OET Listening Part B consists of 6 questions. Each question consists of a short audio of around 1 minute where a speaker or two speakers discuss a workplace situation. Along with the short audio is a 3-option multiple choice question. It’s critical that you understand what you are looking at before test day because you get time to read the question and the answer options before the audio begins.
What to expect in Listening Part B
This is what a Listening Part B question looks like:
25. You hear a nurse briefing her colleague about a patient. What does she warn her colleague about?
A) The patient is allergic to some types of antibiotics.
B) Care must to be taken to prevent the patient from falling.
C) Oxygen may be needed if the patient becomes breathless.
You can see that it has several parts. The first part is the CONTEXT statement: You hear a nurse briefing her colleague about a patient. From this context statement you will be able to work out some important information. First, how many speakers will there be? One or two? Well, here you can safely assume that there will be two speakers: the nurse and the colleague.
Second, you can identify what the audio will be like. In this case, the nurse will be discussing a patient with a colleague. Other contexts include patient handovers (one or two speakers), team meetings (one speaker) and other such healthcare setting situations.
The second part of the question is the actual question. It says: What does she warn her colleague about? From this question we can identify that at least one of the speakers will be female. Typically, if there are two speakers, they will have very different voices so you can distinguish who is who. It’ll either be female/male or one type of accent – say Irish – and another type of accent – say, British. Critically, the key word in this particular question is ‘warn’: You must listen for a particular ‘warning’.
4 Question Types in Listening Part B
There are a number of different question types in Listening Part B that you will see and which you must listen for. Each question is different. They include:
- Identifying details e.g. He says that errors in dispensing medication to patients usually result from…
- Identifying the gist (overall idea) e.g. What is the plan for the patient today?
- Identifying someone’s opinion about someone or something e.g. How does the nurse feel about the new policy?
- Identifying the purpose of something e.g. Why does the nurse want to transfer the patient?
There are two types of questions that you will see on test day. The first is the straightforward question: Why does X do Y? The other type of question is the incomplete sentence style question: The nurse reported the spill to her manager because… The first type of question is comparatively simpler than the incomplete sentence type because it’s easier to keep the straightforward question in your mind while you listen. What you may need to do for the incomplete sentence style questions is change them into questions in your mind. For example, “The nurse reported the spill to her manager because…” can quite simply become “Why did the nurse report the spill to her manager?” This way the question will more easily stick in your mind while you do the most important part, LISTEN.
As I mentioned the audio goes for less than a minute. It’s critical that you read the context and question before the audio begins so you know what’s happening and what you need to listen for. Once you have the context and the question firmly in your mind you can then begin listening intently to the audio.
How to Answer the Questions!
But what should you do about the answer options? Should you read them before the audio starts? Is there any point? Is there any time? The answer is: It depends. You need to find out what works for you. Some people like to ignore the answer options until the audio has finished because they can keep the question in their mind without any distraction. They then have 5 seconds to select the correct answer having heard the audio more ‘purely’. Other people like to quickly read the answer options before the audio begins bearing in mind that there is no way to memorise them. It is only at the end of the audio that you can then select the correct answer option.
One thing is clear in OET Listening Part B and that is that you should not mix reading and listening. You cannot read and listen at the same time. Think about it… you are lying on the couch reading the newspaper when your friend begins speaking to you. You can’t continue to read the newspaper and listen to your friend at the same time. The key then is to read and THEN listen. This will allow you to perfectly capture what was said and be sure that you are selecting the correct answer.
All of this is easier said than done. Practice is the key and E2Language’s practice materials are as close to the actual exam as you can get as they are written by ex-OET question writers. In addition, we have methods that can help you along in our Daily OET Live Classes that make OET preparation fun. With E2Language, OET Listening Part B will become much, much easier.
OET, PTE, IELTS Expert
MA Applied Linguistics, Grad Dip Ed, BA