Listening for Gist and Detail

Listening is one of the four main skills which are taught in English Classes.

Listening is a receptive skill that helps students learn more vocabulary and improve their pronunciation.

We have covered how to teach listening in some other posts.

  1. Teaching Listening: 12 Types of Pre-Listening Activities
  2. Teaching Listening: Types of While-Listening Activities
  3. Teaching Listening: Types of Post-Listening Activities

Now it is the turn to discuss two important listening Strategies

What’s Listening for Gist?

Gist is defined as the most important pieces of information about something, or general information without details.

In the context of language learning and teaching, Gist is defined as the general meaning or purpose of a text, either written or spoken.

Listening for Gist is when the learner tries to understand what is happening even if he or she can’t understand every phrase or sentence.

The learner is trying to pick up keywords, intonation, and other clues so as to make a guess at the meaning.

For example, words such as captowel, wavesboard, and sunny have their own meanings but when you hear the words in a listening passage, they help you understand the context in which they are used in the context of a beach trip.

Sometimes finding the gist can be easy because this is found at the beginning of the passage but sometimes it is not too easy and it is necessary to listen to the whole conversation to understand its general meaning.

Examples of Gist Questions

These are some examples of gist questions

  1. What’s the subject of the passage?
  2. What problem are they discussing?
  3. What does the speaker think about the topic?
  4. What’s the topic of the passage?
  5. Look at the Pictures, What is the speaker talking about?
  6. What’s the main idea of the passage?
  7. what’s the purpose of the passage?
  8. What’s the main point of the passage?

Listening for Gist Activities

These are some examples of listening for Gist activities


  1.  Show students some pictures related to the topic and ask students to tell you what they think about the pictures.
  2. Take a few words from the listening passage and ask students to tell you what they think the listening is about.

What’s Listening for Detail?

Listening for detail refers to the type of listening we do in which we can’t afford to ignore anything because we don’t know exactly what information of the listening passage will be necessary to complete the task.

This term is sometimes confused with listening for specific information which is applied to occasions in which we don’t have to understand everything that’s being said, but only a very specific part

Listening for Gist and Detail Video

This is probably the best video I could find to learn more about listening for gist and detail

Manuel Campos, English Professor

Manuel Campos

I am Jose Manuel, English professor and creator of, a blog whose mission is to share lessons for those who want to learn and improve their English