Primary School Listening Comprehension Examination

Listening Comprehension

Format of The Paper

The Listening Comprehension Paper (Paper 3) is probably the paper that most students feel they are well-equipped to score well in. The paper consists of 20 multiple choice questions (MCQs) of 1 mark each, and it constitutes 10% of the overall English grade.

Objectives of the Listening Comprehension Examination

The Assessment Objectives (AO) of the exam seek to assess students on their ability to:

AO1: Demonstrate understanding of the content of a variety of spoken texts at the literal and inferential levels

AO2: Identify key messages, main ideas and details in a variety of spoken texts

AO3: Infer and draw conclusions by listening critically


According to the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB), the texts may be in the form of news items, announcements, advertisements, instructions, explanations, conversations, speeches and stories. Graphic representations will be used for the first seven items. Each text will be read twice and time will be given for candidates to read the questions before the first reading of each text.


During the listening comprehension exam, students should use the time given before the audio reading of each text to quickly scan through the graphic representation of the question, the accompanying question, and the three options. This is to enable them to predict what the content of the text would be so that they are able to listen out for the answer to the question.

From the question and the three options given, you can make an educated guess what you would need to listen out for. Also, students should be able to predict the text type, for example,


Question: Which label can be found on a bottle of Softsilk Shampoo? Or: How many people can participate in the competition?

Prediction: Advertisement


Question: Which picture shows the description of the lost child? [Graphic representation question]

Prediction: Announcement


Question: Which statement best describes the theft?

Prediction: News report


Question: How many ingredients does the recipe require? Or: Where is the second hotel located? (Graphic representation question)

Prediction: Instruction


Question: What is the first stage of the water cycle?

Prediction: Explanation

What are Literal Questions?

In the listening comprehension exam, literal questions require students to listen carefully for the specific details in the text. The answers to literal questions can be located in the text itself. 

What Do I Take Note Of?

Quantity (numbers)      – What/ How much

Measurements              – What/ How

Date                                –  When

Time                                –  When

Time of the Day             – When

Locations                        – Where

Names of characters     – Who

Frequency of events     – How often

Price (money)                 – How much

Actions (verbs)

Emotions (adjectives)


Text: Anne was pushing a trolley down the aisle. She was browsing the shelves stocked with packets of flour. She spotted the bread flour and took one packet and placed it in her trolley. I need to get some minced beef to cook, she thought. I’ll also need to buy a bottle of herbs to sprinkle on the pizza after it’s baked. As she was strolling along the aisles, she gasped when she caught sight of her favourite green tea ice cream at the frozen dairy section which had been out of stock for some time. I must have this, she decided, as she pulled open the freezer glass door and took a tub from the shelf. She could not help grinning.


Answers to literal questions are stated directly in the text, for example:


Literal Question: Why did Anne need to get a bottle of herbs?

  1. She needed them to bake her pizza
  2. She needed them to cook her pizza
  3. She needed them to season her pizza

Answer: (3)

Do note that a good knowledge of synonyms is useful as some questions test your understanding of vocabulary.

However, if you are unsure which of the options is the correct answer, use the elimination method to strike out the improbable options.

What are Inferential Questions?

Inferential questions require students to draw conclusions from the descriptions, for example:

Inferential Question: Where was Anne most probably at?

  1. She was at a café
  2. She was at a supermarket
  3. She was at a departmental store

The student should infer from the show-not-tell descriptions of the aisles with shelves stocked with packets of flour, minced beef, bottle of herbs, and the frozen dairy section that Anne is at a supermarket

Answer: (2)


Inferential Question: Anne gasped when she caught sight of her favourite green tea ice cream because __________________________.

  1. she was surprised and overjoyed
  2. she was contented and merry
  3. she was pleased and grateful

Why did Anne gasp when she spotted her favourite ice cream? We are told that it’s “been out of stock for some time”, therefore she must be surprised to find that it’s back in stock. Secondly, she’s overjoyed because now she could buy one as she decided that she “must have this” and proceeded to take a tub from the shelf. Therefore, we can infer that she gasped because she was surprised and overjoyed.

Answer: (1) 

Tricky Texts and Questions:

Text: The Summerville Play Park’s features include- among other things- water play, play houses, and seesaws.

Question: How many features does the Play Park have?

  1. It has three features
  2. It has more than three features
  3. It has less than three features

If your answer is (1), you will need to listen more carefully. The phrase “among other things” tells you that there are more features apart from the three listed in the text.


Text: Dan strolled towards the non-fiction section after browsing the magazine section. After he had selected a book, he settled comfortably on a couch and read the book for half an hour. After stretching for a while, he decided to look for a book which his best friend had recommended to him. It was story about a 16-year-old girl who volunteered to take her sister’s place in an arena where twenty-four teens battle each other. As he was walking towards the fiction section, he spotted a book he had read when he was five years old. Cherished memories flooded his mind as he flipped through the pages. Just then, he glanced at his watch and realised that he had a project meeting with his classmates in fifteen minutes’ time. He placed the book back, hurried to the fiction section, and pulled out the book he was looking for. Then, he strode towards the borrowing station, pleased with himself.

Question: What was the first section Dan went to in the library?

  1. Non-fiction
  2. Magazine
  3. Pre-schooler

What to listen out for: “after browsing the magazine section” tells me that he went to the magazine section first.

Answer: (2)


Similarly, the sentence “Dan strolled towards the non-fiction section but not before browsing the magazine section”  means that Dan browsed the magazine section before he strolled towards the non-fiction section.


Question: What was the first place Dan stopped at after he got up from the couch?

  1. Pre-schooler section
  2. Fiction section
  3. Non-fiction section

 What to listen out for: “As he was walking towardshe spottedfive years oldCherished memoriesflipped through the pages”. These phrases show Dan had stopped at the pre-schooler section (inference = five years old) before he continued his way to the fiction section (inference = story).

Answer: (1)


Question: Which of the three lines shows the route that Dan took from the time he was in the library? (Graphic representation question)


  • For this type of question, students are advised to number the locations in the graphic representation (Pre-schooler; Fiction; Non-fiction) sequentially as the text is being read the first time. In the second reading, they should verify the accuracy of their notes and, subsequently, their answer to the question.
  • Students are strongly encouraged to jot down information or details on the question paper as they listen to the text so that they can better recall the details. However, they must keep the Optical Answer Sheet (OAS) clean from scribbles as the OAS will be marked. Students should use a 2B pencil to shade the answers on the OAS.


  • You must complete the shading of answers within the duration of the Listening Comprehension Examination. No extra time will be given at the end of the broadcast to shade the answers.
  • If you are not able to hear the Listening Comprehension broadcast clearly, you should raise your hand immediately to inform the invigilator. [Source: SEAB]

As you can see, the examination assesses whether a student is able to determine main ideas, is attentive to details, and is able to listen critically. If you keep in mind the above pointers and put them into practice, I’m sure you’ll do fine :0)

Success is the sum of small efforts – repeated day in and day out.” ~ Robert Collier

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