The purpose of this study was to analyze and to describe the English listening and reading abilities of freshmen at Hiroshima University. Nine weeks into the first semester of 1998, almost all of the freshmen students-- about 2,000-- were given a 20-minute listening test and a 20-minute reading test so that highly proficient students could be placed in faster-paced, more challenging courses in the second semester. A total of 409 students' test answer sheets were randomly selected, representing 10 different faculties. The three most important findings were: 1) Students did significantly better on the reading test than on the listening test (p<.001), even though both tests were designed for the pre-TOEFL level; 2) Individual listening scores correlated with reading scores (p<.01); and 3) On the listening test, when students perceived certain words or expressions on the tape, they were often attracted to distractors (incorrect choices) which featured those exact same words or expressions. It is argued that "a lack of vocabulary" is NOT a sufficient basis for explaining the lower listening scores. Indeed, the fact that students scored significantly higher in reading-- a skill which generally requires a wider range of knowledge of vocabulary items than listening-- is evidence that vocabulary is not the main obstacle to listening ability. Rather, it is claimed that students find it hard to decode the flow of audio signals.