Free English Lessons

FCE Listening Exam Advice – Video

by Gina Mares on 1 June, 2018 , Comments Off on FCE Listening Exam Advice – Video

In this lesson, you can learn how to do the Cambridge FCE listening exam.

In this lesson, you can see what to expect in the listening test and how to improve your FCE listening score. We’ll also look at some problem areas and what you can do to make them easier. Get helpful FCE Listening Exam advice and improve your score!

1. What to expect in the FCE Listening Exam

FCE Listening Exam - Tips and Advice - woman listening image

The listening exam takes about 40 minutes and has four parts. There are 30 questions in total and you need to be able to understand a variety of spoken media. That means that you might hear conversations between friends, an extract from the news, part of a radio programme, or something else.

Part one of the exam has eight questions with three possible answers, A, B, or C. Each question is unrelated to the others and you’ll hear different short extracts.

For example, question one might be something like this:

  • You hear a message on a telephone answering machine. Why is the speaker leaving a message?
  • A. To change an appointment.
  • B. To organise a lunch meeting.
  • C. To tell someone to do something.

Whereas, question two could be like this:

  • You hear two friends talking at work. What are they complaining about?
  • A. The new boss.
  • B. That they missed lunch.
  • C. That there are too many meetings.

You can see that the two questions are very different, and you’ll be listening to a range of people and voices in this part.

It’s important to listen to the gist of the recordings in this part. You might not find the answer you need in one word, phrase or sentence; instead you’ll need to listen to the whole recording to understand the meaning of it.

Part two is a sentence completion activity. There are ten questions with gaps for you to fill while you listen to one, long recording. You’ll need to write one to three words to fill each gap. The recording could be an interview, a conversation between two people or just one person talking.

Look at an example:

  • Lilly and James are university students. They are talking about different classes and activities at their university. Listen to their conversation and write the correct answers in the spaces.
  • 1. Lilly has recently wanted to attend _____ classes.

The questions in part two are all in the order you’ll hear them, so it’s important to follow the recording! If you don’t know an answer, move on to the next question.

In part three, you’ll hear five short recordings by five different speakers on a similar theme or topic, e.g. hobbies or travel. There are a set of eight statements and you’ll have to match each speaker to a statement.

Here’s a sample question:

  • You will hear five different people talking about their stay in a hotel. Choose from the list what each speaker says about their experience.

FCE Listening Exam - Tips and Advice - hotel image

Have a look at a couple of possible statements:

  • Losing something valuable.
  • Arriving somewhere too late.
  • Failing to inform someone of something.

As you can see, the speakers and statements will be on similar issues. Remember that there’ll be three extra statements that you don’t need to use!

Finally, part four is a multiple-choice section again, like part one. Unlike part one, the questions in part four are about a single recording, often an interview. This means you need to find answers in a longer recording.

Now that you know what to expect in the FCE listening exam, let’s take a look at how you can get ready for it.

2. How to Prepare for your FCE Listening Exam

Let’s look at how you can prepare for the FCE listening exam by yourself.

Most importantly: listen, listen and listen some more!

Of course, you should practice the listening exam, so that you understand the structure of the questions and learn which areas you need to improve on. You can either ask your teacher for practice papers or have a look online; there are lots you can work through.

When you’ve finished your practice listening test, check your answers and listen again. Can you see why the answers are correct? Try to work out why the correct answer is the right one – this will help you to understand the exam better.

Remember that you will hear a variety of media in the FCE exam, so listen to radio stations, songs, podcasts, and anything else you can find. This way, you’ll get used to hearing English in different ways and it will help prepare you for your test.

Here’s a simple, two-step plan to help you with general listening:

  1. Listen to something in English every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Obviously, more time is better, but five minutes is better than nothing.
  2. Listen to something different every day. For example, one day, you can listen to a song. The next day, you watch 10 minutes of a British TV show. The third day, you listen to an American podcast. The fourth day, you listen to a radio talk show, and so on.

It’s also important to listen to a range of different accents. During the FCE exam, you might hear some speakers with American or Australian accents. You will also hear a range of regional British accents. Some British accents can be very strong and harder to understand than others.

If you do hear a difficult accent in the exam, try not to panic; you’ll hear the recording twice and you’ll understand more the second time.

In the FCE listening exam, the question will often be answered using similar words – synonyms, or opposite words – antonyms, that have the same meaning.

For example, if the question is:

  • What does John find least enjoyable about his job?
  • A. Meeting people.
  • B. Responding to enquiries.
  • C. Hours of paperwork.

You won’t hear John say, “I find meeting people the least enjoyable part of my job,” but you might hear him say something like, “I find socialising boring,” or, “I dislike interacting with new people.”

Socialising and interacting with new people are both different ways of saying meeting people. Boring and dislike are both different ways of saying that you don’t find something enjoyable.

Because this is common during the listening test, it’s smart to study synonyms and antonyms before the exam. Look at past papers and think of different ways you could phrase the question and answers.

For example, look at this question:

  • What did David find the most difficult when writing his book?

Can you think of another way you could say this?

How about:

  • What was the biggest challenge for David when working on his book?
  • What did David find was the hardest part of writing?

By thinking in this way, you can train your brain to listen for the correct information, not specific words.

Okay, now that we’ve looked at what you can do at home, let’s move onto what you can do in the exam.

3. What to do during Your FCE Listening Test

Yes, it might seem like it’s too late to do anything to help yourself when you’re sitting your exam, but don’t worry; there are still a few things you can do!

Firstly, the exam paper you’re given is your exam paper. This means that you can (and should) write on it!

Underline key words in the questions. This will help you to focus on what you’re trying to hear.

Take a look at this sample question:

  • Why does Alice enjoy teaching?

In this question, you could underline the key words why, enjoy and teaching.

When you’re listening to the exam recordings, try not to make notes. If you make notes, you’re not paying attention to what you’re hearing.

Elimination is also a good tactic. When you’re listening to a multiple-choice question in parts one or four, you can try to eliminate one of the answers on your first listen.

For example, imagine you have a multiple choice question with three options. You listen, but you don’t know which is correct.

However, maybe you heard something that tells you B and C are not the correct answer. Then you know that A is right, even if you didn’t hear the key part of the text.

Or, maybe you know that C is not correct. Cross it out. This is still helpful: you only need to look at two options on your next listen. In the worst case scenario, if you really don’t know the answer, you have a 50-50 chance of guessing correctly!

Let’s take a look at how to do this.

Imagine that this is the question:

  • Why did Sophie have to leave university?
  • A. She was bullied.
  • B. She failed her exams.
  • C. She was offered her dream job.

Now imagine that this is part of the recording:

  • I ended up having to leave university, which was a shame as I liked the people there, but I wasn’t very good at exams…

You heard that Sophie wasn’t very good at exams so option B – “she failed her exams” – is a possibility. But you also heard that she liked the people there. This suggests that option A – “she was bullied” – is incorrect.

So, you can eliminate option A and concentrate on listening for the information for just B and C on your next listen.

In part two of the listening exam, you’ll need to listen and fill in the missing words. While reading, think about what kind of word is needed in the gap: do you need a noun, a verb, an adjective, or something else? Do you need one word, or more than one?

Look at a sample question:

  • This geographical feature can be found in _____ and mountains.

You know that you need to listen for a noun. Doing this in the exam makes you better prepared to find the information you need.

Now you’ve seen what to expect in the exam and how to get ready for it, let’s take a closer look at some of the biggest challenges in FCE listening and how you can avoid making some common mistakes.

4. Challenges and Avoiding Mistakes in the FCE Listening Exam

In many questions, the FCE exam writers try to confuse you by including all of the answers from a multiple choice question in the listening text.

For example, if the question is:

  • What did John take to work today for lunch?
  • A. Sandwich
  • B. Crisps
  • C. Salad

You might hear something like this:

  • I normally take a sandwich to work, but today I forgot it and had to buy a salad to take with me instead. I really wanted some crisps but I decided to be healthy so I didn’t buy them.

A lot of students will just hear “I normally take a sandwich to work,” write “sandwich” as their answer and not listen to the rest of the question. Always listen to the whole question before you choose your answer.

In part two of the exam, the gap fill, make sure to read over your answers afterwards. Many students lose marks by making spelling mistakes, writing more than three words or writing something that doesn’t make any sense.

Check that you’ve spelt everything correctly – you can write numbers without writing the full word, so if you can’t remember how to spell “thousand,” just write “1,000” in figures instead.

You also need to check for grammar mistakes. Look for simple things, like mistakes with plurals, forgetting to add ‘s’ to a 3rd person verb, or leaving out articles like a, an or the.

Now that we’ve reached the end of this video, you should have a good understanding of the FCE listening exam and some ideas on how to prepare yourself for it.

Thanks for watching. Good luck if you have an FCE exam coming up soon! Be sure to watch our other lessons like this one on FCE Speaking Part 1.

Gina MaresFCE Listening Exam Advice – Video