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 a look at each type of task in detail with examples. Know the CAE Listening structure already? Go ahead and try some free CAE Listening Practice Tests!
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
John: I bought Nancy Graham’s first album. I loved it and thought it was a really new sound and a different way to sing the old jazz and blues songs. This one, however, seems in a way more of the same and, although there’s been an injection of country music to vary that jazz sound, I did think she was slightly running out of steam and maybe she’s released this album too soon.
Meg: I think there’s a lot of great stuff on it – the late night jazz numbers in particular. It just gets a bit bland at times for me. When the true ‘country’ stars sing of pain and anguish you believe them, which I can’t say I do here.
John: Maybe it’s just that she’s just not quite mature enough yet to have had the necessary experience to inject into the songs, and that’s why?
Meg: I have to say I did find it wonderfully soothing. I actually fell asleep listening to it but when I woke up I couldn’t tell the difference between the track I’d started listening to and the one I was listening to then.[/su_spoiler]
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. Answer A doesn’t fit — Meg says nothing about freshness of the music. C doesn’t work either — only Meg mentions the calming effect of the music. B seems to be 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 … .
Well, the first thing to say about marine photography is that it’s not as easy as it might look. Actually taking photos is only a part of it. Because you have to organise a boat and crew and everything, forward planning is actually the key to my work and without that I’d never pick up a camera, because I wouldn’t know what I was aiming for. Another important aspect is doing drawings which show roughly what the photograph will contain – if I do that first, it means I’m more likely to capture it on film. And because I’ve decided beforehand what pictures I want, I’m in a position to select the appropriate equipment … it’s all part of the process.
I mean, not everybody goes about it as I do, I know, and some people say that I’m ruling out the creative side of photography by working in this way. But in fact the opposite is true. Because my aim is for every photo to depict something new, I need to think about how I’m going to achieve that, otherwise I’d just go home with the same photos every time.
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.
7 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.
8 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
9 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
Int: Today I’m with the much-loved comedian and writer Jane Clarkson. Obviously Jane, this year has been quite a turning point for you…
Jane: Well, I’ll never stop doing comedy, but there were practical reasons for wanting to take some time off and write a book. I felt my daughter had been neglected. She was just about to make the tricky transition from primary to secondary school and I thought she needed her mum around. I seem to have spent most of her life in a van touring from venue to venue for my comedy act. And I did enjoy being at home for a bit, although I missed the applause and the laughter. When I finished writing in the evening, I’d turn the computer off and there’d be nothing, which was hard to get used to.
Int: How was your novel received?
Jane: Well, a lot of male comedians had written books, so there was a bit of a bandwagon waiting to be jumped on, but with my impeccable timing I jumped slightly late, when everyone was starting to get heartily sick of comedians’ books. Also there’s a kind of fury coming from some journalists about comics writing books. They’re absolutely livid, as if they see your book in a bookshop and they jump up and down, shouting, ‘It’s not fair! Why should she make money out of writing as well as performing?’
Int: Was it a difficult transition?
Jane: Well, if you think logically, writing is the obvious step. I’ve spent years trying to make people listen to my anecdotes, so that must count for something! Also, if you’ve been an observational comedian, which I am, it’s not a great leap to use those skills you’ve developed, like observing odd mannerisms to use for jokes, and turn them into a book.[/su_spoiler]
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. C has the same reason as A. Answer D is not mentioned.
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 8keywords 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. B is wrong too — nothing was said of the success of the book or journalists opinion about it. 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 2. For questions 15 — 19, choose from the list A ─ H what each speaker is expressing.
A a pride in personal achievements B indifference to current trends C an enjoyment of a daily routine D a commitment to taking regular exercise E a desire to improve his or her diet F awareness of his or her health problems G a reluctance to admit failure H resentment of another person’s attitude
Speaker 1 People always think I should be the fittest person around. I mean, here I am in the gym with all these machines, just ready and waiting for me to use them. But in reality there’s very little time for that. You see, I open up for the early birds at seven, and then once the business types have moved on to the office, it’s time to help the mums and senior citizens to flex their muscles. Then I grab a sandwich for lunch, and well, the day just rolls on with more of the same, till late in the evening. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the predictability of it. But as for sorting out my own programme – no chance!
Speaker 2 Every year when spring comes around, I’m called in and told to send off for the brochures on all the gyms in the area. Let’s face it, she could ask her children to do that! And she’s so casual about it, that’s what gets me, just assumes I have nothing better to do. It’s ridiculous, because three weeks later all the brochures are gathering dust, and a week after that, they end up in the bin! It’s not part of my job to make sure other people are fit – or tidy up after them. But all this takes up valuable time, which means I can’t get on with collating the reports for meetings, and then I have to stay late. It’s so thoughtless.
Speaker 3 Much as I’d like to say I’m very fit, the fact is I have to keep an eye on my blood pressure – that’s doctor’s orders and I’m slightly overweight. It’s a lifestyle thing, I suppose. If I’m office-based, I’m there well before the secretary gets in because I need to plan my day. But invariably I’m travelling, spending a lot of time sitting around. If I know I’ve got a long day of meetings and presentations to clients, I force myself to go for a run round the park at lunchtime. But that’s the best I can do! Last year I paid vast sums of money to join a very smart gym, but I was really just subsidising the owner’s pension, because I never had time to go.
Speaker 4 The fact is that by the time I’ve got up, sorted out my daughter Lucy, been to the studio, done some work on my ongoing project, picked Lucy up from school and got home, there’s very little time for me to concentrate on keeping fit. At least in my work, no two days are the same. Luckily Lucy isn’t fussy about food, so we eat a pretty balanced diet, but nothing too trendy. And three evenings a week I get a babysitter in, and do as many lengths of the local pool as I can possibly manage. I’m determined to try to keep that up.
Speaker 5 For most of my life I’ve been listening to people giving me their half-baked theories on keeping fit. It’s just like water off a duck’s back now – I must confess I hardly even listen any more. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter whether the latest thing is yoga or mud baths or vitamin supplements. What’s important is doing everything in moderation, and that includes diet and exercise. If more people took that to heart, my surgery’d be a lot less crowded, I can tell you!
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”.
Answer Keys: 10 – B 15 – C 11 – G 16 – H 12 – C 17 – F 13 – A 18 – D 14 – E 19 -B
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