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Ultimate tips for the Listening comprehension part of Paper 2 for Spanish Ab initio of the IBDP

Like we did on our previous post about the Listening comprehension of Spanish B, either SL or HL -you can read it here -, the intention of the present post is to provide the same sort of analysis of the Ab initio Paper 2 Listening comprehension part to be taken by candidates for the first time in May 2022. You still have enough time to carefully prepare it, and with the tips here you will succeed for sure!



First, we want to mention some general features of this new part of Paper 2 for Ab initio, based on an in depth analysis of the Specimen paper released by the IB organization accompanying the 2020 specifications, but also of the November 2020 past paper:


1. The paper proposes three texts, A, B and C, that are considered to be graded from easy to more difficult when combining them with a particular type of question or task. Also, like in other official exams, each text is to be listened twice, and the school is provided only one audio file that includes the pauses that allow the student to read the questions in advance. We consider that these pauses give the student enough time to read and get ready for the activity, so this should not be a concern.


2. The texts are sometimes a monologue or speech, and in other cases a conversation or an interview between two people. While text A presents only one type of questions, texts B and C are accompanied by two blocks of questions. In this case, for the same text, the type of question in the first block is different from the type of questions in the second block.


When this happens, there is generally a pause in between the two blocks of questions easily to identify by the students, being important to switch in between the two parts even if not all the questions of the first one have been responded. There will be a second opportunity to listen and catch up, so do not stuck in a question just because you couldn’t answer it, and quickly switch between blocks when needed!


3. The November 2020 past paper, in contrast to the specimen paper, provides a space for taking notes. Although this could seem to be useful, the contents in the audio samples are quite straightforward. What do we mean with this? We mean that most of the information mentioned by the speakers is considered by the set of questions, so there is little room to take notes and, at the same time, keep the pace to answer the following questions. So we do not recommend wasting much time in writing down things but jumping to the next questions if you skipped one, you’ll have a second chance!


4. Finally, and probably this is the most important characteristic of every single text and task, all the information the questions of a set refer to is mentioned in audio in the same order. Then, it is easy to answer the questions while listening. Reading the questions -in the time provided for doing so before listening- will give you an idea about the order of the topics that are covered in the speech or conversation. Also, this fact will allow you to realized when you have missed some information and jump over this particular question not to stay behind.


Secondly, it seems, as it happens for the Reading comprehension part of the same Paper 2, that the type of questions are going to be always same, but they will combined differently in each new paper. For this reason we will consider here every different type of questions and give you some particular tips:


a) Open questions. This type of question is presented by the following instructions: Contesta a las siguientes preguntas.


These questions are sometimes to be answer with one piece of information, one mark, but sometimes with two, two marks. There is no need to write full sentences, that means phrases that contain a conjugated verb, but just providing the key information would be enough. For example, to the question ¿Cómo está Luis?, the answer Bien is enough, and there is no need to answer Luis está bien in order to get the mark. So don’t lose time when unnecessary!


Also when including a verb the literally words mentioned in the audio file should be enough. That means that it is not essential to re-write the sentence transforming appropriately the verb. For example, to the question ¿Por qué está aburrida Lucía?, the answer No tengo amigos as listened in the audio is ok, and it is unnecessary to re-write a whole sentence and conjugate accurately the verb like in Porque Lucía no tiene amigos.


b) Fill the gaps. The instructions for this type of question are as follows: Completa los espacios en blanco. Usa como máximo 3 palabras por espacio.


In contrast to the open questions, since this is a fill the blank type of questions, the final sentence originated yes should be grammatically correct, so it is not enough in this case to point out the correct information but to properly fill the gap. In the next example, Pedro no puede ir mañana […] porque tiene fiebre, filling the blank just with the word escuela would not be correct, but it is needed to complete the gap with a la escuela (grammatically correct: Pedro no puede ir mañana a la escuela porque tiene fiebre; grammatically incorrect: Pedro no puede ir mañana escuela porque tiene fiebre).


In some cases it is easy to foresee the type of information that can fill the gap, so try to get the most from the time you have to read the questions and prepare “to listen better” and more efficiently. In the following sentence, Es más barato y ecológico ir a trabajar […], it is easy to think about filling the gap with options like en autobús or a pie, but not something like en coche.


c) Pick the true phrases from a pool. This type of question is introduced by instructions in the following format: Elige las tres/seis frases verdaderas.


Depending on the number of phrases contained in the pool the student will be asked to pick three or six, but in any case he/she will be always asked to choose half of them. Than means that there is a 50% chance to be correct, so if you missed some information don’t forget to mark half of the options.


Since all of the information mentioned by the phrases provided is mentioned in the audio file, this type of question is in fact a hidden true or false exercise. And given that, as we mentioned before, all the information appears in the same order, it should be easy to follow the audio and jump from one sentence to the next classifying them in true, to be finally picked, or false, to be discarded.


Other types of question are the multiple answer ones, where sometimes the answer is provided in written form or with pictures, and the ones asking what person does a particular information refers to from three different people mentioned in a conversation. These types of question should not represent big problems for the student.


Lastly, and with the aim of providing the teachers with resources to practice along the course, we want to consider potential sources of activities and audio files where to get some teaching materials from. Very few new books that consider the listening practice have been published for Ab initio. So we know some teachers are struggling to find materials to practice the listening comprehension during their lessons.


As for our experience, Ab initio and IGCSE curriculum share many common features, especially when considering grammar, level of language and topics to be covered. For this reason some activities from IGCSE past papers can be recycled into appropriate practices for getting ready for the final Ab initio exam. In our case, we have analysed some Edexcel IGCSE past papers, but a similar procedure could be done with Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) or past papers from other examination boards in order to get more resources. Here we present the main conclusions about Edexcel IGCSE past papers:


i. It is possible to find activities with multiple answer questions in any Edexcel IGCSE past paper, either easy ones where the different options come in the form of pictures, but also more difficult ones where the possible answers are written phrases.


ii. In the case of open questions, are older papers from 2011 to 2013 where to find activities of this type, either in an easy version at the beginning of the paper or more difficult ones later in the exam.


iii. Although in Edexcel IGCSE past papers there are not fill the gaps questions exactly in the same format as in the Ab initio exams, yes there is the option to adapt some activities to practice in a similar way. Some Edexcel IGCSE past papers have a format of question where to fill the gaps of some sentences with words or expression to choose from a pool; it would be as easy as to eliminate the pool words and expression to make the student practice in the similar way we described above for Ab initio.


iv. Finally, as for the pick the true phrases from a pool type of question, Edexcel IGCSE past papers from 2014 to 2016 provide activities in this way, again in both an easy and a difficult versions.


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