The Cambridge First Certificate in English Examination


The Listening Test - Paper 4 (About 40 minutes)


By Viv Quarry (


The FCE listening test is in four parts. There isn't a separate answer sheet for this paper and you will have to write your answers or shade the correct lozenges on the test paper itself.

The texts may be phone messages, instructions, news, public announcements, news, advertisements, speeches, interviews, quizzes or transactions.




As with the reading test, there is little revision that you can do immediately before the test. Your success in the listening test will depend on how many tapes and videos you have borrowed and listened to throughout your preparation for the FCE exam. You should have experience of a variety of different accents. During your preparation for the test you should have done exercises on a variety of songs, watched videos without subtitles and with closed captions (if possible). You should have tried to watch films in English without subtitles, and if you have cable tv at home, you should regularly watch news broadcasts on CNN and especially on BBC World (most of the texts that you will hear in the test will be in British English). You should borrow the course cassettes from your teacher and review the listening exercises in your course book, so that you can become accustomed to the type of exercises included in the FCE listening paper.




Homophones (words which sound the same but are spelt differently) and homonyms (words which sound the same and are spelt the same but have a different meaning). Also check your 'Pronunciation - words and silent letters' pages carefully, so that you will be able to recognise words which are pronounced differently than they are spelt. Revise all vocabulary areas before the test; understanding what is being said during the exam will depend on your range of vocabulary and ability to recognize grammatical structures.

Make sure that you revised all the functions on Viv's functions worksheet and found the appropriate section in your course book where they are covered.




The listening test is in four parts and has a total of thirty questions. It will take about 40 minutes to complete the test and each listening text will be heard twice. You will only be penalised for incorrect spelling if the word has been spelt out on the tape.


Part 1 - Multiple choice (8 questions - 3 alternatives: A, B or C)


You will hear a series of short dialogues of approximately 30 seconds each. You may be asked to determine the location, the relationship, the attitude, the opinion or emotion of the speaker. You may also be asked who you think is speaking and what they are talking about.


Part 2 - Note taking or blank filling (10 questions)


You will hear a monologue or dialogue lasting approximately 3 minutes. The questions follow the order of the information in the text. You may be asked to complete notes with gaps in them, be given incomplete statements, or answer questions. You have to write the information in the boxes, but normally, the maximum that you have to write for each question will be three words.

Part 3 - Matching (5 questions)


You will hear 5 different people speaking for approximately 30 seconds each on subjects which are related in some way. You will have to match sentences on the test paper to each of the dialogues. There is usually one extra sentence which is not used.



Part 4 - 3 alternative multiple choice (7 questions)


You will hear a monologue or dialogue (maybe involving more than two speakers) lasting approximately 3 minutes. The questions follow the order of the information in the text. You might be asked questions like "Who said what?", "Which school offers what?" or "Which holiday includes what?"





While listening to the instructions on the tape, read the questions carefully and try to predict what you are going to hear. You can use a highlighting pen to highlight key words in the questions.


Try to answer as many questions as you can the first time you hear the text. You can then confirm or correct your answers when you hear the text for the second time.


You will probably hear words which you don't understand during the listening text. DON'T PANIC! As in the reading test, focus on the context and try to work out the general meaning. From the context you should be able to hear if the word is a noun, adjective, adverb or verb. This information should give you an idea about what it may be.


In multiple choice questions, look out for 'red herrings'.


In multiple choice questions, there are often two answers which are similar, one which looks correct and is usually a 'red herring' - this means an answer which looks correct at first sight (it may include words taken from the text) but it is there to distract you, and one answer which is completely wrong. The correct answer will usually be found as one of the two similar answers. (See example below)


a) Looks correct.                    (Red Herring)

b) Similar.                              (Possible)

c) Looks incorrect.                (Wrong)

d) Similar.                              (Possible)



In part two of the test, make sure that you write CLEARLY. Although spelling mistakes are not usually penalized, you will not get marks for questions that the examiner cannot understand.


Don't expect to hear the answer clearly on the tape. You may be expected to interpret what was said and to put the answer in your own words.




Good luck in the interview! Don't forget that the examiners are on your side, if you speak half as well as you can speak in class, you'll pass the interview.