Hi. My name is Jan Hagston and I’m a literacy educator.
This video explains what’s required in the oral communication test in the Victoria Police entrance examination and it gives advice about how to answer the questions.
The oral communication task requires you to watch a short video and then answer questions about what you saw and heard.
It tests your ability to show that you have understood what you have seen and heard and can talk about it clearly and appropriately.
In policing, observing, listening and speaking are important. You need to observe events and situations around you and interpret what you have seen and heard. And you need to report on what you observe. How you report what you have observed depends on who you are talking to and where you are. For example, you may use different language in court than you would talking to a victim.
You also need to communicate with other people such as other police officers, the public generally, victims and witnesses.
You only have 10 minutes to complete this section of the exam.
You will watch a short video and then answer five or six questions to show that you have understood what you saw and heard.
You will record your answers by speaking into a microphone. You will need to speak clearly and fluently using appropriate language.
You can only watch the video once.
You will be assessed on these points:
- Showing an understanding of the footage and of the questions asked
- Organising and structuring your thoughts and ideas coherently to clearly describe and explain the footage and answer the question
- Supporting each point, you make with relevant evidence
- Using correct grammar and language appropriate to the task
- Speaking clearly and fluently.
To help you understand what this all means in practice we’re going to break this down into two parts:
- Firstly, viewing the video, and
- Secondly, answering the questions about the video.
When you view the video, you need to carefully observe
- what happens and
- who’s involved.
You also need to listen - does anyone speak, what do they say, can you hear any other noises.
When you observe what’s happening think about:
- What happened
- When it happened
- Where the incident or incidents took place, and
- What objects, if any, were involved and how.
You also need to observe and think about whether there was more than one thing happening, if so, was one more dangerous or serious and why and what were the people doing.
And you need to think about:
- What you, as a police officer or a member of the public, could do if that situation arose, and
- What, if anything, could have been done to avoid the incident.
When you observe who is involved think about:
- The number of people involved and what they’re doing
- If they’re together
- Their gender and build, for example how tall they are
- The colour of their hair and skin
- Anything distinguishing about them and
- What they’re wearing.
You also need to listen for what’s happening.
Did someone say something relevant to what took place? How was it relevant?
If there are other noises, think about their relevance to what’s happening in the video.
Now, let’s watch a video of an incident.
How did you go? How much did you observe?
Let’s see how carefully you observed what was happening.
First, let’s look at what happened
We see a woman using an ATM. She uses the keypad, takes her card, takes the money and counts it – eight $50 notes. She makes no effort to hide the keypad. While counting the money, she moves slightly away from the ATM and makes no effort to conceal the money. She places the money in her purse and turns and walks away holding her purse. We then see her sitting at a café table on the street looking at her phone. Her bag is placed on a chair next to her. A man approaches her table looks around, runs and grabs the bag and runs off.
This is just an overview of what happened. Let’s think about it in a bit more detail. Firstly, when and where the incident occurred.
It takes place in the daytime. The ATM is in a shopping strip with a number of other shops. Café tables are place along the outside of the footpath. Cars are parked diagonally front to the footpath and there are a number of other people walking along the street.
Now, who can you see and what do they do?
Apart from the woman using the ATM, we see a man sitting at a café table a couple of metres from the ATM. He’s drinking a small bottle of Coke. He’s facing towards the shops with the ATM slightly to his right. He’s light skinned, medium build in his early 40s. He has short brown hair which is receding at the temples. He’s wearing blue jeans and a dark blue/grey T-shirt with large red and white writing across the chest. There is a line of smaller white writing under this. The large white writing may say Diesel. His shoes are brown and he’s wearing sunglasses. He periodically glances up and down the street.
Further up the street we can see two men sitting at a table. One is light skinned, he has a heavy build and has grey hair. He’s wearing a yellow and blue short sleeved polo top with a blue collar. The top part of the shirt is yellow and the bottom part blue. The other man is much younger. He has short brown hair, is wearing an orange singlet, light brown pants and runners and, he’s wearing sunglasses. Another man is standing behind them. He is slim, has short dark hair and is dressed in a dark short sleeved shirt and dark pants. All three men look down the street to where the woman at the ATM is standing.
As the woman at the ATM counts her money, a woman of Asian appearance with dark long hair walks past and observes her counting the money. The woman walking past is wearing a black long sleeved shirt, dark coloured pants and grey court shoes. These shoes are sometimes called pumps. She carries a large black shoulder bag.
The man at the table closest to the ATM glances at the woman counting the money and watches as she walks away. He stands up and looks up the street in the opposite direction from where she went, then he follows her.
We then cut to the woman from the ATM sitting at a café table on the street, not far from the ATM. She is looking at her phone. Her bag is placed on a chair to the left of her. The chair is partly pushed into the table. The man with the Coke, walks up behind her, hesitates, looks around and then runs up, grabs her bag, knocking over the chair and runs off.
The woman yells ‘hey, stop! ‘. There are no other sounds that are relevant to the incident.
We’ve watched the video and know that only the man with the Coke was involved in the incident but when we first watched, we didn’t know what the incident was and who was involved so it was important that we observe as much as possible.
Now let’s look at the type of questions you could be asked.
You’ll be asked 5 or 6 questions. Depending on the video, you could be asked:
- What you observed
- What you think happened
- Where it happened
- When it happened
- To describe an object involved in the incident
- Who was involved
- What the person or people involved looked like or were wearing
- if emergency services were involved and, if so, which ones
- How you might report the incident to someone such as emergency services
- Your opinion of what happened.
Your answers need to:
- Answer the question
- Be structured, and
- Be specific and accurate
You also need to:
- Use correct grammar and appropriate language and
- Speak clearly and fluently.
You will be assessed on these things so let’s go through them in a bit more detail.
Make sure you answer the question and don’t get side tracked and provide information that’s not relevant to the question. This helps to show your understanding of the footage and the incident.
Logically organise the information you provide. For example, don’t jump from describing one of the people to what happened, back to describing the person. And provide details and evidence to support what you are saying.
Provide specific information and details. For example, if you were describing a broken car window say, ‘The back side window on the passenger side was broken’ not ‘the window was broken’ or even ‘the back window was broken’.
Be as accurate as possible. This helps to show your understanding of the incident.
And, if you can’t remember some details, don’t make them up.
Speak in complete sentences and avoid answers that are one or two words. For example, if you were asked to describe a car say ‘the car was a dark green Toyota Rav4 with roof bars’ not ‘dark green Toyota Rav with roof bars’.
Use the correct verb tense. For example, say ‘The driver walked away from the crash’ not ‘The driver walk away from the crash’.
Make sure the language you use isn’t too informal. Avoid using slang. For example, use the word ‘man’ rather than ‘bloke’ and ‘service station’ rather than the word ‘servo’.
You may need to change what you say and how you say it depending on who you are talking to. For example, if you were reporting on an incident in court, you would be more formal than if you were talking to a friend or a fellow police officer. You wouldn’t say ‘done a runner’ to the judge but you would to a friend and you might to a fellow police officer, if you knew them fairly well.
If it’s appropriate, you can use technical language.
If the video has spoken language, it may be appropriate to use some of what was spoken.
Try to use a broad range of vocabulary. This will help you to be more specific. For example, say ‘the car was badly dented on the front left with the headlight completely smashed’.
Make sure you pronounce words clearly and that you stress important words - but not too many or it will sound very strange. Make sure your intonation and the rhythm of your speech is easy to understand.
Don’t speak too loudly or too softly – just at a level that’s easy for most people to hear.
Speak at a suitable pace – not too fast and not too slow.
Avoid speaking in a monotone (like a computer). Change the pitch of your voice and stress words or phrases that are important.
Avoid long pauses between words or sentences. A short hesitation is OK.
Let’s see what this looks like in practice.
The first question asks you what the woman did at the ATM.
Pause the video and try answering the question before hearing the sample answer.
This is a sample answer – not a perfect answer.
She took money out of the ATM. She counts the money when she takes it out. She has eight $50 notes. She places the money in her purse and turns and walks away holding her purse. Oh, and first she used the keypad and then she took her card and put it in her purse.
Think about what the speaker did well and what they could improve on.
The speaker answers the question, shows they understood what happened and what is being asked. The answer is accurate, uses correct grammar and appropriate language and the speaker is clear and easy to understand. However, the information about using the key pad and placing the card in her purse, should have come before the information about counting the money – so the answer wasn’t structured correctly. Also, more detail could have been provided. For example, no mention was made that the woman didn’t try to hide the keypad when she used it and counted the money in full view of people around her.
Question 2 asks you to describe what the man who stole the bag looked like.
Remember to pause the video and answer the question before you listen to the sample answer.
Let’s hear a sample answer for this question.
The man’s light skinned with brown, receding hair. Ah he looks to be around 40 or a little older. He’s wearing blue jeans and a dark blue/dark grey T-shirt with writing on the front. There is large writing in red and white and a line of smaller writing in white under this. He is wearing shoes and sunglasses.
This answer is quite detailed and accurate and shows good observation skills. There are a few details that aren’t included but it’s better to leave out information than make it up. You must always be accurate.
The answer shows understanding of the footage, answers the question, uses correct grammar and appropriate language and is structured clearly. The speaker is clear and easy to understand.
Question 3 asks you to describe the behaviour of the man who stole the bag.
Try answering the question before you listen to the sample answer.
Here’s a sample answer.
He was sitting at a table. He looked pretty shifty, looking up and down the street and checking out the woman at the ATM. Before he took her bag, he looked around and he made a dash for it and was off. And, when he’s sitting at the table, he’s drinking a coke.
While this answer provides an overview of how the man acts, it uses slang and informal language and doesn’t provide enough detail about his actions. It also adds in an irrelevant piece of information at the end.
The 4th question asks what the woman did after putting her purse in her bag.
Pause the video and try answering the question before hearing the sample answer.
Here’s a sample answer.
The woman sat down at a table on the footpath. Her bag was placed on a chair at the same table. The chair was to the left of the woman – on the side where pedestrians walked. The chair was partly pushed into the table but the bag was easy to see. The woman was focused on her phone and not on her surroundings.
This answer is accurate and quite detailed. It shows an understanding of the footage and the question. It uses correct grammar and language and is organised clearly. It shows a more in-depth understanding of the woman’s behaviour.
In the 5th question, you are asked to imagine that, as an observer of the incident, you are interviewed by the police. They ask you how the woman acted when using the ATM.
Try to answer the question before listening to the sample answer.
Here’s a sample answer.
The woman wasn’t very careful when she used the ATM. She didn’t try to hide the keypad. When she took the money, she counted it. She stood back from the teller and very obviously counted it. Everyone could see her doing it – and she didn’t even look up to make sure no one was around. What an idiot.
This answer is accurate and provides details about the woman’s actions. The language used is appropriate for the audience - police officers – except for the last statement. The answer should not have included this judgement about the woman. Unless asked for your opinion, stick to the facts. Even if you are asked for your opinion, make sure you use appropriate language and don’t make a judgement. If you wanted to give your opinion, it would have been more appropriate to say something like ‘she didn’t seem to act carefully’.
I hope this has helps you to answer the questions in the oral communication section of the Victorian Police entrance exam.
The best way to get better at the oral communication task is to practice. First practice your observation skills. Watch news reports, Crime Stoppers and YouTube footage and after each, recount what you observed, taking into account the types of questions you could be asked.
Then start to record yourself answering some of the questions. Think about how you could improve. When you feel more confident with doing this, ask one or two people who you think are good speakers, to listen to your recordings and give you feedback.
You should look at the practice activity referred to in the Candidate Information Booklet.
You can also read the chapter in Practise Now! Victoria Police Entrance Examination on oral communication. It goes over the points we have been talking about. Read over the explanations and have a go at the practice questions.
Practise Now! is produced by ACER. It describes a range of the types of question you’re likely to find in the exam and provides detailed explanations of how correct answers may be reached. It’s available from ACER bookshop and commercial booksellers.
Good luck with your exam preparation.
Reviewed 15 June 2022