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Cambridge CAE exam – Listening part 2

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The second part of the CAE listening test is one that many students find difficult and perhaps are even afraid of. The most common concerns that students associate to it are the speed of the speaker, the difficult accent, and the intentional traps or distractors that hide within the test.

However, similarly to the speaking test which we talked about some time ago, the listening test also has some useful strategies that can facilitate it and make you feel more confident. So let’s go through the ones that can be applied to Part 2.

Listening Big Ear

Description of the task
Part 2 of the CAE Listening test involves a monologue (or sometimes dialogue) which lasts for about 3 minutes. This will be played twice. Your task is to complete 8 sentences in the summary of this monologue, which will be provided to you. The topics of this monologue can vary; for example, you might listen to a report mentioning the results of a survey, a person talking about a personal experience, a description of a new technological device and etc. To fill each gap, you will need 1 to 3 words.

Step 1: Read the instructions carefully!
The instructions provide some very useful information about what you are going to listen and can basically familiarise you with the topic. Let’s have a look at two possible examples.

Example 1
You will hear a news report about ‘NOKIA’, a popular communications and information technology company. For questions 7-14, complete the sentences with a word or short phrase.

Example 2
You will hear an interview with a veterinary doctor talking about his work. For questions 7-14, complete the sentences with a word or short phrase.

Comparing these two examples, you can see that the topics and therefore, the information required, must be quite different. This enables you to predict the vocabulary categories that you will need for each task (eg. Technology for the first and medicine/work-related words for the second).

Step 2: Read the summary quickly! 
Before you start listening, it’s important to read the text quickly. This will give you a basic idea of what will be mentioned in the monologue, and, most importantly, of its structure. In this way it will be easier for you to associate specific parts of the text to the relevant ones of the audio.

Step 3: Predict!

Crystal ball
You are probably not a psychic, but you can certainly make some "life-saving" predictions while reading the text. First and foremost it’s good to predict what type of word is needed in the gap. It can be a noun, adjective, adverb or verb/verbal form (gerund, infinitive or participle). Or a combination of those – adjective and noun. Let’s have a look at this example sentence.

Tim complains that although his work is similar to that of a (7) ________________________, he does not have as many perks.

By looking at this sentence we can assume that the word we are looking for is a NOUN. And not only that, but it’s also a singular countable noun given the article “a” before the gap. And it’s also one that starts with a consonant sound. Perfect! So maybe now we can predict the word itself. Maybe paediatrician or dentist or even plastic surgeon.

Stage 4: Fill in the gaps
Then it’s finally time to listen and fill in the gaps. It’s definitely easier said than done, but it’s not impossible. You need to be aware that as the text is the summary of the recording, the information you will hear might be worded differently. So listen carefully and make sure that the word you have chosen to write is grammatically correct and meaningful. Even if you haven’t caught the word itself, it’s always worth filling the gap with a guess, but make sure this guess is relevant to the topic! Watch out for traps! For example, if you are looking for a noun, make sure you’ve given it in the correct form (plural/singular). Don’t stop at the gap, but always read around it! Look at these two sentences.

Tim complains that although his work is similar to that of a (7) ________________________, he doesn’t have as many perks.
Tim complains that although his work is similar to that of a (7) ________________________ paediatrician, he doesn’t have as many perks.

Both stop at an article, but in the second sentence the noun “paediatrician” is there. So what’s missing is probably an adjective rather than a noun.

General Tips

- Listen to as many radio and TV programmes as you can and try to listen to different ones involving different people and topics. This will make your ear adapt to the different accents and speed.

- Work on paraphrasing. Try to do many reading and listening tasks in which you have to answer questions. Make sure that you give the answers using your own words as much as possible. Try to use an English dictionary and learn vocabulary with definitions and not translations as this is an excellent example of paraphrasing.

- Work on your speed! The stages mentioned above seem very time-consuming to be followed during the exam, and they can be. Therefore, you need to train yourself well in advance. Start at your own pace and gradually switch to a faster pace until you can do it within the time limits of the exam.

I hope you found these tips useful. Best of luck with your Cambridge CAE exam!

keep calm and listen


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