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The OET Listening Trilogy: OET Listening Part A and What Makes It So Challenging

Fact File: OET Listening A Form: Two interviews between a physician and a patient, each around four and a half minutes long Task: Note completion Value: Accounts for staggering 24 points from a total of 42 Skills Assessed: Understanding, interpreting and recording important detail

As I keep hearing more and more complaints from my students about the OET Listening subtest and their countless futile attempts to understand where their difficulties stem from and how to overcome them, I grow increasingly suspicious of what their idea of effective practice, traceable progress and developing skills, actually is. Today, I would like to focus on two important points about the OET Listening Part A:

1. What's being assessed, as means of providing tools for more effective practice. 2. Skills and techniques students have to develop in order to perform well in the areas being assessed.

Let's first look at some not-so-popular facts about the A part of the OET Listening or at least to take a slightly different perspective on these. Each interview in the listening part A of the OET, is heavily patient-centered, with the vast majority of information coming from the patient. Almost 50% of the cases will involve a conversation between a patient and a doctor or a nurse, and the other 50% between a patient and another specialist such as a dentist, a therapist or a pharmacist. Most of the time patients will discuss medical history, symptoms, lifestyle or personal impact. The notes will include things that a medical professional will deem relevant- things a medical professional would want to record. So, if by now you've convinced yourself that the main problem holding you back from improving your performance is lacking vocabulary or poor listening skills or even that passing the OET is simply not in the cards for you- think again. You just might be overlooking the importance of a more thorough understanding of the purpose of this structure and what it tells you about the expectations the examiners have from you. To fully comprehend the fact that you need to learn how to interpret the notes, that you are in fact expected to take advantage of them both during the 30-second prep time as well as when the audio plays, how to match them to what you hear in the audio, to learn how to scan, and then eventually to boost your vocabulary and polish up your listening skills. Rather then expecting to hear a word that might fit the gap, you need to develop a system of tools that will help you understand the communication between the health professional and the patient and decide what would qualify as important, interpret this against the backdrop of the notes and record it. . To be more precise, by no means should you 'attack' the YouTube samples hoping to improve your performance. Instead, make sure you use not many, but rather reliable listening materials that have the above mentioned structure (many samples available online are not worth working with). Remember that completing all types of samples can backfire and reinforce mistakes or ineffective approaches to listening. Carefully create a plan choosing the right materials and decide which parts you will work on first. Move on to training the next step, only when you feel you've gained sufficient confidence in the previous one. And finally, aim at improving your skills not your score alone, only this will guarantee a steady performance regardless of the subject or the level of difficulty of the listening part. Feel free to share your experience with the OET Listening practice or any problems you might be struggling to overcome. Yours faithfully,


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