; examples
  6. lists
  7. a line of argument; possible explanations
  8. sentences in which a conclusion is drawn
  9. reporting what other people have said
  10. descriptions of people, things or concepts
  11. descriptions of events, systems or processes

How did you recognise these types of sentences? Which of these helped you:

  1. the overall meaning;
  2. the position of the sentence in the section or whole talk;
  3. certain words or phrases.


Before you listen for the last time, look at the following questions.

Choose the questions which you want to answer. Do as many or as few as you want.

13. Check again for answers to your questions from 2.ii.

14. Make a note of anything which you found particularly interesting or surprising, or that you didn't know before.

15. Write down any numbers that you hear together with information connected with them.

16. Are any names mentioned? Make a note of them (make a guess at the spelling). Are they names of people, places or what?

17. Imagine you are going to write some questions for another student who is going to listen to the text. Write 5-8 questions. Make sure you also have a note of the answers.

18. Choose two or three sentences and write down the exact words - like a dictation.

19. Difficult words: are there any words or phrases which you don't know or can't understand and which seem to be important for your understanding of the text as a whole? Try to write them down. Ask for help in identifying the words - from a lecturer or another student. Try to guess the meaning from the context. Check your guess, using a dictionary, a teacher or another student.

20. Do you agree/disagree with anything which is said? What? Why?

21. What seem(s) to be the speaker(s) purpose(s)? To inform, persuade, entertain, discuss, or what?

22. Can you identify the type of language:

  1. Was it Formal, Neutral or Informal?
  2. Was it Read aloud from a written text or Spontaneous

23. Write down some words, phrases or sentences to support your opinion.

24. Write a summary of the text in about 200 words.

Based on an exercise from The English Language Centre, University of Exeter.