FCE Listening is the last part of your First Certificate in English exam. It consists of four parts, 30 questions in total and it lasts for about 30 minutes.
If you are familiar with the structure and just need practice, check these free FCE Listening Tests!
Before you listen to the recordings, you have some time to look through the answers. Use this time to underline keywords! You should only underline them in the question, not the answers. Keywords help you find your way in the recording, especially in Part 2 and 4.
In FCE Listening you get to listen to the recording twice. This allows to use different techniques, for instance you can try and answer the questions after the first playthrough. Alternatively, you may listen to the recording without answering the during first time, instead focusing on getting the main idea. The second approach works better if you find it difficult to listen and write at the same time. The first method should be used by people who feel nervous about missing some of the information as they listen.
Part 1 of FCE Listening is eight different recordings (monologues or dialogues) with one question for each situation. Below are two questions to illustrate the structure and give some tips.
1 You hear a man talking about a film. What does he say about the film?
A The story is difficult to follow.
B The film is better than the book.
C The setting is unusual.
2 You overhear two people talking in the street. What are they talking about?
A a play at the theatre
B a concert
C a film on TV
Part 1 Tapescript
Man: Well, it starts in New York in the 1950s, and then the setting[C] changes to 19th century Europe. The plot depends heavily on flashbacks, and there are a lot of characters so it does all get a bit confusing at times[A]. I don’t think that seeing it on screen is as enjoyable as actually reading it – it really needs a narrator and I actually think it’s one of those things that’s better on paper than in the cinema, the film seems to lose a lot of what makes it different and unusual as a novel[B].
Note how all three answers are mentioned in the recording. The word ‘setting’ comes first, however there is nothing unusual about it. Then the man says that the plot can be confusing at times – so this looks like the answer. Finally, he makes his main point about the book being much more enjoyable than the film adaptation. This point is given in much more detail, therefore it is the answer. Answer A is correct.
Woman: It was very well done I thought, didn’t you?
Man: Yes. I’ve seen it on the stage before, but this was actually better. Not so much the individual performances, more the way the whole thing was put together. And of course the setting makes all the difference – I suppose most of it was shot outside. The only thing I didn’t like so much was the music. And the ending was a bit violent – especially in close-up.
Woman: Yes, that was a bit too much, I thought. But generally, yes, it was excellent.
This question is a bit more challenging as the speakers don’t give the information directly. However, there are some words that hint at the answer. “Stage” is a distractor that attempts to make us choose option A – a theatre play. However, then they mention that is was ‘shot outside’. ‘To shoot’ means to film with the camera. Therefore, they are talking about a movie. The word ‘music’ is another distractor for answer B.
This part of FCE Listening contains a description of some, person, event or phenomenon. The task in the exam will contain 10 gaps which have to be filled by a word or a phrase.
Use the extra time before the recording starts to identify what part of speech each gap might have. Sometimes it is fairly difficult (Gap #1 in the text below), others can be very straightforward (some kind of number in gap #2). Gap 3 contains some kind of profession or occupation. Another helpful thing is the article (or absence of it) before the gap. Not let’s look at a shortened sample task.
You will hear part of a radio programme about a young man who has become a celebrity because of his job.
The well-known chef, Jamie Oliver, grew up in 1 _____ in the country.
Jamie started to help prepare meals at the age of 2 _____
In London, Jamie met his future wife, Jools, who was working as a 3 _____
Jamie appeared briefly in a 4 _____ about The River Cafe in London where he was working.
Part 2 Tapescript
Radio presenter: In this week’s edition of Celebrity Watch we’re looking at the career of someone who has become a household name at a remarkably young age. With his series of cookery programmes called The Naked Chef, he’s made his name as one of the people responsible for the growing popularity of food programmes on British television. And he’s not content with changing the face of cookery in Britain – his programmes are now being shown all over the world. Yes, we’re talking about a young man called Jamie Oliver.
So who is he and where did he come from? In fact cooking’s in Jamie’s blood. He grew up in a restaurant in the countryside, which was owned and run by his parents. Jamie didn’t like school much but he showed an early interest in cooking. He was working with the staff of the restaurant peeling potatoes, shelling peas and so on by the time he was eight, and at the age of 11 he cooked his first full meal – roast chicken. His parents said it was delicious – and Jamie knew this was what he wanted to do. So at the age of 16 he left school and went to London to train as a chef. Here he got to know a girl o f his own age called Jools, who was a model and they started going out together. In spite of their youth this was the beginning of a lasting relationship – they eventually married. He then went on to work at The River Cafe, one of London’s top restaurants. Then he had a stroke of luck. While he was working in The River Cafe, a TV crew came to make a programme about the restaurant. Jamie only appeared on it for a minute or two, but he was obviously impressive because the morning after it was shown, Jamie had phone calls from five top producers asking him if he’d be interested in making a television series of his own.
The first question requires an indefinite article: a restaurant. Without it, the sentence is grammatically incorrect and won’t be the right answer. Sometimes the article can be before the gap – then you don’t need to put it there. Question two is more straightforward, the answer is 11. However, there are two other numbers – 8 and 16. These are distractors.
As you can see in the third question the article is already present, so you don’t need to use it. He was working as a chef. The difficulty of this question is that the profession is mentioned before any information about meeting his new wife is there. The answer for question four is the easiest here – programme. Make sure to spell this one right or you won’t get a point for it.
In this part of FCE Listening there are five speakers, who share their opinion on some topic. It is important to underline keywords in this part, just like in Part 1. The speakers are not going to give you straight answers, instead they will hint at them. Be ready for multiple distractors. Expect synonyms and paraphrases in their speech.
You will hear five people talking about the shops and other facilities in a small town. Choose from the list A – F what each speaker says. Use the letters only once. There is one extra letter which you do not need to use.
|A The shop buildings are very picturesque.|
B The shops are rather expensive.
C There are some good specialist shops.
D There is a good choice of cafes and snack bars.
E Tourism has spoiled the town.
F There is a limited range of things to buy.
|Speaker 1 __|
Speaker 2 __
Speaker 3 __
Speaker 4 __
Speaker 5 __
Part 3 Tapescript
I come into town most Saturdays… I meet up with my friends, and we go round the shops. We don’t actually buy much, there’s not a lot for people our age[F], but I might get a CD or some make-up or something like that. Then we go and have coffee. We always go to the same place, it’s called The Lemon Tree and it has really delicious cakes. They’re a bit expensive though, so sometimes we just have to have coffee. But they’re really nice there and they don’t mind how long you stay.
There are two distractors in this part: “they’re too expensive” and “they’re really nice”. The first distractor refers to the price of the cakes, not the shop or cafe, so answer B is wrong. The second distractor might hint at answer D, however the speaker talks about the attitude rather than choice.
I’m a student here. I’m studying English and I’m staying with a family. I think it’s a nice town, and the people are very friendly. I usually come here on Saturdays to go shopping, then I meet my friends in the cafe. But I was surprised at the prices when I came here first – they’re much higher than in the shops in my country[B]. Er… I’m looking for presents for my family. There are lots of gift shops but I haven’t found anything yet. It’s really hard buying presents, especially for my father. I want to get him something really special, because he paid for me to come here.
‘Cafe’ is another distractor leading to answer D. The rest is pretty straightforward.
Well, actually I can’t stand shopping just for the sake of it, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do less, and anyway I’m a university student and I’ve got no money. It’s a nice town though, we get lots of tourists so there are plenty of gift shops and cafes and fast food places. I do sometimes have a coffee or something quick to eat when I come in to meet my friends – there’s quite a lot of different places you can go to; they’ve just opened a new one in the High Street but I haven’t been there yet[D]
‘I’ve got no money’ might make you answer B. ‘Lots of tourists’ is a distractor for answer E, however the attitude of the speaker seems to be neutral rather than negative. However, the main idea is the great choices of place to eat at.
Well, I don’t actually live here – I’m over from Australia on holiday, and I’m staying at the Youth Hostel here. I’ve spent most of the morning just wandering round the streets and looking at the shops. We don’t have anything like that back home, some of them must have been built 500 years ago, and they haven’t been modernised too much, so they’ve still got lots of character[A]. I’ve taken lots of photos to send home. There’s some really nice stuff in the shops – china and jewellery and so on – but I don’t have much money left so I’m having to be careful.
Here you might be tempted to give answer C (‘There’s some really nice stuff in the shops – china and jewellery and so on’) – however, it is not the main point of the speech.
It’s a lovely place to live, everyone knows one another and it’s very friendly… I mean, we have some really first-class shops… there’s one which sells artists materials – paints and canvas for oil paints and so on, and one selling old clocks… that’s run by Mr Steele, he’s a real enthusiast, I mean, that’s not the sort of thing you’d find in the average shopping street, is it?[C] The only problem is that it can be really difficult to park, especially on Saturday when all the locals come in to shop, but we live near the town centre so we can just walk everywhere. It’s very convenient.
Obviously, the main focus of this extract is on the variety of specialised shops in the area.
This part of FCE Listening
You are going to listen to an interview with Tanya Streeter, who broke a world record for free diving. For questions 1-6 choose the right answer (A-C). Note that this is a sample, so there are six questions instead of seven.
1 Tanya says that when she was very young, she
A was at ease in the water.
B was encouraged to do sports.
C overcame her fear of the sea.
2 In the free diving class, Tanya found that, compared with the men,
A she was less competitive.
B she was much younger.
C she was better at some things.
3 Tanya says she wanted to set diving records because
A she knew that she could do it.
B she wanted her parents’ approval.
C she was encouraged by her parents.
4 How does Tanya get back to the surface after a dive?
A in stages
B on a platform
C very quickly
5 When she is deep underwater, Tanya says that
A the size of her body changes.
B she can think very clearly.
C her heart beats very quickly.
6 Tanya says that if there was an emergency during a dive, she would
A give up the dive immediately.
B receive expert support.
C depend on her own resources
Part 4 Tapescript
Interviewer: You join us now as we welcome Tanya Streeter, who recently broke the world record in free diving, diving 160 metres without using any kind of breathing apparatus or air supply. Tanya, tell us how you came to take up free diving in the first place.
Tanya: Well, I was born in the Cayman Islands, near the Bahamas. My parents ran a water sports shop there, and they first took me swimming when I was only six weeks old. So being in the water was always a natural feeling for me.
Interviewer: So were you very young when you started free diving?
Tanya: No, I only discovered it much later, after university in fact, when I was invited to join a group of people in a free diving class. When I turned up, I was the only woman there. The rest were all big guys, who wanted to learn how to go deeper and shoot bigger fish when they went spear fishing. But actually I took to it immediately – I was the one who could hold my breath the longest and go the deepest.
Interviewer: But at first it was just a hobby?
Tanya: I suppose so, but quite soon my teacher started encouraging me to take it up seriously and try to set records – I didn’t know if I was capable of it but I wanted to try.
Tanya: I suppose I was rather insecure as a child and so when I was older I wanted to make people proud of me, especially my mother and father.
Interviewer: For your world record you went down to 160 metres… how do you actually get down so far? Presumably you don’t swim down all that way.
Tanya: No, no one could do that, they’d use up far too much energy. I stand on a special platform that’s gradually lowered down bit by bit, then when I get as far down as I can, I release myself and shoot up to the surface again. I don’t have to come up slowly, stage by stage, like a diver with a tank.
Interviewer: And all the time you’re holding your breath?
Tanya: Yes – I can hold my breath for just under three and a half minutes.
Interviewer: So what effect does all this have on you physically, when you’re actually down there?
Tanya: Well, the water pressure at these depths is enormous so my whole body’s really compressed – my wet suit just hangs off me. And the rate at which my heart beats is very much lower than normal, because my heart’s not getting much oxygen, and because of this I can easily get confused and there’s always the danger of losing consciousness completely. But there are regular divers watching me all the way down…
Interviewer: But in the end, you’re on your own down there?
Tanya: Well, yes and no… I mean, the most important thing is that I believe in my dive team. They’re there to support me and they know exactly what to do if something happens… if there’s a problem. There’s no way I could take on something like this on my own.
FCE Listening General Tips
- Expose yourself to as much English speech as possible, this improves your listening comprehension skills
- Listen to some English speech right before Listening part of your FCE exam – this will prepare your brain. This really works!
- Don’t panic! If you’ve missed the answer after the second playthrough, just make an educated guess!
- Do more practice tests