The use of tactics and strategies by Chinese students in the Listening component of IELTS


Richard Badger

Xiaobiao Yan

Date Published:

27th April 2009

This study investigates whether there are differences between the strategies used by native speakers/ expert users of English and those used by learners of English who are native speakers of Chinese when they take an IELTS Listening Test.

24 native speakers of Chinese (12 pre-undergraduate and 12 pre-postgraduate), at an IELTS level for the Listening paper of between 5.5 and 6.5 and 8 native/expert speakers of English (three undergraduates, three masters level and two doctoral), took a sample listening test (from McCarter and Ash 2003).

Data were collected using a think-aloud protocol and then analyzed using a framework based on Goh (2002) adapted to include particular features of the data sets based on a grounded approach (Glaser & Strauss 1967; Glaser 1992; Senior 2006). This produced a three level system of coding, with an initial distinction between cognitive and meta-cognitive strategies, each of which was divided into sub-strategies and then again into the tactics used to carry out the strategies.

The result of an independent samples 2-tailed t-test revealed there were no significant differences between the two groups in terms of strategy use. At the level of sub-strategy there were differences on two out of 13 metacognitive strategies. At the level of tactics there were significant differences for seven tactics (two cognitive and five meta-cognitive) out of 58 at p≤0.005. This suggests that the strategies and tactics adopted by native and non-native speakers of English in the IELTS Listening Module are not significantly different.

We also examined the differences between the 12 pre-undergraduate and 12 pre-postgraduate Chinese native participants but found no significant differences at strategy, sub-strategy or tactical levels.

The paper then discusses possible reasons for the results.