5th International Conference for Theory and Practice in Education

5th International Conference for Theory and Practice in Education

Information and Education, 14-16 June, 2012 Miskolc, Hungary

Secrets of taking a successful listening comprehension test

Robert Märcz


This paper reports on the findings of an investigation into what makes a good test-taker regarding a high-stake English language listening comprehension test. The study suggests that listening comprehension is an area where students’ skills are low. This is the part of several language examinations (i.e. ECL, Euroexam, Hungarian state language exam) that most of the candidates fail to accomplish. Experience shows that learners tend to attribute their poor performance at a listening comprehension test to the low sound quality and the high level of difficulty of the listening test when asked why they are not successful. However, research into the field have revealed that there are various factors affecting the level of listening comprehension in a foreign language. Among these we can find the following: L2 proficiency in general and L2 listening ability in particular, experiences with communication in the target language (listening to various speakers, different accents and speech situations); the listeners background knowledge (topic, schemata, sociocultural information, etc.); the listener’s memory and attention and his or her verbal intelligence (how well is he or she is able to find the best interpretation out of several possible ones in a given context); and the application of various (cognitive and meta-cognitive) strategies. There are also situation-specific factors external to the listener: quality of the input and background noise. Similarly there are non-linguistic situation-specific factors (i.e. room temperature) and listener-internal factors (i.e. lack of interest in the topic, inattention). The present study seeks to explore and identify the various factors interacting during the completion of a listening comprehension test.  My aim is to find answers to what variables contribute to the candidates’ success/failure at these tests and what strategies do successful candidates apply.