Interactive listening (IL) is one component of listening ability.  IL can only be measured in a communicative context with at least one other participant, so assessment of the listener’s ability is partly dependent on the behavior and attitude of the other participants.

Interview tests are used to assess a person’s communicative competence — that is, their interactive listening and oral expression ability.

In order to help students improve their performance on formal interview tests, it is helpful to give five tips — and to practice these intensively.


Here they are:

  1. Structure your answers.

First, give a “context” for your answer. Second, give a detailed answer. Third, summarize.

Notice how Gina structures her answer.  She gives a “broad” or general answer first.  Then she gives details and examples.  Then – very important – she summarizes.  You have about one minute to answer, so take your time. Think about 3 parts to your answer.

  1. Give a two-part answer to a question.

Think about “pros and cons”.  Think about “counter examples.”

Notice how the interviewee answers opinion questions with “Yes and no…”  This takes time, so she pauses and also says things like “Give me a minute to think.”  “Thinking time” is good – it makes the interview more interesting.

  1. Maintain strong contact with the interviewer

Notice how Ashish keeps “businesslike” contact with the interviewer.  Good eye contact.  Upright body.  Respectful.  He’s very consistent in his approach!

  1. Give “deep” answers !


Notice how Anuradha, from Malaysia, gives deep answers.  Try to “do deep”, at least on one or two topics. This is a way to show your knowledge of specialized vocabulary.  Your score will improve!  One way to “go deep” is to contrast:  past situation with present situation, or life for old people vs. life for young people.  Think of any contrast you can use!

  1. Show empathy to the questioner

Notice how Kopi, from Botswana, pauses and uses gestures to show empathy to the interviewer.  This means he’s trying to accept the question as “personal” from the interviewer.  He gives some emphatic answers, like “Definitely”, “I really think so”, “….really”, and “Yeah (while nodding)”.  Also, when he doesn’t know what to say, he shows his “vulnerability” – you don’t have to act super-confident.  If you don’t know, or if you’re confused, it’s okay to say so!  This shows your empathy!

About The Author

, 5 Ways to Get a Super Score on an Interview Test, Lateral Communications
Michael Rost, principal author of Pearson English Interactive, has been active in the areas of language teaching, learning technology and language acquisition research for over 25 years. His interest in bilingualism and language education began in the Peace Corps in West Africa and was fuelled during his 10 years as an educator in Japan and extensive touring as a lecturer in East Asia and Latin America. Formerly on the faculty of the TESOL programs at Temple University and the University of California, Berkeley, Michael now works as an independent researcher, author, and speaker based in San Francisco.

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