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Writing While Listening - Tackling
the Double Challenge of Note Taking
by Alex Case

CAE Note-Taking - Possible Problems

Caught out by long piece of text with no relevant information

Miss key information because:

- thinking about previous question
- concentrating on meaning of unknown word/ phrase

Not understanding key word/ phrase because:
- pronunciation very different from spelling
- sounds different/ indistinct in fast connected speech
- totally unknown vocabulary


Too long- Adding unnecessary (wrong) information

Too short- Missing necessary information

Wrongly written- Spelling wrong- common errors
- totally unknown spelling (v. unlikely)
- homophones (e.g. there/ their)

Capital letters- days, months, nationalities etc.
- proper names

Does not fit gap- Wrong part of speech
- Missing preposition etc. (N.B. articles not important)

You can predict a lot about the answer before hearing the text- and you have lots of time to do so!

Texts and tasks always easier for Part Two (because you only hear it once)

Answers in the same order as text

The answer will very rarely be a word you are unfamiliar with, i.e. difficult words can usually best be ignored

No minus marks for wrong answers- so take a guess!

Any kind of listening practice is good for the exam- films, music etc. etc.



1) John Field 'Skills and strategies: towards a new methodology for listening' ELTJ Vol. 55 April 1998

2) Jack Richards 'The Context of Language Teaching' Cambridge 1985

3) Michael McCarthy 'Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers' CUP 1991

4) I. Clark and V. Clark 'The Psychology of Language' Harcourt Bruce Jovanovich 1997, quoted in Jack Richards 'The Context of Language Teaching'

5) Ann Anderson, Tony Lynch 'Listening' OUP 1988

6) 'Cambridge CAE handbook' UCLES 1999

7) Paul Davis, Mario Rinvolucri 'Dictation: New Methods, New Possibilities' 1989 CUP

8) Michael Vince 'Advanced Language Practice' Macmillan Heinemann 1994

9) Ruth Wajnryb 'Grammar Dictation' OUP 1990

10) Helen Naylor, Stuart Hagger 'Cambridge First Certificate Handbook' CUP 1999

11) Penny Ur 'Teaching Listening Comprehension' CUP 1984


Alex Case is working as Senior Teacher (Materials and Teacher Development) and a freelance EFL writer in Tokyo, after working in Turkey, Thailand, Spain, Greece, Italy and the UK. He is also Reviews Editor of and you can comment on this article and other TEFLy things on his blog- "TEFLtastic with Alex Case" (

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