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Listening Paper

This material was prepared by Eve Mayes, Condell Park High School.

1Resources on the internet
The Listening paper
What should you do when listen to radio texts?
How do I know what the question is asking me to do?
Correct descriptions of vocal features
Precise answers
Using nominalisation to make your answers more precise
Describing the effect of a technique
The final question(s)
Analysing effectiveness

Resources on the internet

Listening to authentic texts is the best way to develop your listening skills. You should listen to the radio regularly and you can also access listening texts online. Some of these texts can be downloaded onto an MP3 player. Downloaded texts can be listened to a number of times, so you can replicate the listening exams (listening twice to a text).

Some good places to find listening texts:

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The Listening paper

All candidates undertaking English (ESL) complete the Listening paper. It is worth 15 marks. You will have 30 minutes to read the questions, listen to the text twice and write your answers.

Lines for writing are provided provided in the examination booklet under the questions. These lines provide an indication of how much students are expected to write.

The known fact is that you will listen to a text and answer a range of questions about the text and its features.

The unknown fact is the types of listening text and the features of the text. You may be presented with an interview, narrative, documentary, report, speech, performance or talk back radio text. This is a paper where the best responses will have a clear understanding of the purpose and audience of the text and where the vocal and language features are discussed when appropriate. It is very important that you read the questions carefully.


All HSC examination papers are printed and formatted in the same manner. At the beginning of any question is the rubric, which defines, for candidates, the guidelines or criteria their response will be aligned to in determining the mark for particular questions. It is essential that for every HSC question, in any subject, these guidelines are read and considered before composing a response to any question.

Look at English (ESL) Listening Paper (external website).

In 2009 the criteria for the Listening Paper was:

In this section you will be assessed on how well you:

  • demonstrate understanding of the relationship between language, text, audience and purpose

This criteria has been the same since 2001 (the beginning of the HSC ESL course).

Time management during the exam

Time your responses well to ensure that all questions are completed with time allocation appropriate to the mark for each section.


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(external website)http://www.flickr.com/photos/alancleaver/4293345633/sizes/s/ (external website)

Be aware of the mark allocated to the question and the answer space (where this is provided on the examination paper) to give you a guide to the length of the required response. Answers and quotations should be short, succinct, relevant and clearly explained. A question worth 1 mark only requires a brief answer. Perhaps one word, but at most two-three sentences is usually enough. Writing far beyond the allocated space will impact on your time to answer other questions. In particular, spending too much time on low-mark questions will compromise your time to answer the last question, which usually has the highest mark allocation.

You should download copies of past papers (external website) and work through the format of the questioning in the Listening Paper. The allocation of marks is similar and by going over past papers you can develop an understanding of the time it will take you to respond to each section.

Timing of each question throughout the Listening Paper as a whole is important and you should ensure you have a watch or a clear view of a wall clock to maintain a consistent and appropriate pace in completing all questions.

The paper builds in intensity and this is reflected in the mark allocation. Answering the questions sequentially will clarify the meaning of the text, allowing you to develop new meanings in a personal, analytical manner for the final question.

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What should you do when listen to radio texts?

And What shall I Write by tomswift46.

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomswift/4837657/ (external website)

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How do I know what the question is asking me to do?


"How" is a question word that is frequently used in English examination questions. This often requires students to explicitly refer to language or vocal techniques.

How = techniques

'How' is one word, which can be expanded to read "explain what language techniques the composer uses to ___________."Quotations from the text by themselves are not sufficient responses for a question that starts with "How".

Quotations can and should be used to support a response by considering how, for example:


The term way is also closely linked to the how and requires direct reference to the vocal or language features (techniques) of the texts. Quoting from the text to support the 'how' is essential. A direct quotation from the text does not prove or determine the 'way' unless it is supported.


 "To what extent" requires students to evaluate. The answer will require the use of words like: "highly," "partly," "not".

"How effective" also requires students to evaluate. The answer will require the use of words like: "highly," "partly,quot; "not". (See also Analysing effectiveness section below).


Look at past Listening papers to give you clues to words that frequently come up in questions. You should look up the Board's Glossary of Key Words (external website) for any words that you are unsure about and discuss these words with your teacher.

Some of the main words from this Glossary that could be used in the Listening Examination include:

Account -Account for: state reasons for, report on. Give an account of: narrate a series of events or transactions

Analyse -Identify components and the relationship between them; draw out and relate implications

Compare -Show how things are similar or different

Contrast -Show how things are different or opposite

Critically (analyse/evaluate) -Add a degree or level of accuracy depth, knowledge and understanding, logic, questioning, reflection and quality to (analyse/evaluate)

Define -State meaning and identify essential qualities

Demonstrate -Show by example

Describe -Provide characteristics and features

Discuss -Identify issues and provide points for and/or against

Explain -Relate cause and effect; make the relationships between things evident; provide why and/or how

Identify -Recognise and name

Justify -Support an argument or conclusion

Outline -Sketch in general terms; indicate the main features of

Recommend -Provide reasons in favour

Recount -Retell a series of events

Summarise -Express, concisely, the relevant details

Synthesise -Putting together various elements to make a whole

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Correct descriptions of vocal features

Students often confuse the vocal features and how to describe them. This is a frequent point made in the Notes from the Marking Centre (external website).

To revise you understanding of the key vocal features complete the following interactive quizzes:

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Precise answers

To achieve the highest mark range, students need to give precise answers rather than generalised answers. Even if you have not listened to a text, you can tell if the answer is precise or general. Look at the following example of a precise answer:

Q: How is ONE vocal technique used to engage the responder?

How is one vocal technique used to engage the responder

Look at the following answers to the same question. Identify whether they are precise (P) or general (G):

  1. The presenter talks softly and then loudly to make the listener interested in what she is saying. ______________
  2. The interviewer uses a loud tone. This creates a feeling that she is happy or maybe angry. ______________
  3. When the presenter says, "the beautiful, lush lands of Laosquot;, her dreamy tone of voice creates a sense of wonder and magnificence. This makes the audience interested to hear further descriptions of Laos, engaging them in the program. ______________
  4. The presenter says "the beautiful, lush lands of Laosquot; and uses alliteration. This makes the audience interested in the program. ______________
  5. "Come with me to a land of wonder." The presenter has a high voice that makes the listener engaged in the text. ______________


Which response has not referred to vocal features? What mark would this answer receive?


For each of the 'general' answers, write a marker's comment explaining what is 'missing' in the student's answer.


Rewrite the 'general' answers to increase their precision and sophistication.

Download a Word version of this activity

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Using nominalisation to make your answers more precise

Improve your answers by nominalising your statements. This is particularly useful when you are asked to identify theeffectof a technique. "Nominalisationquot; is the process of making a word a noun. Nominalisation makes your sentences sound more precise, sophisticated and formal.

Fill the gaps of the following descriptions of effects by nominalising the word in italics.


Previous description of the effect of a technique Nominalised description of the effect of a technique (add "creates a feeling of…")
This technique shows that she is excited. This technique creates a feeling of her excitement.
This shows that he is depressed. This demonstrates his feeling of depression.
This makes us know that she is happy. This creates a feeling of her ________________.
The technique shows he is satisfied. The technique creates a sense of his satisfaction.
The technique makes him sound strong. The technique creates a feeling of his _____________________.
The speakers discuss topics that interest the listeners. The speakers' ________________ of topics of interest to listeners creates a feeling of…
The speaker's rising intonation shows she is afraid of spiders. The speaker's ____________ of spiders is conveyed through her rising intonation.
The technique shows the interviewer is irritated. The technique creates a feeling of the interviewer's ___________________.
This shows the interviewer is not interested. This conveys a sense of the interviewer's _________________________.
This engages the audience. This generates audience __________________.

<< Download an interactive PDF of this activity which includes the answers for this activities.>>

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Describing the effect of a technique

Students' explanations of the effect of techniques are often too general (e.g. "This technique shows he is happy.")

Improve your vocabulary to make your description of the effect of a technique more specific. Find other ways to say happy, sad, positive and negative.

In the following table, the adjective is listed, followed by the noun in (parentheses).

Warning:Make sure you know exactly what the word means before using it in an examination!

LEVEL of INTENSITY Happy (Happiness) Sad (Sadness) Positive - Confident (Confidence) Negative - Angry (Anger)
Strong Ecstatic (ecstasy)
Excited (excitement)
Delighted (delight)
Thrilled (thrill)
Devastated (devastation)
Distressed (distress)
Eager (eagerness)
Keen (keenness)
Furious (fury)
Disdainful (disdain)
Angry (anger)
Moderate Merry (merriness)
Cheerful (cheerfulness)
Joyful (joy)
Disappointed (disappointment)
Let down
Expectant (expectancy)
Confident (confidence)
Certain (certainty)
Sure (certainty)
Self-assured (self-assuredness)
Cynical (cynicism)
Disillusioned (disillusionment)
Annoyed (annoyance)
Sarcastic (sarcasm)
Pessimistic (pessimism)
Sceptical (scepticism)
Mild Pleased (pleasure)
Satisfied (satisfaction)
Content (contentment)
Glad (gladness)
Blissful (bliss)
Dissatisfied (dissatisfaction)v Displeased (displeasure)v Discontented (discontentment) Hopeful (hope)
Optimistic (optimism)
Encouraging (encouragement)
Helpful (helpfulness)
Irritated (irritation)
Frustrated (frustration)
Distrustful (distrust)

Choose 8 words that you are going to learn and try to use.

Download this table as a Word document.

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The final question(s)

Look at the last questions in previous years' Listening Papers.

(Note: In some past papers, the final two questions have both been worth three or four marks. All final questions worth three or four marks have been included in this table.)

Year Question Key words
2009 7. How effective is Cinnamon Nippard as presenter of the radio program? Refer to different aspects of her role. (4 marks)  
2008 7. How is the program structured to maintain the listener's attention? (4 marks)  
2007 6. Lynne Malcolm talks to three women who have experienced déjá vu, and to two scientists. Compare what the women say, and how they say it, with what the scientists say, and how they say it. (4 marks)

7. Different techniques have been used to make the program interesting for a radio audience. Identify TWO techniques used and explain their effects in detail. (4 marks).
2006 4. What sort of a person is Kylie's mother? Identify TWO ways Kylie communicates this to the listener. (3 marks)

5. (b) Richard Fidler makes the interview seem like a friendly 'conversation'. Analyse how he does this. (4 marks)
2005 5. Identify TWO features of spoken language Barry uses. Explain how these features engage the listener. (4 marks)

6. Analyse how a reflective or thoughtful mood is created in the text you have heard. (3 marks)
2004 7. What features make this an effective oral presentation? Analyse TWO features. (4 marks)
Feature 1:
Feature 2:
2003 6.Ian Rogerson uses different techniques to make this program interesting to a radio audience. Identify TWO of these techniques, and evaluate their effectiveness. (4 marks)
Technique 1:
Technique 2:
2002 7.Analyse the way this radio program has been composed to engage the audience. (4 marks)  
2001 6.What are the purposes of this radio interview? (3 marks)

7.Different techniques are used to make this interview interesting to a radio audience. Identify TWO of these techniques and explain their effects. (4 marks)

Download a Word version of this activity with the table completed correctly.

Making the program interesting/ engaging the audience

Some questions will ask students to analyse how the text or the presenter make the program interesting/ engage the listeners.

Each listening text is different and should be analysed for its own features and merits. Some aspects of the texts that you may consider in writing your answer might include:

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Analysing effectiveness

Sometimes the last question has asked students to consider how effective the listening text or a particular speaker is in engaging its intended audience.

Each listening text is different and should be analysed for its own features' effectiveness. You must read the question clearly to know what they are asking you to analyse the effectiveness of. Some examples of questions could include:

Some things that you may consider in answering the above questions might include:

  • Highly effective
  • Extremely effective
  • Exceedingly effective
  • Exceptionally effective
  • Greatly effective
  • Decidedly effective
  • Certainly is effective
  • Undoubtedly effective
  • Very effective
  • Partly effective
  • Partially effective
  • Moderately effective
  • In part
  • To a degree
  • To a certain/ some extent
  • Fairly effective
  • Reasonably effective
  • Quite effective
  • Moderately effective
  • Somewhat effective
  • Rather effective
  • Not effective
  • Successful
  • Effectual

Download a Word version of this table.

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