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A unique strategy to improve your Listening

By DET Practice - TADE Hub
April 06,2023 | 20:09 PM

Listening is another way besides Reading to gain more knowledge and widen our vocabulary bank. In this article, we not only share a strategy to help students improve their Listening skills but also how to learn new words, collocations, and idioms through Listening.

If English learners want to take English proficiency tests in the future, kindly notice that almost English proficiency tests evaluate test-takers' skills based on Reading, Listening, Writing, and Speaking. However, the Duolingo English Test evaluates test-takers' skills based on Literacy, Comprehension, Conversation, and Production. In detail, your Listening skill contributes scores to Comprehension and Conversation, or if you want to improve your Comprehension and Conversation sub-scores, let’s improve your Listening skill.

Let’s get yourself ready and explore this unique strategy.

Step 1: Choose suitable content

If we choose unsuitable content, we will be wasting our time and energy. Yes, we still can improve our skills and widen our vocabulary bank a bit, but not much. There are three types of content that all English learners need to bear in mind.

  • Easy content: Students are able to understand over 90% of the content, which is good, but they will likely learn nothing from it. If students already know and understand most content, there is not much stuff for them to enhance their skills. Therefore, we should avoid this type of content if students want to learn lots of new words. 
  • Difficult content: If we understand less than 70% of the content, it isn’t suitable for us either. Listening to a video or audio but we only understand less than 70%, which means there is over 30% of content that we need to study. Honestly, it’s a huge work to do and costs a bunch of time as well. In this case, students should save to watch later once they improve their skills.
  • Just-right content: This is the type of content we need. Suppose you are able to understand roughly above 70% and less than 90%, it’s Just-right content to study. In this type, we will learn a lot from it by utilizing our current level to guess the meaning of new words or look new words up in a dictionary.

But how do we find suitable content? Well, students will find out for sure by their feelings after the first listening attempt to pick content. Here are some free sources that students can use to practice every day.

  • Oxford Online English and BBC Learning English: There are millions of videos providing a wide range of topics that suit all English levels. Students should find content that lasts from 7-10 minutes, in the beginning, to ensure that they are able to finish the whole video. 
Oxford Online English, Duolingo English Test, DET Practice Platform, Improve English listening skill, DET Ready
cre: DET Practice
  • TED Talks and NPR: Content from these sources is much harder as they’re built to serve native speakers. In other words, Content from these sources is more suitable for Intermediate and above levels.

Conclusion: Let’s refer to one source first and choose your favorite topic to test. Listen to the video for a couple of minutes to decide whether it’s suitable to listen to the rest or save it for later study. If students think it’s suitable, let’s move on to the next step. Otherwise, we need to find new video content. 

Step 2: Do the Shadowing technique and Take notes

The benefits of Shadowing are undoubtedly phenomenal. Shadowing helps us improve our Intonation, Pauses, Pace, and Pronunciation. By shadowing, we actually imitate all things Speakers say, which helps us learn how new words are pronounced and used in a real context. 

But how do we do the shadowing technique? We simultaneously repeat what speakers say and imitate their pace, pauses, intonation, and pronunciation while listening to video content. 

On YouTube, especially some channels like Oxford Online English and BBC Learning English, most video content has subtitles, which is truly important to do shadowing. While listening to a YouTube video (or other platforms but it should have subtitles to help students do shadowing), we turn subtitles on and repeat them right after the speakers say it. By doing so, we are able to imitate everything, including their intonation, pauses, pronunciation, and even rhythm. On top of that, we are able to take notes of new words, phrases, collocations, and idioms.

For example, we learn from this video content: “Why pay for bottled water?” on the BBC Learning English YouTube channel. We turn on subtitles to do shadowing and take notes of new words at the same time, and we found some words such as:

  • Enriched
  • Come up trumps
DET Practice content, Duolingo English Test, DET Practice Platform, Improve English listening skill, DET Ready
cre: BBC Learning English
DET Practice words, Duolingo English Test, DET Practice Platform, Improve English listening skill, DET Ready
cre: BBC Learning English

Please always remember to take notes of new words, collocations, idioms, or anything you can learn from. BUT DO NOT look up their meanings or pronunciation while listening because it interrupts our Listening process, which does NO good to our improvement. 

Before moving on to the next step, English learners should listen to the whole video one more time and take notes of words they miss from the previous attempt. 

Step 3: Review all words

It’s time to review all keywords or any new words, collocations, and idioms that we take notes of earlier. For example, in Step 2, we have “enriched” and “Come up trumps”. Let’s look them up in Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries or Cambridge Dictionary, and we have the following results.

Enrich, Duolingo English Test, DET Practice Platform, Improve English listening skill, DET Ready
cre: Oxford Learner's Dictionaries

Enrich something: to improve the quality of something, often by adding something to it. 

So from our video sample, “it’s enriched with salts” means that people add salts to bottled water.

Come up trumps, Duolingo English Test, DET Practice Platform, Improve English listening skill, DET Ready
cre: Oxford Learner's Dictionaries

Come up trumps: to do what is necessary to make a particular situation successful, especially when this is sudden or unexpected.

So from our video sample, “Tap water is way more regulated than bottled water is, and in taste tests, tap water comes up trumps most times.” This means that most of the time tap water tastes better than bottled water, which is something that people do not expect. 

Choosing suitable content is truly vital in Step 1 because if we pick Difficult content, we may spend hours committed to looking up lots of new words. After reviewing all new words, students should one more time listen to the whole video content to reinforce all new words and prepare for the next step. 

Step 4: Summarise what we hear

Summarising helps us strengthen keywords, learn how to paraphrase, and understand general ideas deeply. Until this moment, we have listened to the whole video content at least three times in addition to understanding all new words or idioms, which means we have everything we need to summarise the content. 

If students aren’t confident yet in making a summary, feel free to listen to the video content one more time, please take a couple of minutes to summarise verbally. 

This is our summary: The video indicates several reasons why people pay for bottled water after comparing the benefits of tap water and bottled water. Interestingly, Tap water is beneficial to our health but the brands try to convince us that tap water isn’t healthy as bottled water to make profits. 

Step 5: Listen again and again

After Step 4, most English learners think it’s enough to move on to another video for good because they completely understand general ideas and new words. But how long are they able to remember, far less use new words naturally in Speaking and Writing? 

Listening every day, Duolingo English Test, DET Practice Platform, Improve English listening skill, DET Ready
cre: DET Practice

Listening and learning new words is one thing, but using them naturally is another, which requires more effort to master. Therefore, the best way to use new words effectively is to review the video content from time to time. Students may listen to the video content once or twice a week while cooking, on the go, or taking showers to save time for other tasks. 


Listening and Reading are the two input skills, students will hardly improve their output (Speaking and Writing) without adding more input to themselves on a daily basis. As a result, we truly need to practice our Reading and Listening every day, which are ways to gain more knowledge and widen our vocabulary bank. 

To DET takers who are looking for Duolingo English Test preparation materials, let’s take a look at the following sources.

  • DET Practice Platform: Thousands of practice questions are available in addition to instant feedback for all question types. Regarding Speaking question types, test-takers receive feedback based on Fluency, Grammatical Accuracy, Lexical Sophistication, Lexical Diversity, and Acoustic Features. 
  • DET Preparation course: A detailed study road map helps students prepare from the beginning. Even if you are a beginner, simply follow your instructor’s guide step by step to get your DET desired scores.

Make sure that you spend enough time to improve your skills in everyday life as it's the only way to obtain your desired scores. We wish you the best of luck on your preparation journey.