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Using English for Academic Purposes: Listening Comprehension and Note-Taking

Example Web Site and/or Technical Equipment Required


Website Example:

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Computer(s), Internet access, projector (optional), speakers and/or headphones

Activity Description

This comprehensive guide has readings with some integrated exercises that include an introduction to academic listening, advice, process, note-taking, structure, reference, and multiple interactive exercises to apply all. Assign students whose goal is transitioning to higher education to work through the guide independently, assign specific parts, or use specific sections in class to prepare students for the demands of academic listening in college and university. Use the sample cloze exercise (on Education and Success) for students to practice listening and note-taking by filling in missing key words in a note-taking outline.


  1. Make sure that the site is not blocked at your school before using it with students.
  2. Go through the site’s listening exercises to find one that suits your teaching objectives and to ensure that it is appropriate for your students’ abilities. (Select the Exercises button in the left hand navigation pane.)
  3. After you choose an activity, complete it yourself in order to plan an introduction to the exercises and anticipate students’ questions and difficulties.
  4. All these exercises run in a new window (or a new tab depending on your settings). Make sure pop-up blocker is disabled or set it to allow pop-ups from this site.
  5. The audio is provided in a variety of formats: RealPlayer (RP), Windows Media Player (WMP), Quicktime Player(QT) or Flash Player (FP). For the exercise you select for students to do, make sure the computer(s) have the appropriate audio player installed. You can download the players by selecting the icons for the players, provided on the main Listening Exercises page . (Select the Exercises button in the left hand navigation pane to see the icons.)


The sample listening comprehension and note-taking exercise is a cloze/gap-fill exercise on “Education: Success and Failure."  Students listen and fill in notes in the outline by typing in missing words.

  1. Open the Example Web Site (above) for listening and note-taking exercises. If this topic does not meet your students' level of English or your teaching topic, choose another by going to the main Listening Exercises page . (You can also find this page by the selecting Exercises on the "Listening comprehension & note-taking"  page.)
  2. After selecting a short talk or lecture that suits your students’ level of English and your teaching topic and objectives, select the abbreviation for the audio player the computer has installed: RealPlayer (RP), Windows Media Player (WMP), Quicktime Player(QT), Flash Player (FP) or HTML5. (HTML5 may be the easiest to play in a modern browser, so try it first if it is available)
  3. Some players will require to you select the Play button to listen, but other's may play automatically. Pause and/or replay as needed using the player's controls.
  4. Fill in the spaces in the note-taking outline by typing in words. You may need to scroll with the scroll bar on the right side to see the entire exercise.
  5. Select the Hint button (at the bottom of the exercise) to have the first letter of a word provided.
  6. Select the Check button (next to the Hint button) to see your score. Incorrect answers are left in place for the user to change.

Teacher Tips

The site is from the United Kingdom, so British English is used (spelling and pronunciation).

  • Specific listening comprehension and note-taking exercises include short talks and lectures on the following topics:
    • Advertising
    • Astronomy
    • Education: Success & Failure
    • Endangered Nature
    • Environmental Science
    • Extinction of Species
    • Geology
    • Managerial Work
    • Multinational Enterprises
    • Population Growth
    • Poverty
    • Sick Building Syndrome
    • Snoring
    • Sony Digital Voice Recorder – Video
    • The Family
    • United Kingdom Population
    • Valve Characteristics
    • William Perry
    • What is Language?
    • The Making of Modern English
    • Taxes
    • Quality of Life and Happiness
    • The Concept of the Environment
    • Sustainable Economic Development and the Protection of Biodiversity
    • Cloning: Arguments For and Against
    • Freedom and its Limits
    • Genetically Modified Foods
    • Political Correctness
    • Biology
    • Computing
    • Government
    • Mechanics
    • Sociology
  • Listening Process: Listening comprehension & note-taking (Bottom-up, Top-down, and Interaction);
  • Listening Skills: Listening comprehension & note-taking (Listening purpose, Recognizing lecture structure – Introducing, Giving background information, Defining, Enumerating/Listing, Giving examples, Showing importance/Emphasizing, Clarifying/Explaining/Putting it in other words, Moving on/Changing direction, Giving further information, Giving contrasting information, Classifying, Digressing, Referring to visuals, Concluding, Understanding reference - Reference, Ellipsis and substitution, Conjunction, and Lexical cohesion)
  • Listening Tests (listen to a discussion with a lecturer and some students about studying and summarize the advice given (Student Experiences, Oral Presentations, and Academic Writing).

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  • Advanced


Basic Communication

  • (7.2) Demonstrate ability to use critical thinking skills
  • (7.3) Demonstrate ability to use problem-solving skills
  • (7.4) Demonstrate study skills
  • (7.7) Demonstrate the ability to use information and communication technology
  • (7.6) Demonstrate the ability to view the media critically
  • (7.1) Identify or demonstrate effective skills and practices in accomplishing goals
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OTAN activities are funded by contract CN200091-A2 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.