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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. 

Cambridge Exams Featured Listening Practice

Cambridge Advanced (CAE) Listening Part 4 Tips

April 25, 2017

Are you taking the Cambridge CAE exam soon? Many students struggle with the Listening Module, particularly with Part 4 of the test. The following CAE Listening Part 4 tips will help our students prepare for this section of the test.

CAE Listening Part 4 Tips

I said, “Do you know how to master CAE Listening Part 4?”

Cambridge CAE Listening Part 4 Tips

Before reading the CAE Listening Part 4 Tips, let’s take a look at what Listening Module Part 4 is.

CAE Listening Part 4 Overview

Type of task: Multiple matching

Number of questions: 10

Length: 3-4 minutes

Format: Five short monologues (about 30 seconds each). These are labeled “Speaker 1, Speaker 2, etc.

There is a theme that connects all of the speakers. For example, everyone will be talking about where they were during a recent earthquake, or how they feel about technology, etc. In the example below (which is the official CAE sample test for 2017), the speakers are talking about changing jobs.

CAE Listening Part 4 Tips

From Cambridge ESOL. 

Students have two tasks: Task One and Task Two. In the example below, the tasks are:

  • Task One: choose the reason the speaker gives for changing jobs
  • Task Two: choose what each speaker feels about their new job

Students select the correct choice from a list of eight possible answers (listed A-H).

Scoring: Each correct answer earns the student 1 mark.

CAE Listening Part 4 Tips

Here are some important tips to remember for CAE Listening Part 4:

Find the theme

Remember that there is a theme with all of the recordings. The theme will be written on the top of the paper, so you will know the theme before the recording begins.

Use the time that the recording reads the instructions to think about the theme. Predict what language and ideas you could hear related to this theme. For example, in the theme above (changing jobs), what could some of the people talk about? You will probably hear some reasons for changing jobs: the company failed, the person got a better job, the person was unhappy with his or her boss, the speaker found a job that paid better . . . trying to predict themes will greatly help you improve your understanding of the recording.

Use your time wisely

Before the recording, read as much as you can of the answers (A-H). Remember that the speaker will probably NOT use the exact words, but will probably use a synonym. For example, “A” is “unfriendly colleagues.” The speaker will probably not use these words, but you might hear them describe a “rude coworker” or something similar.

Underline keywords

Underline keywords: words that will be associated with the recordings, words that might have synonyms, etc.

Know the format

Remember that you will hear the recording twice. Know what is required of you. Understand where to write your answers.

Actively listen and analyze

After each task, ask yourself what the speaker’s main idea, point, or feeling was.

Develop a strategy

For Part 4, here are two tasks, but you can begin with Task Two if you want. Try to take the test a few times using different strategies and see which one works best for you: there is no proven way that helps students score better. It all depends on your personal preferences.

Know what to expect from the speakers

The speech will be very informal. Expect to hear male and female speakers with various accents.

Become comfortable with “gist”

Part 4 of the Listening Module is focused on gist. Gist is the general meaning of something. Therefore, you do not have to understand every word . . . but you do have to understand the overall meaning of the speaker’s monologue. Ask yourself, “What was his/her point?”

Identify keywords that indicate change

Listen for keywords that will help you better understand the speaker. For example, conjunctions or linking phrases (such as “therefore,” “that’s why,” “for that reason,” “however”) will help you understand what the speaker is saying.

CAE Listening Part 4 Tips

How to Prepare for CAE Listening Part 4

Students often make the mistake of taking many practice tests to prepare for Listening Part 4. The truth is, the best practice is exposure to as many accents and dialects as possible. Listen to podcasts, watch TV shows, watch movies set in different parts of the world, etc. The more time you spend doing this, the better your listening skills will be. Here are some more CAE Listening Part 4 tips.

Listen to as many varied accents as possible.

Watch some movies that are set in the American South to learn some of this accent.

Movies such as “Fargo” are great for learning the Midwestern accent. This Crash Course in the Midwestern Accent is an excellent article; also check out How to Master the ‘Fargo’ Accent.

Shows like “The Wire” are great for the Boston accent.

The accents won’t always be from native English speakers. TED is a great website for students to find presentations made by non-native English speakers.

Understand how the test tries to trick you

Read the manuscript after taking practice tests and understand WHY each answer is the correct one.

Improve your English vocabulary and skills

A great way to improve your English vocabulary (and therefore your listening skills) is to improve your understanding of phrasal verbs: these are commonly used in Cambridge exams. Be sure to learn some useful idioms and expressions as well.

Do you need help on other parts of the test? Check out our tips for improving with the articles Cambridge CAE and FCE Listening Part 2 Practice + TED’s “Why Videos Go Viral” and California Facts + Cambridge Listening Part 2.

CISL has provided Cambridge ESOL instruction for over 25 years and is a proud testing centre. Visit our site to learn more about our intensive CAE and FCE classes, and watch the video below to hear how our former student, Diogo, benefited from the Cambridge Exam. 

CISL San Diego Cambridge Testimonial – Diogo from Converse International School on Vimeo.




Academic English Featured Listening Practice University Pathway

The Five Best TED Talks about Language

April 7, 2017

CISL’s English classes give students plenty of opportunities to improve speaking, writing, listening, vocabulary, and reading skills. However, we also believe that learning doesn’t stop when class time does: we encourage our students to continue learning English after the school day ends! The following five best TED Talks about language are designed to motivate our language-loving students.

The Five Best TED Talks about Language

Anne Curzan: What makes a word “real”?

What makes a word “real?” How does a new word get put in the dictionary . . . and who makes these decisions? English professor Anne Curzan discusses this all (and the role of slang in the English language). In this fascinating talk, students learn some interesting slang, such as hangry (hungry + angry), adorkable (adorable + dorky), and YOLO (which means “you only live once”).

John McWhorter: 4 reasons to learn a new language

We all have different reasons for learning a new language. Linguist John McWhorter explains how learning a language allows us to connect to new cultures, how languages shape our brain, and how much fun we can have while learning a new language.

Keith Chen: Could your language affect your ability to save money?

Do languages shape the way we think? Economist Keith Chen thinks so. In fact, he believes that “futureless languages” (languages that do not use the Future Tense the way that English does) affect the way that these speakers save money. Decide for yourself in this interesting (and data filled) speech. Afterwards, check out our post on slang words for money!

Sid Efromovich: 5 techniques to speak any language

Sid Efromovich, a polyglot who speaks seven languages, gives us some tips and tricks that have helped him master language learning. His first tip? To relax! We agree, which is why the CISL classroom is always a warm and welcoming environment that makes you comfortable! Another tip? Find a “language buddy” to help you learn. You’ll find plenty of language buddies at CISL!

Tim Doner: Breaking the language barrier

Another polyglot, Tim Doner, discusses some of the ways he improves his vocabulary. He also talks about the ways he uses language to connect with others and better understand the cultures connected to the languages. There is definition . . . and there is meaning. What is the difference? Tim Doner explains!

Remember: TED Talks include subtitles and interactive transcripts to help you improve your English. Use these tools if you need them!