The Official CELPIP Podcast: Episode 21
In this week’s episode, we invite Meaghan, our in-house CELPIP expert to share her top listening tips for the CELPIP Test! Tune in as she goes over some common grammar mistakes that test takers often make, and how to improve your listening skills to score higher on the CELPIP Test!
- Listening-related resources: CELPIP Listening Pro webinar, offered once/month
- Recordings on YouTube channel: CELPIP Listening Pro
- CELPIP Live Listening Episodes:
- Free CELPIP Practice Tests
- CELPIP YouTube Channel
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CJ [00:00:00] Hello, everyone, and welcome to the official CELPIP podcast. My name is C.J., and I’m here with my co-host Chris to give you another round of helpful tips for you, our test takers, to get the best possible score you can on the CELPIP test. All you need to do for the next 20 minutes or so is sit back, relax and listen as we talk to a variety of guests from test takers, language teachers and test readers to employment counselors and immigration consultants. We also bring in our in-house CELPIP staff to give you their unique perspectives. So after today’s podcast, you’ll have a whole new set of strategies to practice. So Chris, how are you doing today?
Chris [00:00:38] That’s right, and it’s also important to floss regularly.
CJ [00:00:43] OK, that’s great, but not what I asked you.
Chris [00:00:47] Oh, I wasn’t listening properly.
CJ [00:00:50] OK, I see what you did there.
Chris [00:00:54] You got me. Today’s topic is the first of two podcasts on how to improve listening skills and why it is so important to listen not just carefully, but also how to predict what kind of information you should be listening for.
CJ [00:01:10] OK, that sounds super interesting. What do you mean by that?
Chris [00:01:14] OK. Let me show you with this quick test for our listeners. C.J. Do you like shopping?
CJ [00:01:21] Do I like shopping?
Chris [00:01:24] Ha, OK, you like shopping. So let’s imagine we’re going shopping together in a big food store.
CJ [00:01:31] My favorite kind of store.
Chris [00:01:33] And you can buy any item of food you want there. It’s a huge store. We’re going to take turns buying things and all the listeners have to do is remember what we bought? Easy, right?
CJ [00:01:45] OK, let’s go shopping.
Chris [00:01:47] There’s a slight catch as we each buy things, they have to be items that begin with the next letter of the alphabet. So something beginning with A then B and so on, and we’ll buy five things each.
CJ [00:02:01] OK. OK. I’ve played this before, this is fun, let’s go.
Chris [00:02:05] Excellent. OK, listeners, you’re going to hear this once. Then we’ll see how much you remember. Ready. Good. C.J.. Want to go first?
CJ [00:02:13] Absolutely. OK. The first thing I’m going to buy in the store is an apple.
Chris [00:02:20] Healthy choice. OK, I’ll buy some baklava.
CJ [00:02:24] Hmm. Delicious. My second item is going to be a cucumber.
Chris [00:02:29] Well, if you’re going to keep buying healthy things, then mine will be a donut.
CJ [00:02:36] Yum! OK. I need an E! So I’ll buy an eggplant.
Chris [00:02:41] And my next item will be a falafel. Last one now.
CJ [00:02:46] OK. For g, I’ll buy a grapefruit.
Chris [00:02:50] And my last one will be a hamburger.
CJ [00:02:54] Hmm. OK, we’ve got a really tasty meal between the two of us.
Chris [00:02:58] It’s making me really hungry, so now for the listeners, can you remember what we bought? Remember the information that you already have that we’re buying food and each item begins with the next letter of the alphabet. Pause for a second and see if you can list our 10 items. OK. Let’s see if we can remember each other’s purchases. C.J., you first bought an apple.
CJ [00:03:21] I did and then you bought baklava, and I would always remember it because it’s delicious.
Chris [00:03:27] Sure is. Then you bought a cucumber.
CJ [00:03:31] Yup. Then you followed with a donut.
Chris [00:03:34] Then you bought an eggplant, which stuck in my head because it’s called aubergine in many other countries.
CJ [00:03:41] And you bought a falafel
Chris [00:03:43] and your last thing was g em… grapefruit.
CJ [00:03:49] Right? And your final purchase was a hamburger.
Chris [00:03:53] Good job. And how did you do, listeners? How many did you remember? Hopefully, there was a few that were unfamiliar to you. It’s good to practice with the vocabulary that might challenge you.
CJ [00:04:03] Absolutely. And I’m sure you all did great. So let’s bring in our very special guest to give us even more advice on improving our listeners listening skills.
Chris [00:04:15] Back again on the podcast is the intimidatingly brilliant Meaghan. You may know her from CELPIP and CAEL webinars. And she also has years of experience as a writer. Thanks for joining us today to share your listening tips.
Meaghan [00:04:28] Thanks. Great to be back. And I just have to say now I’m starving, so thank you for that.
CJ [00:04:35] You’re welcome. So what would be the one thing you would buy in our imaginary grocery store?
Meaghan [00:04:44] Uh, I am a huge fan of desserts, so probably it’ll be ice cream and I’m thinking actually of salted black licorice ice cream I had last summer. It is magnificent. A big old bowl of that.
CJ [00:05:00] OK, that sounds amazing. So, I, ice cream. Great stuff. All right. Let’s get into the first set of listening tips for the listeners who really want to improve but aren’t sure what to focus on. Where’s the best place to start?
Meaghan [00:05:18] I would say the first thing to remember is that CELPIP listening passages will always feature Canadian speakers, so it’s good to focus on our accent. And luckily for you, the American accent is very close to Canadian, so it shouldn’t be a problem to find conversations and also monologues that are in North American accents. YouTube is absolutely full of clips, and that includes actually a whole bunch of CELPIP live episodes and webinar recordings, and there are also lots of podcasts that you can listen to from anywhere in the world, including this one. So I would say make sure to practice listening to both conversations and monologues and do your best to listen to some sources that are audio only. Don’t just always watch videos, and that’s because there’s only one video part in CELPIP. The other parts are all audio only.
CJ [00:06:18] OK, so what about subtitles? Would you recommend our listeners use them to help with any tricky vocabulary?
Meaghan [00:06:26] Yeah, for sure. It can be helpful to listen with a transcript or with subtitles, especially if it’s a longer or a more difficult clip. But I would just say, if you’re doing this, make sure it’s reliable. Some automatically generated transcripts and subtitles are full of mistakes and just very confusing. They don’t make a lot of sense. And you also don’t always want to use transcripts when you’re listening because you’re never going to see a transcript on the test. So you need to be able to understand spoken English without a transcript. But there are times when there can be a really useful study tool.
Chris [00:07:05] Yeah, that’s a really important aspect. Is there anything the test takers can do during these audio samples that would help prepare them better for the test?
Meaghan [00:07:13] Yeah. Mainly, I would say, take notes. It’s important for test takers at all English levels to take notes while listening to the audio clips. The questions are always going to come after the audio, and you want to make sure that you have key details written down to help you answer those questions. At the test center you’re going to receive paper and a pen to use for note taking during the test. You’re not going to be able to bring in a device like a phone, and there won’t be a text area on the screen to type your notes. You will have to write them. So I would say practice that as often as you can. It’s different writing on paper versus something like typing or swiping on a keyboard. So you don’t want to get surprised by that on your test day. This is a good way to be prepared for the actual test.
Chris [00:08:08] Excellent point. It’s such a useful tool. Is there a best way to take or organize notes?
Meaghan [00:08:15] Oh, I don’t know about the best way. Your notes are for your own personal use only. They will not be seen by any CELPIP staff so you can take your notes in whatever way works best for you. And it’s important to know how you want to set your notes up for each listening part and what strategies you want to use. The best way to figure out how you prefer to take notes really, the only way is to practice practice a few different ways. You can head to one of our two free practice tests or a listening focused episode of CELPIP Live on YouTube. And when an audio clip plays take notes as you listen and then try the questions and afterward, think about whether the notes that you took were helpful. Did you write too much? Maybe too little. Did you miss any important information? Did the arrangement of the notes on the page worked well, or would something maybe have worked better? Were there times saving methods like abbreviations and pictures that were effective? All of that kind of self-analysis will really help you identify your own best strategy for note taking.
CJ [00:09:30] OK, so those are two fantastic strategies that will go well together. And I’m wondering if we can practice them with a real like test style sample?
Meaghan [00:09:40] Yeah, I actually have one here ready to go. But first, just for the listeners, I want to describe the question types on the CELPIP test. There are three types or categories of questions for listening and knowing what they are can be useful because we use different strategies to answer them. So I’ll explain those briefly first, and then we’ll do our first round of listening practice. So anyone who wants to join in, get your pen and paper ready. So as far as the question types go, the first type is called general meaning. These are the questions that test your ability to understand the big picture of the audio. So, for example, what the topic of an entire conversation is or what the main theme of an opinion piece is. And for these questions, there will be many clues in the audio that point you toward the answer. You’ll probably have a number of points in your notes that help you make your choice. The second type of question is specific information, and these are questions that test your ability to identify a particular important detail from the audio. For example, a day or a time or a place, a final decision, an opinion, a reason, an item. It could be anything. One thing that’s mentioned in one specific place in the audio and I think of these as being sort of the opposite of general meaning questions because they focus in on one specific detail. For these questions, the answer is usually something that’s mentioned only once in the audio. So it’s one word or one phrase or one sentence where that particular detail is given. And then the third and final question type are inference questions. Inference questions, test your ability to make a logical conclusion about something that was not directly stated in the audio, but was indirectly pointed at. It could be through somebody whose tone of voice or through the events that happen in the audio. For example, a person who is angry about a store policy might not tell the manager, I’m so upset about this situation, but you might know from their tone of voice that they’re upset. They sound angry. That’s an inference. Another kind of inference is determining what is going to happen next. Based on what you heard in the audio, that is an inference because you have to think beyond what happened in the conversation. If a question is asking you what is likely or probably true or asking about feelings or asking about something outside the scope of the audio clip, it’s probably an inference question.
CJ [00:12:37] OK, great. So let’s recap those question types really quickly. General meaning for the bigger picture, like the main topic or theme, specific information for exact details from one place in the audio and then inference for indirect, logical conclusions. Is that about right?
Meaghan [00:12:59] Perfect. So now let’s do some practice. First, I’ll play an audio clip. And if it’s safe for you to take notes, please do. Listeners, if you are driving a vehicle or standing on a crowded bus, please don’t participate. This will be a two person conversation also called a dialogue. Most people like to take their notes in a two column chart for these, so you can try that or you can try something that you think will work better for you. So this clip will come from one of our free practice tests. It is a clip from listening part one. Listening part one is presented in three separate audio clips, and then a couple of questions come after each clip. We’re actually going to listen to the second clip, so clip two of three. In the first clip, which we aren’t going to hear today there’s a man named Matthew who arrives at an office for his first day as a temporary worker. The woman, who is his boss for the day, explains his task, which is putting letters into envelopes, and she warns him that it’s not very interesting. So what we’re about to hear now is the continuation of that conversation. So I’ll start the audio here now. Anyone who wants to take notes, get ready.
Recording [00:14:28] How are you doing, Matthew? Are you ready for a break? I’ll show you where our break room is.
Recording [00:14:33] Thanks. I am ready for a break. You were quite right about the nature of the job. That’s exactly why I hope to obtain regular employment soon. May I ask, do you know if there are any full time jobs here?
Recording [00:14:47] I’m afraid. I don’t know. At lunch, you could go to the human resources department and ask if there isn’t anything at the moment for you. Be sure to ask if you can fill out an application anyway.
Recording [00:14:59] Thank you. May I list you as a reference?
Recording [00:15:02] Ask me at the end of the day if you finished stuffing all of the envelopes and none of the letters are in backwards.
Recording [00:15:08] I’d be happy to let you use my name as a reference.
Meaghan [00:15:13] OK, so that was our audio clip, and I hope your note taking went well. On the first three parts of the listening test in CELPIP, you’re going to actually hear the questions and then you’ll be reading the answer choices on the screen. Here today in the podcast of course, you don’t have any way to read answer choices. So we’re going to play the question for you, and then I’m going to read you the four answer choices, and they’re quite long. Again, this is not how it’s going to happen on the test. On the test, you would be able to look at them on the screen. So if you don’t have them all memorized, that’s OK. We’re just just doing a practice here. So let’s listen to our question. First of all.
Recording [00:16:01] Question five.
Recording [00:16:03] What can we tell from this conversation?
Meaghan [00:16:07] OK, and our answer choices for that question are here. Answer choice number one. Temporary work can be a stepping stone. Number two, it is better to work without breaks. Number three, temporary work is better than full time work. And number four, the woman works at the human resources department, so I’ll just quickly run through that list again, for those of you listening. Temporary work can be a stepping stone. It is better to work without breaks. Temporary work is better than full time work. The woman works at the human resources department. All right, which one would you choose, Chris and C.J.? Any thoughts?
Chris [00:17:00] Well, based on what they said, I think it’s the first answer.
CJ [00:17:04] Yeah, me too, about temporary work and stepping stone.
Meaghan [00:17:08] Excellent. Well done. The right answer is that first option temporary work can be a stepping stone. So now before we discuss it further, I have a question about the question we just answered. Which of those three types of questions was it? We have general meaning the big picture type questions where you get clues all through the audio. We’ve got specific information, the close up questions that ask about one detail given in one particular place in the audio. And we’ve got inference where the answer isn’t given directly and you have to make a jump from what happened in the audio to something that is probably the case. Any guesses?
Chris [00:17:50] Hmm. If it were general, it would be about the entire audio sample, and this question is about just one part.
CJ [00:17:59] Right. But then if it were specific, they would have directly mentioned temporary work with a precise detail, like a time or place name connected to it, and I definitely didn’t hear that. But there was a section that alluded to not having a full time job.
Chris [00:18:16] So that means it must be
CJ [00:18:19] it must be inference.
Meaghan [00:18:21] Oh, excellent, great job. That indeed was an inference question. So listeners, if you’ve got that right, ask yourself, how did I know that? Well, just like Chris and C.J. said, nobody said it directly. You had to interpret what happened in the conversation, find the meaning behind the story. Nobody directly said that temporary work can be a stepping stone. But we can still know that that’s the right answer to the question. The man made a reference to his task being boring, and he said he’s hoping he gets a full time job soon. He asked if there are any jobs open at the company. He asked the woman if he can use her as a reference, and she says he can if he does a good job. And these are all hints toward the idea that sometimes starting out in a part time or temporary job can lead to a full time or permanent job. Another clue that this is an inference question is in the wording of the question itself. The question was: What can we tell from this conversation? When you can tell that something is the case that means you can make that conclusion based on what you see or know, like you can tell your friend is tired if she keeps yawning. If the question includes words like imply, probably, most likely, can tell, usually those are good indicators of inference questions.
CJ [00:19:52] Yeah, it’s so great the listener can tell what type of question it is, just by how it’s phrased.
Meaghan [00:19:58] Yeah, there are a lot of hints, if you know how to spot them. We’ll move on now, but I do want to add that on the tests it is not necessary to identify which of the three skills you need to answer any question. Some people find it helpful to learn about this because you do use different strategies for answering them, but there won’t be any test questions about question types. Sometimes the question type will be obvious from the ideas or the words in the question, and you’ll know, Oh, that’s a question about a detail. So the answer must be in one place in my notes, or the word probably was in the question, so I probably need to make a guess. But if you can’t always identify the question type, it’s not a big deal. Don’t stress about it.
CJ [00:20:45] Don’t stress about it. Should be on the front page of the test.
Chris [00:20:50] As the test questions can use different words to say something from the audio, is it a good idea to focus on this during the practice as well?
Meaghan [00:20:58] Yeah, you’re totally right, and building your vocabulary is a great way to prepare for listening questions as the information will often be rephrased. It’s important to be able to understand when a question includes paraphrase or synonyms. In other words, when the same idea that you heard in the audio is being presented in different words in a question, and you can practice identifying, paraphrasing synonyms and listening questions in the two free practice tests or in any additional ones that you may have purchased. First, listen to the audio for any listening part and answer the questions as usual, and you can check your answers if you want to and then go back to the first question. Pull up the audio transcript. Those are always included in our practice tests and compare the transcript with the question and the answer choices. Look for places where a question expresses an idea from the audio, but in different words and notice the phrasing, the grammar, the word forms like the noun or verbs, etc. in each version, the question and the answer choices and the transcript. You can also do active paraphrase and synonym practice with any transcript of something that you’ve listened to in English. It doesn’t even have to be a CELPIP audio clip. Actually, you could do it with a CELPIP podcast episode transcript. We post a transcript under each episode on the CELPIP blog. So this is what to do first. Listen to one or two minutes of an audio clip, then pull up the transcript and play the audio again. And as you listen, follow along with the transcript and underline or highlight 10 or so key words and phrases that express important ideas. And after you listen, just think to yourself, see if you can come up with some synonyms of the words that you chose, or different ways to express the ideas in the phrases.
CJ [00:23:05] Wow, this is a really good way to practice and develop such a tricky skill.
Meaghan [00:23:10] Yeah, test takers often tell us that they want to increase their vocabulary, and that’s a great skill to have. It will help you across every part of the test and every part of using English. So we’ll do some practice of this now. I’ll play a short audio clip from one of our practice tests. And then because this is a podcast episode, I’m actually going to choose a few words and phrases for us to work on so that we’re all talking about the same thing. First, we’ll just listen. You can take notes if you would like to, but you don’t have to. We’re not going to be answering any questions this time. By the way, this is the next part of the audio that we listened to earlier. So the situation should seem familiar.
Recording [00:23:59] Hi, Matthew. It’s lunchtime now.
Recording [00:24:02] Oh, good. My hands are a bit sore, but I think I’m about halfway through.
Recording [00:24:07] Yes, it looks like it. That’s good.
Recording [00:24:10] Do make sure you come find me at the end of the day. Would you like me to show you where human resources is?
Recording [00:24:16] Yes, thank you. And if I may ask, I have music on my phone and earbuds. Would it be against the rules to listen to music while I work this afternoon? I think it would help a bit.
Recording [00:24:27] Yes, that would be OK as long as you keep the volume low enough that no one else hears it.
Recording [00:24:34] Thank you.
Meaghan [00:24:35] OK, so let’s practice coming up with some different ways to say some of the ideas we heard in that audio clip. Easy one first earbuds. What’s another way to say earbuds?
Chris [00:24:50] Um, headphones.
CJ [00:24:53] And there are some popular in-ear wireless, some like pods, but CELPIP will never use an actual brand name in the test.
Meaghan [00:25:00] Yeah, that’s a good point to remember. OK, so if that was, that was easy. Good start. How about this phrase: at the end of the day.
CJ [00:25:14] In a work context, you could say when you finished work or when your shift is over
Chris [00:25:19] and when the workday is done?
Meaghan [00:25:21] Yeah, all those are great. Third one. How about against the rules?
CJ [00:25:27] Not allowed.
Chris [00:25:29] Prohibited.
CJ [00:25:31] Unacceptable.
Chris [00:25:33] Against company policy.
Meaghan [00:25:35] OK, those are all good. One more. No one else hears it.
Chris [00:25:40] You could say that it doesn’t distract other employees or only you can hear it. C.J..
CJ [00:25:48] It doesn’t bother anyone around you or nobody else notices it.
Meaghan [00:25:53] Yeah, all of those are great. So this is what I mean. You can take any audio clip and listen to it for context and then do an exercise like this either just by yourself or with the study group, whatever works best for you. This kind of exercise is not only a good way to get ready for synonyms and paraphrasing in listening questions. It can also help to build your vocabulary and your grammar, and it’ll make it easier for you to notice when you’re hearing the same idea in different words. Of course, this is not an activity you’ll be able to do during your CELPIP test. It’s a prep strategy to try out before your test to help you build your ability to notice and maybe even predict synonyms and paraphrase.
CJ [00:26:42] Wonderful advice, as ever, Meaghan. We’re going to be finishing soon, so what is your final piece of advice today for our listeners?
Meaghan [00:26:52] All right. Last piece of advice today is to attend one of our listening pro sessions, Listening Pro is one of the eight free two-hour webinars that we offer to CELPIP test takers. This one introduces the format and features of the six listening parts of CELPIP. It walks you through an audio clip and a practice question for each part. We actually cover everything I mentioned in the first four tips. We listen to audio clips with North American speakers. We talk about how best to set up notes for each listening part, we identify question types, and we also practice identifying synonyms of some key words and phrases from the questions. At these webinars, you can participate as much as you want to, and you can also ask any questions that you have about any part of the test. We offer Listening Pro about once a month, at least once a month, and you can register from the CELPIP website. If you’re not able to attend live because of the timing of the session. You can also find a recording of Listening Pro on our YouTube channel, which is called CELPIP official. We have one recording of each of our webinars there, and that is a convenient way to work through that content, but you don’t get to interact with the teacher and stuff like that.
Chris [00:28:17] They are definitely a really useful resource for test takers, so that’s a great suggestion.
CJ [00:28:22] Absolutely. Thank you so much for coming in today, Meaghan. It’s always great having you here, and I’m already looking forward to part two of your listening advice.
Meaghan [00:28:33] Thanks again for having me. I’ve got five more tips loaded up for next time.
Chris [00:28:39] Can’t wait. Please come back next time, everyone. For even more tips for improving your performance on the listening test.
CJ [00:28:46] All right. Thanks, everybody.
Chris [00:28:48] Bye!
CJ [00:28:48] Bye!