What are academic listening contexts?

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

– Discuss which listening skills match which contexts

– Highlight the importance of listening in lectures and seminars

– Provide some guidance on academic tutorials and meetings

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Lesson 3

Academic listening skills are useful in a variety of different contexts, and knowing which skills are most necessary for which contexts can help a listener greatly with being best prepared. Of course, outside of a university situation, there are many possible listening scenarios. We’ve only outlined four below however, as these are the most common listening contexts university students usually have to deal with.


1. Lectures

The first and perhaps most challenging academic listening context is the lecture. Lectures are typically held for an hour, although sometimes they may be as long as two hours – which can be quite exhausting for a non-native listener. Such lectures are usually designed to transmit information directly from the expert (the lecturer) to the learners without too much expectation for the students to interact. There is usually a continuous presentation of information, and so the goal of the listener is to follow the lecturer and understand what’s being described. Significantly, the topic of a lecture may likely be of great relevance in the major being studied and understanding its content will therefore be very necessary.

Although the listener is not required to interact in such a lecture, there are still certain listening skills that will need to be practised, especially seeing as a lecturer may also be including visual aids in their presentation. We’ve presented a graphic below outlining the five key lecture listening skills:

Academic Listening Skills 3.1 Listening Skills for Lectures

2. Seminars

In contrast to a lecture, a seminar is expected to be an interactive process between the tutor and the learners. Although the tutor will likely have taken some time to present subject-specific topics and concepts, they will most likely have also prepared tasks and discussion topics to engage their students actively. It’s possible that the seminar will have the same topic as the lecture, and therefore that week’s main topic will be continuous.

In addition to handouts, the tutor will still likely have a PowerPoint or other visual aid to support and illustrate their topic, and a seminar may also be more likely to include video or audio clips. In the seminar, it’s therefore highly likely that students will be tasked with collaborative activities which will require them to listen and respond appropriately to each other. Students will therefore be required to most often utilise the following seminar listening skills:

Academic Listening Skills 3.2 Listening Skills for Seminars

3. Tutorials

It’s also common for university students to have to deal with careful listening during tutorials. Such tutorials may be academic 1-2-1 sessions or group tutorials in which you discuss an academic assignment you’re working on, or they may be more personal in nature to support and explore aspects of your personal life. Whichever type it is, you’ll no doubt need to draw on a number of listening skills so that you can both listen, react and respond appropriately.


4. Meetings

Meetings may also be required to discuss your career prospects, to interview you for a particular degree or role at the university, or to discuss situations of potential academic misconduct. Seeing as such meetings are usually quite important, it would be unfortunate to mishear something that could later cause you issues. Lesson 4 has therefore been created to focus on how listening skills can be improved.

3 of 4 Lessons Completed


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.

Gain unlimited access to our academic listening skills beginner worksheet, with activities and answer keys designed to check a basic understanding of this topic’s lessons.

To check a confident understanding of this topic’s lessons, click on the button below to download our academic listening skills intermediate worksheet with activities and answer keys.

Our academic listening skills advanced worksheet with activities and answer keys has been created to check a sophisticated understanding of this topic’s lessons. 

To save yourself 5 Marks, click on the button below to gain unlimited access to all of our academic listening skills guidance and worksheets. The All-in-1 Pack includes every lesson on this topic, as well as our beginner, intermediate and advanced worksheets in one handy PDF.


You may also wish to download any relevant PowerPoint activities, teacher resources or audio and video recordings we’ve created about this topic for only a few Academic Marks.

Click on the button below to gain unlimited access to our academic listening skills teacher’s PowerPoint, which should include everything you’d need to successfully introduce this topic.

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Summer 2021