CAE Listening – What is it and how can I prepare?

by / Monday, 08 February 2016

The listening exam is usually done after Reading/Use of English and writing papers, though this can vary.

How long does the listening exam take?
It takes approximately 40 minutes

How many parts does the listening exam consist of?
The exam consists of four parts and a total of thirty questions.
How many times do you hear the sections?
You get to hear each extract twice.

All answers in the exam are worth one point
Part 1: Multiple Choice

  • Three short dialogues
  • Two questions to answer for each dialogue, each with three possible answers to choose from (A,B,C)

Part 2: Sentence Completion

  • Three minute monologue
  • Eight gapped sentences to complete based on the extract you hear

Part 3: Multiple Choice

  • Four minute discussion between two speakers
  • Six multiple choice questions with four options to choose from (A,B,C,D)

Part 4: Multiple matching

  • Five short monologues based on a common theme
  •  Candidates must match the speakers to the monologues in two separate tasks (10 questions)

    Top Tips

  • Use the time gaps before each section to prepare – underline key words and try to predict what type of language you may hear. In section three for about what can fit grammatically in the gaps.
  • Be wary of distractors! Just because you hear the same word on a recording as is on your answer paper it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right answer.
  • Don’t panic if you don’t hear something first time – you’ll get another chance.
  • The speakers on the recordings have a variety of accents from not only different parts of the U.K but also North America, Australia and New Zealand
  • Take care when transferring your answers at the end of the test. You have five minutes at the end. If you have some blank spaces – just guess, you don’t lose marks for incorrect answers.


Unlike other exams which are more academic in nature, the Cambridge exams test your ability to understand informal language used in everyday situations.  Here are some links to websites where you can listen to a range of authentic resources.
Interviews: (Radio 5 Live Daily Interviews) (BBC Interview Archive)


Anecdotes/Everyday conversations: (BBC iPlayer radio app)
Discussions/Debates: (BBC Question Time) (BBC World Debate)


For exam practice go to the official Cambridge website where paper and computer-based mock exams are available.


Good luck!

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