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Tips and Practice for CAE Listening Part 3

November 26, 2017

Tips and Practice for CAE Listening Part 3

Students preparing for the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) Exam often have difficulty preparing for the Listening Module. How can you actively improve your listening skills for this part of the exam? Follow these tips for Part 3 of the CAE Listening test.

Tips and Practice for CAE Listening Part 3

CAE Listening Part 3 Overview

  • There are 4 parts to the CAE Listening Module. (To improve Parts 1, 2, and 3, read the articles listed at the end of this page.)
  • Part 3 includes interviews and discussions between two or more speakers.
  • The recording is often an interview or a discussion.
  • The recording is 3–4 minutes in length.
  • Part 3 tests the ability to listen to longer interviews and discussions, then show an understanding of the speakers’ attitudes and opinions.
  • The test focuses on agreement, gist, feeling, purpose, function, and detail.
  • A series of six 4-option multiple-choice questions focuses on the attitude and opinions of speakers.
  • Questions follow the order that information is presented in the recording.

Tips and Practice for CAE Listening Part 3

Tips for CAE Listening Part 3

  • This is the longest part of the Listening test. To practice, make sure to listen to longer interviews and conversations.
  • When listening to conversations and interviews, try to follow the flow of the conversation. Recognize when conversations move from one topic to another, or when a person’s opinion changes.
  • For multiple-choice tasks, focus more on the question and not the possible answers. Try to answer the question based on listening and not based on the options.
  • Remember that multiple-choice questions use synonyms or language that paraphrases and reports ideas from the text.
  • Questions often focus on attitudes or opinions of speakers. Make sure you understand  reporting verbs (such as agrees, regrets, admits, resents, claims).
  • Also be sure to understand words that are used to describe attitudes and feelings (such as disappointed, frustrated, unexpected).
  • Also identify words that are used to report opinions, such as insists, suggests, denies), and degrees of certainty (e.g. doubtful, convinced).

Tips and Practice for CAE Listening Part 3

Practice for CAE Listening Part 3

To practice for CAE Listening Part 3, try the following things:

  • Watch the news in English. Use subtitles if you need to.
  • Listen to podcasts. Need ideas? Try our list of Podcasts for Academic English.
  • Focus on longer interviews. Search for your favorite English-speaking celebrity on YouTube and watch their interviews for practice.

Further practice

For more listening practice, visit the following articles:

Converse International School of Languages has provided quality English language training in San Diego and San Francisco since 1972. CISL has also provided Cambridge FCE and CAE test preparation instruction for more than 25 years (and is an official Cambridge Testing Centre). To learn more about Cambridge FCE and CAE preparation classes in California’s San Diego and San Francisco, contact CISL. 

Cambridge Exams Featured Listening Practice

CAE Listening Part 1 + Podcasts for CAE Listening Practice

September 24, 2017

CAE Listening Part 1 + Podcasts for CAE Listening Practice

Are you planning to take the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English Exam soon? Don’t stress: in addition to structured test preparation classes, there are many ways to prepare for the exam using self-study! Do you know these CAE Listening Part 1 tips and how to prepare for this part of the test when you’re not in the English classroom? These tips and suggested podcasts will help you improve your score.

The Listening Module of the Cambridge CAE Exam consists of 4 parts. Need more help with the Listening Module of Cambridge FCE or CAE? Check out our other articles, CAE and FCE Listening Part 2 Tips and Listening Part 4 Tips.


CAE Listening Part 1 + Podcasts for CAE Listening Practice  

Before learning tips and tricks for the exam, make sure that you understand the basic requirements and components of Listening Module, Part 1.

Listening Part 1 Overview

  • You hear an audio recording
  • The recording has three conversations
  • Each conversation is between two people
  • You will listen to the recording twice
  • Each conversation has two multiple choice questions
  • Each correct answer earns you one mark

What the test is looking for:

According to Cambridge, this part of the exam is testing your ability to understand feeling, attitude, purpose, function, agreement, course of action, gist, or detail. Examples of this in the test might include the following:

  • Feeling: In the conversation you hear, a person might tell another person their current emotions or how they are reacting to a certain situation. Vocabulary words related to emotion are common.
  • Attitude: A person might tell another person their opinion about something. Opinion-related vocabulary might be used, such as “I don’t care for X” or idioms such as “X isn’t my cup of tea.”
  • Purpose: The reason for doing something is communicated. First recognize what the purpose that is being communicated is: perhaps a person is leaving a job (or moving, or going back to school) and is describing why. Phrases such as “that’s why” and “which is why” could indicate this; the speaker could also use transition words such as “therefore” and “because.”
  • Function: A person could describe how something works (or doesn’t work when it should). Listen for how something works and descriptive language.
  • Agreement: It is natural in a conversation for two people to agree or disagree; therefore, in this section, agree/disagree vocabulary might be used. Of course, the words “agree” and “disagree” are hardly used (that would be too easy!). Instead, listen for expressions that illustrate agreement/disagreement, such as “I totally understand,” “That makes sense,” or “I see.”
  • Course of action: How will something occur? These details of a conversation might be tested. Listen for words that indicate steps in a process, such as “then” and “after that” and “following this.”
  • Gist: “Gist” is the main point of a conversation. What point was the speaker trying to make? This could be tested.
  • Detail: In addition to testing your overall understanding of a conversation (gist), “detail” can also be tested. Listen for dates, numbers, and other specific information.

CAE Listening Part 1 + Podcasts for CAE Listening Practice

How to practice

Part 1 is probably the easiest part of the CAE Exam to practice because it’s based on a conversation between two people. To practice, try listening to as many conversations as you can. These can be conversations between characters on TV, interviews on YouTube or the news, or podcasts.

CAE Listening Part 1 + Podcasts for CAE Listening Practice

Podcasts to Prepare for CAE Listening Module

Try listening to these podcasts to prepare for Part 1 of the CAE Listening Module. Each of these podcasts includes a transcript, so you can read and listen at the same time (until you become comfortable reading without the transcript).

American Stories for English Learners

Experience some of the best short stories written by American authors, but experience them in audioformat. American Stories for English Learners has more than 14 hours of listening content: each podcast is 57 minutes long and is a story from a famous American author (some of the longer stories are in two parts). Users can download the MP3 and the transcript and then read and listen to Mark Twain, O. Henry, Willa Cather, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Edith Wharton, and many others. The project is from Voice of America, which provides content written in plain American English with short sentence structures, no idioms, and a limited vocabulary. Each lesson is specifically designed for the English language learner.

CAE Listening Part 1 + Podcasts for CAE Listening Practice

BBC 6-Minute English

BBC 6-Minute English is a popular listening resource for Cambridge preparation students. The lessons are quick (just 6 minutes, as the name suggests), cover an interesting variety of topics, and include learning materials such as vocabulary lists. You can access the archives (lessons before 2014) here, and see updated lessons on its new website.

Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!

National Public Radio (NPR) produces many interesting podcasts on different subjects. “Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!” is special because it covers the news, but in a quiz format: listeners can guess which of the news stories are real and which are fake. It’s fun, informative, and great English listening practice! You can download “Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!” here.


Do you need to prepare for the Cambridge CAE Exam? CISL’s small class sizes (never more than 8 students per classroom) and intensive curriculum provide the materials and one-on-one instruction necessary to succeed. Contact CISL to learn more about our effective teaching methods and our beautiful locations of study in San Diego and San Francisco.

Academic English Academic Year Abroad Cambridge Exams EAP IELTS Listening Practice TOEFL University Pathway

5 Podcasts for the Academic English Student

July 22, 2017

Forget listening to podcasts about learning English: instead, learn about English through podcasts about interesting subjects! If you need to improve your academic English skills for the American college or university setting, spend some time listening to these fascinating podcasts about science, the humanities, culture, and technology.

5 Podcasts for the Academic English Student

Astronomy Cast

5 Podcasts for the Academic English Student

Travel through space all learn all about the cosmos! Where did the Earth’s water come from? Do planets have seasons? How can you make a telescope at home? Who are some famous astronomers throughout history? Hosts Fraser Cain and Dr. Pamela L. Gay answer questions you’ve always had about the universe.

National Public Radio (NPR)

5 Podcasts for the Academic English Student

Science, news, comedy, education, culture, technology: take your pick! NPR has many award-winning, well researched and well produced podcasts on various subjects. The content will keep you interested as you improve your listening skills with one speaker, two speaker, three speaker, and interview style recordings.

NASA Science Casts

5 Podcasts for the Academic English Student

NASA offers many podcasts on different subjects. Some focus more on specific projects (such as the Space to Ground podcast about the International Space Station), some focus on education (check out The Beautiful Universe), and others are news-focused, like This Week@NASA.



5 Podcasts for the Academic English Student

Philosophy, history, science, and the human experience come together in RadioLab, and incredible podcast produced by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich.

Converse International School of Languages offers English courses in San Diego and San Francisco, California. Improve your English through CISL’s small, eight-student classes: students can choose from Standard English, Intensive English, or specific courses such as TOEFL Preparation, IELTS Preparation, Cambridge Exam Preparation, and English for Academic Purposes. After EAP, students can attend college in the U.S. through CISL’s Academic Year Abroad and Pathway programs. 

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5 Things You Need To Know Before Taking The Cambridge CAE or FCE Exam

July 8, 2017

Are you taking the Cambridge CAE or FCE Exam soon? Studying can be stressful, and so is test day! How should you study? What should you study? And what should you expect on test day? There are so many questions students have! Here are 5 things you need to know before taking the Cambridge CAE or FCE Exam.

5 Things You Need To Know Before Taking The Cambridge CAE or FCE Exam

There is a right way to study

Cambridge CAE and FCE exams have four official parts: Reading and Use of English, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. In each of these parts (called “modules”), there are many smaller parts; for example, Reading and Use of English for FCE has 7 parts (8 for CAE); Speaking has 4 parts, Listening has 4 . . . it’s a complicated test! Many students do not know where to begin.

Self-study is possible using the materials Cambridge has purchased. However, with such a complex test and so many parts, students often get confused . . . plus, there is no way to improve your speaking with self-study. A qualified instructor is necessary to help you understand each part of the test and the tips and tricks for passing each section. A teacher will also help you improve your pronunciation and speaking confidence.

On test day, know what to bring (and what not to bring)

Make sure you bring your valid photo ID, pencils, and erasers to the test. Electronics cannot be brought into the room, so if you want to watch the time, bring a watch (or use the clock that will be in the room). Food and drinks are also not allowed.

For more information, read these documents about Exam Day Tips for the paper-based test and the Speaking Module. They are from Cambridge ESOL.

Exam Day Tips, Paper-Based Test

Exam Day Tips, Speaking Module

You can also read Cambridge’s official Summary of Test Day Regulations for Candidates.

Understanding the test format saves time

Picture this: the Speaking Module recording begins, and the beginning of the recording is the instructions for the test. If you know the test rules, you do not have to listen to this portion of the test: instead, you have extra time to read the contents of the test.

For some, the test format is a little strange; for example, in the CAE Reading and Use of English Part 4, you must rewrite a sentence. Half of the new sentence is already written: you must use one given word plus 2-5 more words to complete the second sentence. What a strange format! If you know this in advance and have practiced this many times, this section is not a problem . . . but if you’ve only seen it a few times, you will probably have to read the instructions again. This is a waste of precious time.

5 Things You Need To Know Before Taking The Cambridge CAE or FCE Exam

When you consider that the entire test has many different parts (and that each part has different instructions and rules), then you see how understanding the test format saves time.

You can request your partner for the Speaking Module

Did you know that you can request your partner for the Speaking Module? You can! Talk to your Cambridge instructor about how to do this.

If you do not request your partner, you can still know who your assigned partner is before the speaking test. This gives you time to meet your partner and practice, which is very important to do before test day.

If you are assigned a partner who is very shy, check out our article on How To Deal With A Shy Speaking Test Partner.

Knowing what Cambridge wants will improve your score

Many parts of the Cambridge Exams (like Writing and Speaking) are not “right” or “wrong”; therefore, they are graded by trained teachers. But how are these instructors grading your test? Knowing what Cambridge wants will improve your score.

For example, the Writing Module is graded on the following:

Content (Did you answer the prompt? Did you include enough information?)

Communicative Achievement (Did you create the letter, report, review, essay, etc. as you were instructed? Did you correctly present your ideas to the reader?)

Organisation (Are your sentences and paragraphs well connected?)

Language (Did you use appropriate vocabulary, and a wide range of vocabulary? Did you use varying and complex sentence structures?).

A good Cambridge instructor will base his or her lessons on these things so that you have the tools you need to succeed in each module. Once you have these tools, you will use them as you write . . . and your score will improve.

Converse International School of Languages has been a trusted Cambridge Testing Centre for over 25 years and is proud to provide quality English instruction in small classes (no more than 8 students). To learn more about our Cambridge FCE and CAE programs, contact us.

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California Life Cambridge Exams Featured Student Life

Why You Should Take Your Cambridge Course in California

June 27, 2017

According to Cambridge ESOL, each year more than 5 million people take the Cambridge Exams in 130 countries. With so many options, why should you take your Cambridge course in California? Here are just a few of the reasons to consider taking your Cambridge course and exam in the sunniest and happiest U.S. state.

Why you should take your Cambridge course in California

Why You Should Take Your Cambridge Course in California

(and how to choose the school that is right for you)

Studying on the beach is the best kind of studying

Sure, libraries and coffee shops are great (and cities such as San Diego and San Francisco have great coffee culture and amazing libraries!) but at the end of the day, it’s preferable to enjoy the beautiful California weather and study while working relaxing on the beach. Enjoy California’s 840 miles of coastline while also improving your English (and your tan)!

Why You Should Take Your Cambridge Course in California

Friendly, happy people

What is the best way to practice English? By making friends who are native speakers! Californians are said to be the friendliest and happiest people in the United States. In a recent study, 12 California cities were in the top 20 happiest cities in the U.S., including both San Francisco and San Diego.

California is a diverse state with people from all over the world. Politically, Californians are left-leaning (Trump is not someone a Californian loves!) and are proud of the international aspect of their state. This openness and inclusion makes California a friendly and welcoming place for international students of any ethnicity or background.

Why You Should Take Your Cambridge Course in California

Expose yourself to accents other than British/Australian

The world does not speak one form of English, but many: with a Cambridge course, you will learn the standard UK spelling and pronunciation through the texts and practice tests; in your everyday life in California, you will learn the standard (Hollywood) English that people around the world agree is the easiest to understand and most clearly spoken. In the end, you get the best of both worlds (and speak some California slang when you return home)!

Cambridge is known for using non-native speaker accents on its exams, so this is a priority when it comes to language learning for CAE and FCE. When choosing a school, make sure you select one with high population diversity. This will allow you to meet people from all over the world and become accustomed to different accents.

Why You Should Take Your Cambridge Course in California

Well established, accredited schools

From beachy San Diego to urban San Francisco, California has many language institutions for you to choose from. When selecting a school, make sure that you think about a few things, including:

An emphasis on speaking within the curriculum. The Speaking Module of the Cambridge exams is incredibly difficult, and many students need extra help in this area. Make sure that your school provides an emphasis on speaking so that you have a lot of chances to practice and improve.

Class size. In order to improve your English (especially in speaking), you will need lots of feedback from your instructor. Schools with small class sizes will allow you to spend more one-on-one time with your teacher so that you will improve quicker.

Student diversity. Part of being an international student is meeting students from around the world: make sure that your school has a diverse student population!

Accreditation. The most important accreditation organization in the United States is the Commission on English Language Accreditation. This organization is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and is specifically for English language learning schools. The standards are very high for a school to be accredited: the school must complete a very long application, attend workshops, write reports, and have visits from the CEA staff. The accreditation process includes looking at the school’s curriculum, teachers, staff, and administration; additionally, CEA considers factors such as how schools rate student achievement and progress. Use the CEA search to see if your potential school is accredited.

Bonus: if the school is also a Cambridge Testing Centre, you know that they are Cambridge approved!

Cambridge Testing Centres are highly trusted

A Cambridge experience doesn’t have to happen in the UK! The process of applying to be a Cambridge Testing Centre is difficult, and all centres (usually schools) have many visits and inspections from Cambridge. If you take your course and exam at a certified Cambridge Testing Centre, you are assured that you are getting a Cambridge approved experience. When booking your course, make sure you choose a trusted Cambridge centre.

Why You Should Take Your Cambridge Course in California

A healthy lifestyle

It’s not just the sunshine and Vitamin D that keep people healthy in California: the state’s citizens are known for being some of the most active and physically fit in the U.S. Learn some water sports, play basketball or tennis or volleyball in the many parks or beaches that surround you, go hiking on trails that go through the city, or enjoy some of the most impressive gyms, boot camps, and yoga studios in the world. In the winter, grab your skis and see why the state once hosted the Winter Olympics!


Why You Should Take Your Cambridge Course in California

Great food (and drinks) for study breaks

Stay healthy with California’s obsession with fruits, healthy drinks, and avocados . . . and then cheat a little with the most delicious California burritos, sushi, and burgers. (It’s all about balance!) On the weekend, celebrate a hard week of study by exploring the microbrew beer culture of California or visiting some of its beautiful, world famous wineries.


Why You Should Take Your Cambridge Course in California


California’s many international airports make it easy to arrive and to travel on weekends. San Diego’s airport, for example, is located next to Downtown San Diego. A cab ride from the airport to Little Italy (where many international students stay) is less than 10 minutes! From San Francisco’s international airport to the city’s Financial District (where many international students live) is less than 25 minutes. San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles international airports offer non-stop flights from many locations year-round, including the following:

  • Amsterdam
  • Berlin
  • Dubai
  • Hong Kong
  • Istanbul
  • London
  • Paris
  • Tokyo
  • Zurich


Why You Should Take Your Cambridge Course in California


The majority of Cambridge classes in the U.S. are taken by Swiss students . . . but not in California. California Cambridge classes are more diverse because the state is also an ideal destination for many Asian students, so a Cambridge course in California is more likely to have students from countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Additionally, Cambridge is now accepted by U.S. universities, so more and more students from other countries are enrolling in these courses. When choosing an English language school, always ask about the student diversity.

Why You Should Take Your Cambridge Course in California


Since 1972, CISL has provided quality English language training to students from around the world. It is accredited by the Commission on English Language Accreditation and is also a certified Cambridge Testing Centre. CISL’s 8 student policy provides students the opportunity to improve their English in a small classroom with one-on-one attention from their qualified instructor. Contact CISL to learn more about studying for the Cambridge Exams in San Diego or San Francisco or watch our video about Cambridge courses below.