University of Cambridge

Using authentic practice tests in the IELTS classroom #3: Listening | Cambridge ConversationsCambridge Conversations

Allen Davenport has been involved in examinations for many years as a teacher, teacher-trainer, administrator and examiner. In this installment of his webinar series on using authentic practice tests for IELTS classroom preparation, he takes a look at the Listening section.

This webinar was guided by the philosophy that Allen uses which involves the principle of ‘Coursebook + APT Practice + APT Testing = Results’. This has stemmed from years of experience in observing and recording listening learning behaviour. According to Allen, these elements combine to produce the best results for students, as it is important to incorporate the authentic practice tests into the classroom and the pedagogy.

A key point highlighted by Allen was how a good test preparation class will reveal a score that reflects a students’ actual level of English as accurately as possible. This links to the concern of underperformance, which seems more typical of listening testing exercises, and how it is crucial for teachers to learn the best methods and tips to try and avoid this problem. As Allen explained from a personal observation, a typical IELTS class involves the repeated testing of skills rather than developing the skills of the student.

Allen then explored the idea of breaking the formulaic approach of some listening lessons, and expanding the process in order for listeners to be more aligned with the skills required for a specific task. From here, he explored the approach around prioritising the practice mode, which involves listening very purposefully to a recording five times, each time with a different purpose and how this can provide excellent results. This highlighted key tips from observations, such as the importance of using a printed workbook in the classroom, and then encouraging students to use the same book in their own self-study time to maintain this consistency.

Allen then shared some specific techniques that he found useful while teaching IELTS to students, involving developing strategies and testing knowledge, most appropriate for the IELTS listening part 4 (the lecture). This can be a difficult and challenging task for students and can be both stressful and frustrating. Cutting sentence fragments into strips and encouraging groups of students to arrange these can help students understand the context of the topic or subject matter and how the test works. Allen also revealed some additional techniques to give students the confidence in their listening skills both individually and through group work.

Allen concluded the webinar by emphasising the importance of using practice tests as more than just progress testing – where structure, theme and discourse can all be explored in a classroom context.

Watch the full recording below.

Make sure you don’t miss out on upcoming live webinars! Discover what’s coming up: Cambridge ELT events