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Critical listening skills

1. Be focused
- Listen attentively to what is being said. Listen for
concepts and ideas. Identify the main points. Try to
recognise facts and opinion

2. Organise what you hear

- Connect the different sections of the speech to form a
whole. You can do it mentally or sketch a mind map

3. Review and preview as you listen

- Try to guess what the speaker is going to say next and
how it is going to be said. Try to take note of the issues
4. Evaluate
- Think through what you have heard and
evaluate the evidence carefully. Question and
challenge what you have heard.

5. Doing the task

- If you need to answer questions based on a text
that you are listening to, go through and read
the questions carefully and find out what the
questions require you to listen for. Do not
assume that you know the answers.
Sometimes, what you know and what you listen
to are completely different.
Pre-listening Preparation

1. Skim through all the questions and the answer

2. Get a general idea of what is being asked.
3. Underline the key words in the question so that
you know what to listen for later on.
While Listening

1. Listen for the required information.

2. Pay attention to the flow of information delivered
by the speaker(s).
3. Answer the questions straightaway, if possible.
4. Jot down notes.
Post Listening

1. When listening for the last time, get the

information that you might have missed out.
2. Check your answers.
 The main idea refers to what a paragraph or an article is

 The main idea is the key point that you pick up in a

listening task. You listen to identify the overall idea or
ideas expressed in the recording as a whole.

 The main idea is the general idea or the gist of a

message, news report, dialogue or a speech.
 It is important to find main ideas when listening.
Main ideas help listeners remember important
 The main idea of a conversation is the topic of the
conversation. For example:

1. The main idea of an informative speech is what

the speaker is trying to inform his listeners, usually
something that the speaker is familiar with or has
much knowledge about.
 Supporting details refer to the details, major
and minor, that support the main idea by
telling how, what, when, where, why, how
much, or how many.
 Paying attention to the topic, main idea, and
supporting details helps you understand the
point(s) the speaker is attempting to make.
 The supporting details refer to the precise
information or details about a particular event
or report.
When you read, you will notice how one idea or
event follows one after another, either
chronologically or in a cause-effect and/or a
compare-contrast relationship. This involves
sequencing. This quality, along with ranking,
where information is arranged from important to
least important helps to establish coherence in a
text. Prioritizing elements in a text in order of
importance would depend on the writer’s purpose,
and the effect he/she wants to have on the reader.
 Recognizing sequence helps you to see the text as a
coherent whole, and therefore remember the points
made. To recognize sequence, look out for:
 transition words between sentences and between
 Organization of the text. There are three ways:

a) Emphatic order – order of importance

b) Spatial order – details arranged on the basis of how
they relate to each other
c) Chronological order – arranging events on the basis of
when they occur.
Linkers, connectors and transitions are often used to
organize ideas and establish the flow of a discussion.
Function Examples of linkers
To introduce a new point Starting with …
Moving on …
My next point is ….
Let’s look now at ….
Right, the next ….
To explain a point Let me explain/clarify …
It means that ….
In other words …..
To elaborate on …..
What I’m trying to say is …
Function Example s of linkers
To establish sequence First of all ….
For a start ….
Secondly …..
Next …..
Following this ….
Finally ….
To give an example For instance …
….. such as …..
….. like …..
To illustrate this point…
A good example of this is ……
Function Example s of linkers
To present another side of the However …
issue ….. but ….
On the other hand ….
On the contrary ….
Contrasting this ….

To end a topic In conclusion …

To conclude …..
Let me sum up ….
I’d like to sum up now ….
Let me remind you, finally ….
When you look for causes and effects in a
listening text, you are looking for
connections or relationships between
different elements in the facts, and the
reasons for the connections. For example,
trying to understand the various causes of
the conflict in the Middle East, would teach
you about international relations. Likewise,
understanding the reasons for the outbreak
of World War II, would give you insight into
historical trends and human nature.
Identifying cause-effect relationships makes use of your intellectual
ability to analyse – why something happened and what the result
was. One effect may have many causes, just as one cause may
have many effects.

To practise this strategy, you should:

• Look for items or events that are related – i.e. one that has caused
the other;
• Focus on either the causes, the effects or combination of the two;

• Search for any circumstances from the past that may have caused a
single event
• Look out for occurrences that took place after a particular event and
resulted from that event
Look for transitional words/phrases indicating

Cause Effect
because Since As a result If
cause So that consequently Therefore
reason unless effect thus
 A fact is something that is true about a subject
and can be tested or proven.
 A statement of fact expresses only what actually
happened, or what could be proven by objective
 In other words, facts are phenomenon that can
be observed, proven, measured, and/or
quantified with numbers and statistics.
 An opinion is what someone thinks about that
 A statement of opinion expresses an attitude
towards something – it makes a judgement, gives
a view, expresses beliefs, feelings or way of
thinking about a topic.
 Opinions are related to people’s feelings, values,
thoughts, senses and aesthetics.
 Opinions are often different as people view things
Some expressions used to express facts and opinions are:
Fact Opinion

1. Studies have shown that …. 1. The committee believes …

2. Scientists discovered the drug 2. They are if the view that ….

in 1967 …….
3. Evidence proves that ……. 3. Many Malaysians think that …

4. The fact remains that …. 4. I feel that the most …….

5. 75% of the earth is covered … 5. You should have taken …

 What facts were presented in the article?
 What evidence did the speaker include to support
statements of fact?
 What hypotheses did the speaker present in the
 What opinions were revealed in the selection?
 Can (this statement) be proven true or false?
 How did the speaker convey the validity of the
1. Enid Bryton wrote “The Famous Five”.
2. Carbohydrates – it doesn’t matter whether these are in
sugar, jam, bread, fruit, pasta, or vegetables – are all
exactly the same as far as your body is concerned:
they are all ultimately converted to the blood sugar,
3. Recent research shows that eating oily fish containing
omega-3 fatty acids (for example, salmon, trout and
herring) may help lower your risk of death from
coronary artery disease.
1. Avoid eating snacks because many snack foods
and beverages have added sugars.
2. Scientists believe that a cure for all types of
cancer will soon be discovered.
3. It could be true that secondary smokers are
equally at risk.
I think the discovery of …
I believe that ….
In my opinion, ….
I’m convinced that ….
I guess ….
I’m sure ….
I suspect ….
From my point of view ….
I feel that ….
I suppose …
 To infer means to form an opinion that
something is probably true because of the
information you have. The listener must put
together the information that the speaker
provides and the information that the listener
already knows to come up with the answer.

 The text + previous knowledge = inference

 When you listen to a speech, you have to
make a judgement based on the facts given
in the speech. You can also infer from the
text what the speaker is actually trying to say.
There are positive and negative inferences
and you should be able to make use of the
evidence in the text to make accurate
 To use information successfully because complete
information is not always available.
 To make intelligent guesses by listening to the
tone of the speakers to know how they feel about
things they are speaking about.
 To be sensitive and be aware of the language
 Consider all available information
 Compare and contrast words and expression,
looking for patterns and connections. You can
base these on your own past experiences or your
prior knowledge, and
 Decide whether these generalizations are
 Inferences can be made by reasoning, and by moving
from the general to the specific. This is known as
deductive reasoning.
 By adding details, explanations, examples and other
relevant information from prior knowledge we can
improve our understanding.
 This skill is useful when some of the information is
missing or not yet available
 Given a set of related information, you can make
possible inferences such as time of year, emotional
states, location, what’s happening and why something
 When we listen to a text, we can pick up clues to know
what is coming. When processing information, we can
take a momentary pause and guess what the speaker is
going to say next.
 Below are some questions that will help us predict
1) What is the speaker going to say?
2) What is going to happen next?
3) Who will be involved in the script?
4) What will happen at the end?
5) How will the problem be solved?
 We can draw conclusions from facts and
opinions given. However, we can also draw
conclusions from information that is implied or
inferred. This means that the information is not
clearly stated. When you draw conclusions, you
are determining what is important, why it is
important and how one event is related to
 Means listening to and understanding what
someone says and then restating the ideas in
your own words.
 One way of paraphrasing is by first
identifying key words and ideas. Then link
the key words and ideas logically and restate
them using your own words.
 You need to process all the information and
determine which is important and which is
 Filter for important points and organise the
information in a meaningful way.
 When you summarise, you will need to make
connections to prior knowledge
 You may also need to make assumptions and
inferences in order to fill in missing
1) Filtering : cross out all information that is
not important or relevant to your topic
2) Deleting : Cross out all information that is
3) Replacing : Replace specific names like
‘blueberry cake’ with a simple category
name like ‘cake’
4) Finding a topic : write out a summarising
sentence or create one.
 With so much information available, it is
important to evaluate what we hear.
 Some general criteria to consider as you
evaluate information sources include:
a) Content – what is the speaking saying? Is
the content serious or humorous? Is the
content important?
b) Credibility – Is the speaker an authority on
the subject matter?
c) Continuity – will the speaker be giving more
information on the subject matter at a later
d) Comparability – Does the speaker refer to
other sources? Can the listener gather more
information about the subject matter