Cambridge English Southern Europe

Experts in Language Assessment

Tips and FAQS for the Listening paper of the Cambridge English: Proficiency exam

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Here are some tips and answers to questions we often receive on the Listening paper of the Cambridge English: Proficiency exam.


  • Listen to and read the instructions. Make sure you know what kind of text you will hear, what it is about and what you have to do in each part.
  • Think about the topic, the development of ideas and the context as you read the questions. This will help you when you listen.
  • Answer all the questions. Even if you are not sure, you have probably understood enough to make a good attempt!
  • Be careful of ‘word-spotting’ (when answers in options appear in the recording but in a different context).
  • Pay attention to the role of stress and intonation in supporting meaning.
  • Write the actual word you hear. (Part 2)
  • Check your spelling. (Part 2)
  • Look carefully at what is printed before and after the gap and think about the words which could fit, both logically and grammatically. (Part 2)
  • Don’t spend too much time on a difficult question. Move on to the next question and come back to the difficult one again later.
  • Don’t complicate an answer by changing or adding extra information. (Part 2)
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What aspects of listening are tested in the Cambridge English: Proficiency Listening paper?
The range of texts and task types reflects the variety of listening situations which you need to be able to cope with at this level.

Variety of accents:
Recordings will contain a variety of accents corresponding to standard variants of native-speaker accent.

Text types:
Texts vary in terms of length and interaction. Text types used include: interviews, discussions, conversations, talks, speeches, lectures, documentaries, instructions.

Task types:
A variety of task types is used. These reflect the different reasons for, and focuses of, listening: understanding opinion, attitude, gist, detail, main idea, speaker’s purpose; inferring meaning, agreement and opinion. Three- and four-option multiple-choice exercises, sentence completion and multiple matching are used.

Will I have enough time to complete the paper?
All Cambridge English Listening tests are trialled on students to see that they have enough time to answer and complete the answer sheet. The test is designed to be as user-friendly as possible but it is useful to remind yourself of the following points:

Before listening:
The instructions for each task are heard in the recording and are followed by a pause for you to study the task for that section. You can and should use this time to study the questions printed on the page for this task to help you predict both what you will hear and what kind of information you will be required to identify and understand in order to be able to answer.

While listening:
The questions in the Listening paper follow the order of the information in the recording, and you should not waste time on a question you are having difficulty with as you might miss the answer to the following question. Each recording is heard twice.

After listening:
Five minutes are provided at the end of the recording for you to transfer your answers onto the answer sheet.

How do I record my answers?
You must write all your answers on a separate answer sheet. You may write on the question paper as you listen, but you must transfer your answers to the answer sheet. Five minutes are allocated at the end of the test for you to do this.

Is spelling important?
Part 2 is the only part of the Cambridge English: Proficiency Listening paper where you have to write words for your answers (in the other parts, you indicate your choice of answer by writing a letter). Answers for Part 2 (which are generally short) must be spelled correctly and must fit into the grammatical structure of the sentence. Both British English and American English spellings are accepted. Spelling must be correct for a mark to be given.

How many marks are given in the Cambridge English: Proficiency Listening paper?
There are 30 questions in this paper. The total score is adjusted once the paper has been marked to give a mark out of 40.

Am I supposed to write the words I hear in the recording in answers to Part 2, or do I get more marks if I use my own words?
You should try to use the actual words you hear in the recording. You do not get more marks for using your own words.

Can I wear headphones for the Listening paper?
Ask your centre whether you can use headphones or not – it depends how they choose to run the exam.

Written by Cambridge English Southern Europe

May 12, 2013 at 10:00 am

One Response

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  1. Enlightening piece of information…


    May 12, 2013 at 4:27 pm

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