Pocas cosas nos ponen más nerviosos a la hora de hacer un examen que la prueba de listening. Incluso cuando nos ponemos un episodio de nuestra serie favorita en Netflix o HBO, un podcast, un vídeo en YouTube o una emisora de radio en inglés, ¡y parece que lo entendemos todo! Pero luego llega el examen y nos resulta imposible. ¿Qué hace tan complicada la prueba de listening, y sobre todo, qué podemos hacer para que no nos cueste?
The majority of students at this stage are not likely to struggle too much when it comes to understanding a video, a podcast, an episode of a TV show on Netflix or an interview with a celebrity or artist you like on YouTube or on television, especially if a) that information is backed up with subtitles or emphasized by means of body language and gestures and b) if understanding it means getting the gist of the message.
However, in advanced levels, you need to certainly go beyond just getting the gist of the message. Your listening comprehension abilities are going to be tested in different ways: whether you can distinguish between ambiguous information, whether you have understood very specific facts and data, whether you can attribute very precise information to the right speaker when there are different people speaking in a conversation, or the extent to which you can understand the key idea in an audio clip.
Also, bear in mind that in the majority of cases, you will come across information presented in an auditory (not visual manner), so you have to be especially attentive and attuned to relevant information. In short, you need to train those specific skills.
If you are not into podcasts or audiobooks, it’s time you get into them. On Spotify, iTunes or Ivoox you can find an enormous amount of podcasts that will surely be up your alley.
Some podcasts I am currently hooked on are the Joe Rogan podcast, beat your genes, Knowledge for Men, Real Talk with Zuby or Mind Pump (among many others). You will probably find something that works for you.
And the same goes for Audiobooks. These make it possible for you to do a lot of reading, while you are doing other chores that you sort of can do on autopilot, like commuting, meal prepping, doing household chores, doing the shopping, or going for a walk.
But make sure that you do not only listen in a passive way. You should be alert and jot down relevant phrases, expressions and words that you didn’t know or that you think could be useful to express certain ideas. In order to do this, what I have done is texting myself (on a WhatsApp group where I’m the only member) whenever I’m listening to a podcast or book and some cool expression comes up. Then, if I want to ensure that I can use that expression, phrase or word correctly and spontaneously, I check wordreference, Reverso or the corpus of American English to see how that language is used in the right context.
Also, make sure you challenge yourself and subject yourself to a variety of accents and dialects. If the only variety of English you regularly listen to is that of BBC/RP English (I.e.: what has been called “Standard British English”), you are missing out on a great deal of accents and dialects: Australian, American, Canadian, and even Indian/Hindi varieties. English is a global language; therefore, it doesn’t make much sense to stick to a variety spoken by roughly 50 million people.
In ENGLISH MASTERY you can find 50+ listening tests of speakers with a variety of accents and of all imaginable formats (sentence completion, multiple choice, multiple matching, T/F, etc.). By practicing them, you’ll feel way more confident when sitting your exam.