Below you will find my tips for each part of the listening paper.  Download a practice test and try them out!

General Advice

This is not just a listening test, but also a reading test.  There is a lot of information that you must read and understand in order to succeed in this section.  In order to answer the questions correctly, you need to understand the ideas that you hear and the ideas that are written in the answer.  Very often in the multiple choice sections, the incorrect answers will use words that you hear in the recording.  The correct answer will be a paraphrase of the recording.  Match the ideas, not the words.

In this part of the test, you should mark your answers directly in the question book.  There is time at the end of the Listening test to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.

Cambridge English: First (FCE)  Listening Part 1
  1. In Part 1, you will hear people talking in eight situations.  You will hear each recording two times and then move to the next one.
  2. Read and listen to the questions and answers.
  3. As you listen the first time, mark the answer that you think is correct, but also mark the answers you are sure are incorrect.
  4. Make your final decision as you listen the second time.
Cambridge English: First (FCE)  Listening Part 2
  1. In Part 2, you will need to complete a summary of a long talk by one speaker.  You will need to complete the summary with the speaker’s words.  The speaker will paraphrase the words given for you in the summary but the correct answer will be his or her exact words.  You will hear the recording two times.
  2. Quickly read the introduction at the top of the page to familiarise yourself with the context of the text.
  3. Use your preparation time not just to read the text, but to guess what word or type of word will fill each gap.  Even general guesses like a place, a person, a length of time (like 2 weeks or 4 months), a date, a title, a job, some sort of hobby, etc. will help you identify the answer when you hear it.
  4. The questions will be answered in order by the recording, always try to anticipate the next question.
  5. The text on the question sheet will be paraphrased in the recording, but the answers will be the words actually used by the speaker.
  6. Make sure your answers are gramatically correct in the context of the sentences on the question sheet (Does this answer need to be plural? Does it need an article?  What tense does this verb have to be in?).
Cambridge English: First (FCE)  Listening Part 3
  1. In Part 3, you will five speakers talking about a common subject and you will need to choose the correct summary of their opinion.  You will hear all five speakers, and then you will hear them a second time.
  2. Read the first line of the instructions carefully.  This will tell you the subject of the talks.  “You will hear five different people talking about _________.”
  3. Now read the six opinions written on the page (there is one extra) and start thinking of ways to paraphrase the ideas.
  4. As you listen, try to match the ideas and not the words.  If a speaker uses the words from one of the answers, there is a 99% chance that it is not the correct answer.
Cambridge English: First (FCE)  Listening Part 4
  1. In Part 4, you will hear an interview with one or two people and you must answer seven multiple choice questions as you listen.  You will hear the interview two times.
  2. Quickly read the task introduction to learn the context of the recording.
  3. Read the question stems carefully (not answers A-C yet) and underline the most important information.  The recording will answer the questions in order, so it is important that you know when the questions are being discussed.
  4. Skim the answers as quickly as you can, but it is quite likely you won’t have enough time to read them carefully.
  5. As you listen, identify the question you are waiting to answer and the part of the conversation that contains the information you need.
  6. Mark possible correct answers as you hear the recording for the first time then listen closely to the relevant sections to confirm your answers the second time.
Copying your answers to the answer sheet
  1. Answer every question!  No answer gets the same score as an incorrect answer, but with multiple choice questions you can sometimes guess correctly.
  2. Be careful in Part 2 to check your answers for correct grammar.  If your answers are not grammatically correct or are misspelled, they will be marked wrong.  Don’t lose points because you are in a hurry.  This is the last part of the test, you can relax once the answer sheets are collected.