OET Listening – Tips and Practise for Success ┃E2 Test Prep


The OET Listening sub-test is a challenging section of the OET exam. Some of our students find it difficult because it requires ‘keeping up’ with several things all at the same time. For example, how do you listen to the audio recordings, think about the questions, keep pace with the conversation and write down or click the answers, all at the same time? For advice and guidance on how to practise for OET listening, please read on.

Practise for OET Listening

To help you achieve a high score in OET Listening, this post suggests some practice techniques that will help you develop skills to do your best in this section of the test. These techniques are intended to help you practise and improve your listening skills before test day.

If you are taking the ‘OET on computer’ version of the test, you aren’t allowed any materials in the testing room on test day, so underlining or jotting down notes is not possible. If you are taking the paper-based test, you are allowed to underline or make notes on your question sheet, but you won’t have the time and space on the question sheet to write anything more than a few words. Nevertheless, this slight difference might be enough to influence your decision whether to take the paper or computer-based version of the test.

With that, let’s get started. After giving a brief overview of the OET Listening test, we will focus on how to:

  • use the preparation time before the audio starts to familiarise yourself with the questions and know what you need to listen for. 
  • focus, anticipate answers, keep pace and stay calm while you are listening to the audio extract and answering questions.
  • review your performance and do better next time!

You will need to practise these listening skills yourself using real practice questions. To get access to OET listening practice questions, sign up to E2 Test Prep for free to begin practising today!

OET Listening Overview

The OET Listening sub-test is about 40 minutes long. It has three parts with 10 audio recordings and 42 marks available. You are given time to read the questions before you listen to the audio and answer the questions. The recordings are only played once and you answer the questions while listening. 

For an overview lesson explaining the OET Listening Sub-test, you can watch this video:

Part A: Consultation Extracts (2 recordings – 5 minutes each; 24 marks)

In Part A, you will hear two extracts, one after the other. Both recordings are of a conversation between a patient and healthcare professional. You are required to identify specific pieces of information and, basically, fill in the blanks on the answer sheet which are designed to look like notes. 

Part B: Short Workplace Extracts (6 recordings – 1 minute each; 6 marks)

In Part B, you will hear six short extracts. You are required in Part B to identify the detail, gist, opinion or purpose of a healthcare workplace scenario, for example,  team briefings, handovers, or health professional-patient dialogues. You will answer a single multiple-choice question for each scenario.

Part C: Presentation Extracts (2 recordings – 5 minutes each; 12 marks)

In Part C, you will hear two longer extracts from presentations or interviews on a range of general healthcare topics. You are required to identify gist, attitude and opinion. You will answer six multiple-choice questions for both recordings. 

As you can see, the format of Part A is different from Parts B and C, which are quite similar.

Before You Listen – Step 1 of OET Practice

In the OET Listening sub-test, you are given time to read the instructions and questions before the audio extract starts playing and it’s important to know how to use this time effectively. Although there are three different types of questions, we want to focus on preparation strategies that are important for all the question types. Learning and practising these will help you improve your OET Listening score.

1. Check the Instructions

Always take a few seconds to read the specific instructions for each listening task. If you are already familiar with all the task types in OET Listening, checking the instructions will quickly orient you to the task and give you a boost of confidence that you know what you have to do. More importantly, the instructions are different in some parts of the test. For example, in Parts B and C, you simply choose the correct answer from the options given, but in Listening Part A, you have to write the answer yourself. These instructions will look something like this:

Instructions for Part A of the OET Listening Test.

Note that the instructions for this particular task say ‘complete the notes with a short word or phrase that you hear.’ Now, looking at the answer sheet example below, you can see the gap you are expected to fill with that short word or phrase.

Notes for Part A of the OET Listening Test.

When the audio extract begins playing, you want to listen for a ‘back injury’ related word or phrase. As per the instructions, you will write exactly what you hear – an exact word or phrase – not a synonym.

2. Try the Reading and Mapping Practice Technique

In a recent study, Japanese researchers investigated the use of paper-based note-taking and entering notes into mobile devices. They found, using neuroimaging, that the physical act of writing things down on paper triggers more robust brain activity and better memory recall. In short, jotting things down on paper is a great memory building technique. 

So, to improve your OET practice, we recommend that you use our reading and mapping technique. To demonstrate the technique, we will look at a sample Listening Part A question that is publicly and freely available for study purposes on the OET website.

The question format is a ‘gap fill’ task and the question structure is laid out as two columns. The left column is a list of headings/labels that you can treat as ‘prompts’ or main ideas. The column to the right is the notes, with potential keywords and clues.

Answer Sheet for Part A of the OET Listening Test.
Keeping these features in mind, what is the best way to ‘read and map’ as notes on paper? 

The aim of reading and mapping is to develop a clear idea of what you will hear in the audio extract before it plays. With this clarity, you will be able to anticipate and predict answers by having a better idea of what information to listen for. This technique comes with the added benefit of helping you stay focused because you will encounter fewer ‘surprises’ as the audio extract plays. 

You will need to practise this technique. To read and map in OET Listening Part A, you should focus on:

  • who the speaker(s) is/are 
  • what the context of the conversation is and its core ideas, and 
  • the sequence and flow of the extract in line with the prompts and keywords.

Now, take a piece of paper and let’s write down a map of the sample question.

Let’s start with who. Although seemingly simple, it is important to identify the healthcare professional, their specialisation and who they are speaking to. For example, our sample answer sheet indicates that the conversation is between a physiotherapist and their patient, so let’s write this down.

Next, the context provides important high level insights into the expected subject matter of the discussion. For example, the physio is speaking with a new patient who is having back problems. Let’s note that down.

Finally,to familiarise ourselves with the expected sequence of the conversation, let’s quickly map each prompt and their corresponding keywords or ideas.

As mentioned above, if you write these ideas down in note form, the memory and retention benefits should help you get a better sense of what information you need to be focusing on as the audio extract plays.

3. Use the Underlining Practise Technique

If you are practising with online practice questions, using the underlining technique is difficult unless you want to download and print the practice questions. In addition, you can’t underline during the ‘OET on computer’ version of the test.  Nevertheless, you can practise with a variation of this method by doing a quicker version of what we showed you above. To get a better sense of how, let’s look at the Listening Part B question in the example below.

A question for Part B of the OET Listening Test.

For OET Listening Parts B and C, you should read to focus on:

  • who the speaker(s) is/are 
  • what the context is, and 
  • what issue to listen for
  • what keywords we should expect to listen for.

So, underline these in the question. Again, while practising, you should note these down on a piece of paper. Don’t worry if you take a bit of time, you will speed up with practice.

Your notes should look like this:

If you listen to the audio extract, you will hear that the answer is B.

You should practise more questions. Go to E2 Test Prep, sign up for the free trial and try a few of the listening questions.

While You Listen – Step 2 of OET Practice

The next challenge applies to OET Listening Parts A, B and C and involves listening to the audio extract, staying focused, and keeping pace with the speaker while answering the questions.

Here are a few key strategies that you can consider using to keep pace with the audio.

1. Anticipating the Answers

By the time the audio extract plays, we have used the reading time to identify the speaker, understand the context of the conversation and highlight keywords to listen for. Being clear about these three things helps us: 

  • anticipate the answers
  • boost confidence by reducing ‘surprises’.

What to Practise: Practise mentally reminding yourself that you are prepared and are only going to hear what you expect to hear! Also practise not panicking if you don’t understand a particular word or sentence, and instead focusing on the next key information you need to hear.

2. Listen for Signposting

As the audio plays in OET Listening, listen for signposting expressions that will help you follow the structure and sequence of what is being said. Signposting refers to identifying ‘transitions’ in the sequence of the conversation as the speaker moves from one topic or idea to the next. Typical signposting expressions are:

  • First/Firstly,…
  • To begin with…
  • Second/Secondly,…
  • Afterwards,…
  • Next,…
  • Then,….
  • Following this…
  • Finally,…

What to Practise: Practise listening for signposting expressions and when you hear one, use it to mentally mark your place in the conversation.

3. Be Prepared for and Avoid Distractors

Distractors are words or ideas that appear in a question that may not reflect the intention or point of the speaker you hear in the audio extract. If you are not listening closely, they seem like the correct answer. But if you are listening carefully, you can recognise that the statement is wrong. OET Listening Part B, for example, is full of distractors, so you need to practise avoiding them.

An example of a distractor is where a nurse is briefing her colleague about a patient that is being monitored for heart related ailments. One answer option given includes the statement that:

  1. the patient will be transferred to a specialist unit. 

While listening to the audio extract, you will hear the speaker state that:

‘If the patient does not respond favourably to treatment, the patient will be transferred to a specialist unit.’

In this example, the answer option does not match the intention of the speaker. The intention of the speaker is NOT to transfer the patient UNLESS they do not respond favourably to treatment. So that is a distractor. What to Practise: You will need to practise identifying distractors. To do that, you need to train yourself to be prepared to hear distractors, and not to be misled by them. You will need to stay attentive to ensure that you do not fall for similar sounding words, phrases or synonyms that might mislead you.

4. Keep Your Focus

You may lose your focus while listening to the audio extracts. Often this occurs when distractors cause you to become confused about what is the correct answer. If you begin to doubt and panic, you risk losing your concentration.What to Practise: Leaving one question won’t cost you more than one mark. So, don’t panic if that occurs in your OET Listening Test. You should skip the question or take your best guess with the hope it may be the right answer. You can overcome this problem with a regular OET Listening practice test. Bottom line, practise moving on to the next question without letting yourself get flustered if you realise you have missed one. After that, if you have time, go back and GUESS an answer if you can.

After You Listen – Step 3 of OET Practice

When you’ve finished listening to the audio recording, there are a couple of things you should do to prepare yourself for test day.

1. Check Your Answers

After the OET Listening test audio has finished, you have some time to either transfer your answers to an answer sheet (in the paper-based test) or check your answers (in the computer-based test). So when you’re preparing for the exam, you should practise running through a quick checklist so you can use this time effectively. For Part A, you need to quickly check:

  • your spelling – you won’t get a mark if you have spelt the word incorrectly.
  • your grammar – if you make a grammar mistake that affects your answer, you won’t get a mark. For example, if the word is supposed to be plural (e.g. allergies) and you write a singular word (allergy), it will be marked as incorrect. 
  • that you have followed the instructions, e.g. you have written a word or short phrase, not a complete sentence.
  • that you have answered every question. If you haven’t, now is the time to make your best guess.

2. Review Your Results

You might think that when you have finished listening to the audio and checking your answers, your listening practice has finished. But in fact, there is one more task you need to do to improve your listening skills and achieve your desired OET Listening score. You MUST review your results and make sure you understand why your right answers were right and why your wrong answers were wrong. It’s very simple – if you don’t know why you got the answer wrong, it’s likely that you will make a similar mistake in your next practice. You need to work out what your weaknesses are so that you can work on improving them in your next listening practice.

For example, did you miss answers because you didn’t recognise synonyms in the audio that matched words or phrases in the questions? This could be a sign that you need to work on expanding your vocabulary before your next listening practice. Or perhaps you heard a word from the question that was actually a distractor but you thought it was the answer. If that happens often, you need to practise making sure you keep listening after you hear words from the question to check that the speaker doesn’t change their mind or give a different answer.

Always have a goal for your practice. Using the previous examples, your goal might be, ‘I want to focus on listening for synonyms’ or ‘I want to focus on listening to everything the speakers say about the question before I choose the answer’. This is the best way to improve the specific listening skills that can make all the difference to your OET Listening score on test day.

Where to Find More OET Listening Practice

You now have a really good idea of how to effectively prepare for the OET Listening test. Now you need to put all the strategies you’ve just learnt into practice. So for more OET preparation, head to our OET Nurses or OET Doctors page and sign up for free. We’ve got practice questions, method lessons and live classes with expert teachers – everything you need to help you get the OET Listening score you need.

Author Bio:
E2 is the world’s leading test preparation provider. Our expert teachers are fully accredited English teachers, with TESOL, British Council or other relevant certification, and years of TOEFL examiner or TOEFL teaching experience.


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