How do I improve my academic listening skills in English?

This is the fourth and final lesson about Academic Listening Skills. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Discuss how to be a successful academic listener in English

– Explore before-, during- and post-listening strategies

– Consider both verbal and gestural lecture cues

Lesson 4

Now that you’re aware of what to anticipate in academic listening contexts and have identified which skills and strategies will support successful listening in these environments, you may now wish to learn about how and when to utilise such skills to increase listening success. This lesson focuses primarily on lectures and seminars as these are the most common academic listening contexts.

For many students, the challenge of listening in a lecture and seminar can be one of the most worrying aspects when entering higher education. It’s more common for students to have had a greater amount of practice at reading and writing throughout their primary and secondary education than they have listening to fluent speakers of English. Therefore, it can be quite important for students to engage a variety of autonomous strategies and study skills to support and develop their listening skills. This lesson details three stages of the listening process to highlight how various approaches can increase the chances of overall success.

 

1. Before the Lecture or Seminar

  • Firstly, try to find out what the lecture and seminar is going to be about and then prepare yourself for that topic as best as you can. If you have a general idea of the key concepts and themes about to be discussed, you’ll be better able to predict the types of phrases and general vocabulary that may be used.
  • After preparing for the topic, review any subject-specific vocabulary that may be useful. By practising the meaning, form and pronunciation of these words, you should hopefully be better prepared to hear them in an authentic listening environment.
  • Finally, allow yourself plenty of opportunity for listening practice, especially within a relevant theme or within your major, and make sure that you sleep well before your lecture or seminar. It’s well known that a tired mind is unable to listen as well as an alert one, especially in a second language.

 

2. During the Lecture or Seminar

  • One of the most important listening strategies during a lecture would be to keep an ear out for lecture cues. This is when becoming familiar with ‘signposting’ language can be extremely beneficial, as you’ll able to determine the structure of the presentation, when evidence is being provided, or when main ideas or concepts are being explained. Being able to recognise those linguistic structural elements will take some of the strain away from the listening process, and allow you to prepare for and devote attention to the content in between.
  • Another important strategy is to take notes while listening. Doing so is not only important for any student as it provides information that can be reviewed later, but for a non-native speaker it also helps to maintain focus. If a student is not listening and taking notes, then that student may tune-out and simply stop paying attention. Notes also provide a place to record any difficult or unknown vocabulary that can be investigated later, stopping that vocabulary from unnecessarily distracting the listener on the spot.
  • Remember also that non-verbal cues, such as the physical gestures of a speaker or the visual aids they use can also help a listener to contextualise what’s being said.
  • Finally, don’t let yourself get too distracted. If you find that you’re looking out of the window, are paying too much attention to another student, or are thinking about what you’re having for lunch, then you’re probably not paying enough attention and are therefore not sufficiently challenging your listening abilities.

 

3. After the Lecture or Seminar

  • Once the lecture or seminar is complete, a good idea might be to review any notes taken and consider further researching the topic of the presentation. Doing so may help you to reflect on some aspects of the talk that you perhaps thought you’d heard but weren’t 100% sure about.
  • Reflect also on the aspects of the lecture or seminar that you struggled with in regards to listening, and pay special attention to improving these areas next time. For example, if you found it difficult to concentrate on both the PPT presentation and the speaker simultaneously, then this should be one aspect of multitasking which you should focus on improving in the future.
  • Finally, create study groups and discuss the lecture or seminar content with your peers. This will not only help you to develop a further understanding of the topic and confidence in discussing it, but it should also give you further listening practice too.
4 of 4 Lessons Completed

Materials

Once you’ve completed all four lessons about academic listening skills, you might also wish to download our beginner, intermediate and advanced worksheets to test your progress or print for your students. These professional PDF worksheets can be easily accessed for only a few Academic Marks.

Our academic listening skills guidance sheet (including all four lessons about this topic) can be accessed here at the click of a button.

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