FCE Listening tips and tricks
FCE Listening 2015 Format
What is arguably the most difficult part of the FCE Exam?
For most exam candidates, it has got to be the listening, followed closely by reading and use of English. I know I’m making a lot of assumptions here but if this is your case then this post might just help you towards your goal of passing the FCE exam with flying colours. Click here to read about FCE listening
Why is Listening a difficult skill in FCE Exam?
Listening is an extremely complicated skill where a great deal of factors are at play.
- Awareness of the context
- Knowledge of vocabulary, expressions
- Understanding how language changes in speech
- Not being able to see the speaker
Awareness of the context in FCE Listening
It is crucial to understand language in the context in which it is spoken. At B2 level, here some of the common topics in the exam:
- Clothes, fashion, appearance
- Memorable experiences and accidents
- Environment, nature
- Holidays, important events
- News, current affairs
- Location, accommodation
- City life
As you prepare for your First Certificate Examination, it will be advisable to explore different contexts in terms of vocabulary and grammar. This will allow you to face the exam in a more confidently. Here is an example of what I am trying to say. Take ‘city life’ for instance. You could make a list of ‘pros’ and ‘cons’. I’ve made a little list for you ?
Negatives: living in the city is hectic, there is a great deal of traffic, commuting can be stressful, the quality of air is sometimes dangerously poor, new cities are being built vertically, our cities were meant to withstand a far fewer number of inhabitants,.
Positives: means of transport are more extensive, there is a great deal more employment, more social life and a chance to meet other people, schools and colleges abound, shopping is accessible.
Once you have made a list, you need to practise activities which deal with the expressions, especially in exam-type activities. Which will allow you to reinforce your foundation and get higher marks.
Knowledge of vocabulary and expressions in FCE Listening
It goes without saying that if you know the English language well, you have a better chance of comprehending the oral discourse. For example, a speaker may say, “I’m coming”.
That’s easy to understand but another expression with the same meaning may sound very different and if you don’t know it, then you might miss it altogether.
“I’m on my way”
So that’s why it’s important to do your research thoroughly and ensure that you are familiar with the most important parts of the language at the B2 level.
Understanding how language changes in speech in FCE Listening
This is a harder part as every language has its own way of changing from written to oral form. English, to be fair, metamorphises quite heavily. Let’s look at one simple example:
“Yes. Well of course, when the steam train was invented, it completely changed the nineteenth-century society. Didn’t it?”
Spoken: click to listen
As you probably noticed, the sentence is vastly different in the spoken context. There are several reasons for it.
- Linking: many words are linked so there is fluency in the sentence. So in the phrase ‘well of course’ there is a link and it sounds like one single unit and not well-of-course. This often creates a problem for L2 listeners.
- Weak sounds: many words are not pronounced fully. For example:
When the steam train was invented
- How words are pronounced: for example, century is pronounced with a flat sound/society is pronounced like an /a/
Various local accents are common in B2, C1 and C2 levels. Some of the most common ones are:
- Other local British accents
It is therefore important to practise listening to different types of accents and you can do that by watching TV programmes. I recommend:
- Soap operas
- News (BBC, CNN, Sky News)
- Sport events (football, basketball, golf etc)
- Documentaries (Discovery Channel, National Geographic etc)
- Interviews (famous celebs)
Not being able to see the speaker
In normal everyday life, we are able to rely on facial expressions. This is not the case when we are listening in an exam. What’s more, we are under pressure due to the exam task and all this can play a negative part on our ability to understand. Here is what you can do to get better.
- Listen to podcasts
- Listen to UK radio stations
- Practise B2 exam type exercises
There is no doubt that listening is one of the hardest parts for many students. However, by following a keenly devised strategy, you can make marked improvement and score higher in your exam.