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Man: As a kid, I was always messing around on computers, so ended up doing a degree in computer science. Though strictly speaking it isn’t necessary for this job, it did mean I could walk straight into it. What companies want is people who can come up with ideas. I get a buzz from that side of it , even when it’s hard. It’s a fluid working environment, so hours aren’t fixed and can be long in relation to the salary . I generally like to work on my own, but a web designer can’t produce stuff in a vacuum, because by its very nature it’s a collaborative effort.
Woman: I didn’t go the university route but worked part-time with different companies and made loads of contacts who’ve come in handy – got my foot in the door so to speak – then I got a full time job offer that got me on the ladder. It wasn’t easy, and considering what you put in the job’s not the big earner that people assume it is – at least not at the beginning!  I supplement it by writing reviews of other people’s sites, but I enjoy the flexibility. I like working with other people, and that’s key.
Woman: How long have you been cycling then?
Man: I started road cycling when I was six, and got hooked immediately. I’d practise sprinting between two streetlights over and over. I’ve always been competitive, and I work harder than anyone else. If I don’t win I need to know why. I copy the person who beat me. I won’t stop till I’m better than them. The stiff competition in the cycling world is what drives me . You’ve been to the velodrome, haven’t you?
Woman: Yeah. The track itself is amazing – such a steep angle and the bikes have no brakes. If you stop pedalling it stops! Although I’m not such an experienced cyclist as you, I jumped at the chance to try it and, wow! From the position of the start line that steep slope looks like a mountain! I was told the faster you go the safer you are, so I pedalled like mad, and managed one lap . I kept going and started to enjoy it; so much so I forgot to pedal, and immediately fell off!
Man: So you’ll go be going back?
Woman: You try stopping me!
Interviewer: So, Roy, what do you want to talk about on the programme today?
Roy: I want to talk about bees. Bees are a vital part of our ecosystem, they’re friendly creatures and they’re declining in numbers. For what it’s worth, my own experience is much like that of other callers who’ve reported near normal numbers of bumble bees but virtually no honey bees . I think there’s a distinct lack of wasps, too. I’m at a loss to know why, though I’ve read interesting articles about the domestication of bees and poor practices of modern beekeepers, but it seems clear that we can’t discount what others see as the number one culprit – the overuse of chemicals by gardeners.
Interviewer: So what do you suggest gardeners do, Roy?
Roy: Well, the best thing anyone lucky enough to have a garden can do is provide a ‘bee friendly’ area. And the good news is bees prefer ‘lazy’ gardeners, which I suspect is most of us. A wild garden providing a natural habitat is the way forward. Choose what you plant carefully . It doesn’t have to be hard work but it could make a big difference! And buy your honey from local suppliers you know and trust.
Tim: Hi. My name’s Tim and the topic of my presentation is a seabird called the albatross. It’s the largest seabird, and it’s always been a great favourite with sailors. It’s also well-known because it features in a famous English poem.
The word ‘albatross’ came into the English language via the Portuguese word ‘alcatraz’ that was used for similar birds called gannets. The famous American prison island was also named after them. But the real origin of the word is thought to be Arabic, where it means ‘diver’ . There’s lots of different species of albatross, and scientists are always arguing about exactly how many. Over the years, estimates have varied from thirteen to as many as eighty. Nowadays, a figure of twenty-one is widely accepted , with nineteen of those identified as being in danger of extinction.
The albatross is mostly found in the southern hemisphere, and there’s none in the north Atlantic. The bird travels long distances in search of its food – fish and squid mostly – and depends on the wind to a great extent. That’s why you rarely find them in tropical areas, where long periods of calm are common . The albatross manages to cover such long distances by conserving energy. Apart from take-off and landing, it rarely flaps its huge wings, and actually there’s a locking mechanism in its shoulder that keeps the wings in place as it glides through the air .
As you’d expect, the bird’s got good eyesight and will swoop down when it sees signs of food near the surface of the water. What I didn’t expect to find, however, was that it can also detect the smell of its food; this explains why it follows fishing boats that use dead fish as bait . Indeed, one of the reasons the albatross is such an endangered bird is that it tends to get caught up in fishing nets.
Another reason the albatross faces extinction is it takes a long time to reproduce. The bird can live for sixty years, and only starts breeding from the age of five. Even then, each pair of birds only produces one egg per year. They build nests on remote uninhabited islands, because animals like rats, which arrive at the same time as humans, will eat the eggs and, predictably, cats will kill the chicks. Apparently, even little mice can be a problem at nest sites, which is incredible .
And, of course, the albatross has always been killed by people. Sailors used to eat them, and at one time their feathers were highly valued, which was actually the main reason . Even the bird’s bones were used in certain ceremonies by local populations, though that wasn’t on a big scale.
These days, plastic is the biggest enemy, and there’s tons of it in the sea. Eating plastic doesn’t in itself kill an albatross, but it tends to stay in the stomach and so cut down the amount of food the bird can digest, which then weakens it. Some dead birds have even been found with weird things like plastic cigarette lighters and toy soldiers in their stomachs as well as the all too common bottle caps . There must be a way of stopping those getting into the sea!
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