CAE Listening

CAE Listening will be the last of four written sections of your CAE exam. It consists of four parts, 30 questions in total and it lasts for about 40 minutes. We will take each type of task in detail with examples.

CAE Listening General Information
Part 1. Multiple Choice I (6 questions)
Part 2. Sentence Completion (8 questions)
Part 3. Multiple Choice II (6 questions)
Part 4. Multiple Matching (10 questions)
CAE Listening Practice Tests

CAE Listening General Information

CAE Listening main peculiarity is that you listen to each track two times. This provides you with a number of approaches to dealing with the tasks and allows you to listen closely to the parts you’ve had difficulties before.

The listening segments present a number of different characters, situations and accents. The last is especially important as some accents tend to be more challenging to get used to — Australian pronunciation seems to be especially challenging.

Part 1. Multiple Choice I

You will listen to three short independent extracts. There are two questions for each extracts for a total of six questions. You have to choose the right answer out of three given options. Example:

You are going to hear two people on a music programme talking about the singer Nancy Graham

1 What is the man’s opinion of Nancy’s second album?
A He thinks it is very experimental.
B He appreciates the continuity of style.
C He wonders if she is lacking inspiration.

2 What do the two speakers agree about?
A the freshness of the music
B the lack of real emotion in the music
C the calming effect of the music on the listener


Your first and most powerful tool in CAE Listening is keywords. Question 1 keywords are “man’s opinion” and “second album“.

The man begins his speech by talking about the first album. He says that he liked very much. But we must remember that we need his opinion on the second album. He says that the second album is released too soon and the author might be “running out of steam” — this all means that the author didn’t put enough effort in it and it came out worse that the first one. So the only answer that fits here is C.

The second question keywords are “two speakers agree“. This question is more difficult. You may want to exclude the options that do not fit — you will have enough time to do that as you will be listening to the recording twice. Option A doesn’t fit — Meg says nothing about freshness of the music. Option C doesn’t fit either — only Meg mentions the calming effect of the music. Option B fits better — Meg mentions how the music is “bland” and John doesn’t say anything against this opinion — he agrees with Meg.

Part 2. Sentence Completion

You will listen to one long extract — a monologue. You should fill the gaps with appropriate word from the recording. A gap may contain up to two words. Note that you shouldn’t change the words you hear. See below for clarification.

The sample recording below is shortened down to four questions. Normally you have to answer eight questions. I have shortened the preparatory time accordingly (from 40 to 15 seconds)

You will hear a marine wildlife photographer called Bruce Hind talking about his work.
For questions 3 ─ 6, complete the sentences.

Bruce says that 3 … is the most important aspect of his work.
Before going on a trip, Bruce makes 4 … of the photographs he hopes to take.
Knowing the type of photographs he wants to take helps Bruce to choose
the right 5 … .
Bruce disagrees with people who say his way of taking photographs is not 6 … .


As before you have to underline the keywords. This time however you should concentrate on understanding what part of speech the missing word or words belong to. Look at gap 3 — judging by the sentence it has to be a noun. It is crucial to keep that in mind when looking for the right word in the recording.

Anyway, the keyphrase here is “most important aspect“. In the recording the speaker says: “Forward planning is actually the key to my work”. Forward planning then is the words you should put in the gap. Next question is pretty similar.

Question 5 is a bit more difficult. Note how there is an adjective “right” before the gap. The word that you should use as the answer has another adjective before it. Do not use the adjective from the recording as you already have one.

Part 3. Multiple Choice II

CAE Listening Part 3 is slightly different from part one as this time you listen to one long recording instead of three short ones. The recording is a conversation of two or more people.

As with the previous task, this sample recording is reduced to three questions. Normally you would answer six questions. The preparation time is shortened as well (15 seconds from the usual 40)

You will hear part of a radio interview in which the comedian and writer Jane Clarkson is talking about her work. For questions 7 — 9, choose the answer (A, B, C or D) which fits best according to what you hear.

What did Jane find difficult about writing a book?
A She couldn’t travel around the country.
B She didn’t get any instant reaction to her work. v
C She had to spend time looking after her daughter.
D She found the process itself very challenging.

According to Jane, why did some critics dislike her novel?
A They didn’t think the book was funny.
B They were dismissive of her initial success.
C They thought her male colleagues were better writers.
D They thought she should stick to being a comedian. v

Which aspect of Jane’s work as a comedian helped her to write?
A her patience
B her ability to listen
C her habit of watching people v
D her rational way of thinking


You start by underlining keywords. For Question 7 they are “difficult“, “writing” and “book“. The recording mentions three of four answers in one way or another, all of them related to the question but the only right answer is B. Answer A is the reason she started writing — she wanted to spend more time with her daughter. Answer C has the same reason as A. Answer D is not mentioned.

Answer B fits because the author mentions “missing the applause and the laughter” — the immediate response as opposed to writing a book and having to wait for the book to be judged by the public.

Question 8 keywords are “why“, “critics“, “disliked” and “novel“. Answer A isn’t mentioned in the recording — the critics do not say whether the book was funny or not. Answer B is wrong too — nothing was said of the success of the book or journalists opinion about it. Answer C doesn’t fit — even though male comedians’ books are mentioned the critics do not compare them in any way. The right answer is D — it is in the last sentence, expressing their dissatisfaction with taking up two activities — writing and performing.

Now try and answer question 9 without any guidance!

Part 4. Multiple Matching

CAE Listening Part 4 is by far the most difficult of all. You have to listen to five short monologues and answer 10 questions. You have to select ten correct options out of available sixteen.

Task 1. For questions 10 — 14, choose from the list A ─ H the person
who is speaking.

an artist
a fitness instructor
a sales manager
a childminder
a doctor
an office cleaner
a secretary
a retired person
Speaker 1 10 …
Speaker 2 11 …
Speaker 3 12 …
Speaker 4 13 …
Speaker 5 14 …

Task 2. For questions 15 — 19, choose from the list A ─ H what each speaker
is expressing.

a pride in personal achievements
indifference to current trends
an enjoyment of a daily routine
a commitment to taking regular exercise
a desire to improve his or her diet
awareness of his or her health problems
a reluctance to admit failure
resentment of another person’s attitude
Speaker 1 15 …
Speaker 2 16 …
Speaker 3 17 …
Speaker 4 18 …
Speaker 5 19 …

You have to answer 2 questions for each monologue. The task is to determine the speaker’s profession (Task 1) and their expressed idea (Task 2). Note that there are extra options in each task so you won’t use all of them.

The main challenge is that the speakers never clearly state their profession, you have to figure it out from the context — what they do, their responsibilities, likes and dislikes. Let’s take speaker one as an example:

Judging from the recording, he is “supposed to be the fittest person around”. He “opens up for the early birds at seven for them to flex their muscles”. This must mean that he is either owns a gym or works there. So the answer is B – a fitness instructor.

Task 2 is harder — the options are not as obvious as in Task 1. I usually scan-read all of the options and keep them in my head while listening to the monologues. That way it is easier to match them to the context of each monologue and see if they fit. For speaker one the answer is C — he enjoys his daily routine, judging by the quote “the day just rolls on with more of the same” and then “I like the predictability of it”.

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