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How to Read and Listen for Meaning

In many PTE (Pearson Test of English) test items, you need to think deeply about what you read and listen to in order to understand the text at a deeper level. Watch the video above to learn how to read and listen for meaning.
JOHN SMITH: In the PTE test, you need to think deeply about what you read and listen to in order to understand the text at a deeper level. You will then be able to identify the purpose, main ideas and supporting details. This will also help you to identify the organisation of the text so that you can make inferences about the meaning. To understand the deeper meaning of reading and listening passages, it is important for you to be able to distinguish between facts, speculation and opinions. Some texts may contain both facts and opinions. Facts are statements which are certain or true while speculation is something which is not necessarily certain or true. To speculate, a writer or speaker will use generalisations.
For example, in general, tend to, have a tendency to. Expressions showing caution like it would seem, it would appear. Adverbs and adjectives to show varying degrees of certainty, such as probably, possibly, likely, unlikely. Modal verbs to show uncertainty, for example, may, might. An opinion expresses a belief, feeling or judgement. When a writer wishes to make clear that an opinion is not their own, they use verbs for reporting opinions, such as suggest, believe, argue, claim, maintain.
Inferencing skills are important for reading comprehension and understanding the meaning of texts on a deeper level. Making inferences involves using two or more pieces of information in a text to arrive at a third piece of information that is implied or not explicitly stated. Inference can be as simple as associating the pronoun he with a previously mentioned male person, or it can be as complex as filling gaps in the text in order for it to make sense. For example, in this sentence, “The invention of the steam engine had a major effect on society.” You must infer that it’s not the invention of the steam engine that affected society, but the way it was used.
In the listening section of the PTE test, there are times when you will need to understand what the speakers are saying by inferring meaning, as the information is not always explicitly stated. You may be asked to infer the speaker’s attitude to what they are saying, their purpose and the reasons specific information is mentioned. To infer meaning, you need to listen for clues in the text or use general knowledge to guess the meaning of what the speakers are saying. Do this by working out the relationship between the speakers, the tone of voice and the words they use.

In many PTE (Pearson Test of English) test items, you need to think deeply about what you read and listen to in order to understand the text at a deeper level. Watch the video above to learn how to read and listen for meaning.

Your ‘Listen for Meaning’ Task

The Listening: Multiple Choice, Single Answer item tests your listening skills in an academic environment. Any one of the following listening skills could be tested by this item type.

Main idea or gist: Listen for the main idea or gist of the recording, for example:
  • What was the lecture mainly about?
  • What was the main cause of the poor election result?
Supporting information or details: Listen for specific details that provide elaboration, examples or reasons to support the main idea, for example:
  • According to the speaker, what was the benefit of solar power?
  • Where was opal first discovered?
Fact, speculation or opinion: Listen for the speaker’s attitude, feelings or degree of certainty on an issue, do they speculate? Do they express their opinion or present someone else’s opinion, for example:
  • How does the speaker feel about stem cell therapy?
  • What is the speaker’s attitude towards the United Nations?
Inference: Listen for information that helps you infer meaning, for example:
  • What does the speaker imply about the process of invention?
  • What can be inferred about Sir John Franklin’s voyage?

Look at the example questions from Listening: Multiple Choice, Single Answer below. Decide which listening skill is being tested and make a note of your answers.

  • Main idea
  • Supporting information
  • Fact, speculation or opinion
  • Inference
(Q1) Who is the speaker trying to persuade when she refers to nuclear energy? (Q2) What conclusions about early intervention can be drawn?
(Q3) According to the speaker, how did the Seven Years’ War contribute to the start of the American Revolution? (Q4) What is the main idea that the speaker is trying to convey in her comments?

Listening for Meaning Practice

Now practice the skill of listening for the main idea or gist of a recording in Listening: Multiple Choice, Single Answer.


Western, V & Gasper, V. (2018). PTE Academic Lesson Plan Ideas. Pearson

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