Literature has long been used as a tool for language teaching and learning. In the New Academic Structure in Hong Kong, it has become an important element in the senior secondary English language curriculum to promote communicative language teaching (CLT) with a process-oriented approach. However, as in many other English as a second or foreign language (ESL/EFL) contexts where high-stakes testing prevails, Hong Kong students are highly exam-oriented and expect teachers to teach to the test. Because there is no direct assessment on literature in the English language curriculum, many teachers find it challenging to balance CLT through literature and exam preparation. To address this issue, this article describes an innovation of teaching ESL through songs by ‘packaging’ it as exam practice to engage exam-oriented students in CLT. A series of activities derived from the song Seasons in the Sun was implemented in the ESL classrooms in a secondary school in Hong Kong. Based on the author’s observations and reflections informed by teachers’ and students’ comments, the students were first motivated, at least instrumentally, by the relevance of the activities to the listening paper in the public exam when they saw the similarities between the classroom tasks and past exam questions. Once the students felt motivated, they were more easily engaged in a variety of CLT activities, which encouraged the use of English for authentic and meaningful communication. This article offers pedagogical implications for ESL/EFL teachers to implement CLT through literature in exam-oriented contexts. Copyright © 2021 The Author(s).