DSE 2022: For English listening exam, tutor advises students to focus on grammatical accuracy and formal tone

  • Alan Chan from King’s Glory Education says test-takers must remember grammar rules for the sentence completion questions in Part A of Paper 3 (Listening and Integrated Skills)
  • As for Part B, Chan suggests it is likely that a script, presentation or speech will appear on this year’s exam
Yanni Chow |

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Here’s what you need to know before taking the DSE English listening exam. Illustration: Shutterstock

When it comes to the English exam for the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE), students might focus their revision more on their reading and writing skills and overlook the listening test. But don’t dismiss Paper 3 (Listening and Integrated Skills), which actually holds the most weight, 34 per cent, of the three papers.

If you’re not sure how to brush up on your listening skills, Alan Chan, a tutor at King’s Glory Education, has some tips to help you prepare for this section.

DSE 2022: Tips for the English reading and writing papers

For Part A, grammatical accuracy is key

In Part A, Chan says many students find the sentence completion questions the most challenging, as the answers for these fill-in-the-blanks often don’t use the exact wording that students hear in the audio recording.

For these questions, grammatical accuracy is key. Students should bear in mind the parts of speech, as well as the difference between singular and plural nouns, active and passive voice, and tenses.

He also suggests DSE candidates not only highlight keywords when they go through the questions, but also write down the rules of grammar to remind themselves to be cautious about the parts of speech.

If they have time after the recording finishes, students should double-check their nouns to make sure they’re using the correct form, as this is a common mistake.

Bear in mind the different parts of speech when you’re completing fill-in-the-blank questions. Photo: Shutterstock

Some test takers worry about not being able to catch up with the speed of the recording and fear they won’t be able to understand everything, but Chan assures there is no need to know every word, since the answers only lie in 20 to 30 per cent of the tape. He also says not to rush to write the answers after hearing a keyword because students might miss the meaning of the sentence.

“There will be plenty of time between each answer,” Chan says.

It’s also helpful to understand the background of the recording before listening. In the instructions of the tape, the speaker will describe the setting of the situation, explaining if, for example, it takes place in a meeting or during a museum tour. This can give candidates more information about who to listen to for the answers. For example, if it is about a museum tour, students can anticipate the answers will come from the tour guide, rather than the tourists.

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In Part B, maintain a formal tone

As for Part B, which requires the interpretation of a data file and integrating it with the recording, Chan suggests that it is likely that a script, presentation or speech will appear on this year’s exam.

“Since the oral exams were cancelled, it can be used to test students’ speaking skills,” says Chan, adding that a report may appear on the exam, since it was not on last year’s test.

Even though the data file uses an informal style, students should keep their writing formal by using an objective tone and avoiding personal pronouns, abbreviations and phrasal verbs. For example, “look into” is an informal way to say “investigate”.

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Organisation is very important in this paper, so Chan reminds students to include titles, headings and numbered paragraphs where needed. This only occupies two marks, but it could have a butterfly effect on other components such as language and appropriacy.

When there are only two weeks before the exam, drill the formats of text types, such as reports, speeches, proposals and letters (personal, business, invitation, complaint, application, defence, inquiry and reply to inquiry).

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.

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