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Tips to improve your listening skills! | C1 Advanced (CAE)

Level: C1
Article navigation:
Tip: The Basics
Tip: Be Diverse!
Tip: Listening Practice Is The Key
Tip: Don’t Worry!
Tip: Different Approaches
Tip: Things you can listen to...

In today’s post, we aim to present some tips on how you can improve your methods of preparing for the paper in listening when you want to obtain the Cambridge Advanced (CAE) certificate.

Remember that if you follow a set of preparation methods which are well-designed and tailored to your needs, your chances of getting the best overall possible result increase dramatically.

Tip: The Basics

Try not to forget that for each task, you are given proper and clear instructions, therefore, read questions carefully. This includes some outline and information on speakers, the topic of the text and its context.

Furthermore, you’ll have your time to read the questions and, if you have any doubts, ask further questions yourself.

The preparation team behind the texts included specific information about how long you can prepare in the recordings.

Tip: Be Diverse!

Remember that the Cambridge Advanced exam is a C1 level test.

This means that you are expected to perform on this level. So, you will hear a variety of voices, styles of delivery and contexts.

The goal is to check whether you’re competent enough to understand and work with different situations and content. Hence, it is wise not to focus entirely on a single source of comments and listening exercises.

Try to listen to different people with different accents and analyse their ways of speaking. If you manage to maintain diversity in your preparation, you’re better-off from the start.

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Tip: Listening Practice Is The Key

So, we settled on the conclusion that diversity is the key.

But there’s more to essentials here: the more you’re exposed to different sources of speech, the better. Even if you study with fellow students at the classroom, just listening to them speak can be beneficial.

On the other hand, if you’re brave enough to prepare for this challenge on your own, use different sources.

Listen to the radio, follow speakers when watching TV, and don’t ignore podcasts.

The more you practise, the more confident with what you hear you’ll become! It’s like when entering a forest: with every tree you skip and pass by, you know more on them and you feel more at ease.

Tip: Don’t Worry!

Don’t overthink and don’t worry if you don’t understand every single word!.

It is not the aim to prove that you know every term. It is more about decoding the information and gist meaning.

This is one of the most essential skills. It is very possible that you won’t know every lexical item included in formal announcements, lectures, less formal talks, informal discussions, or interviews. But that doesn’t mean you’re failing.

And if you add the above-mentioned practice to this recipe, once again you’re closer to the final success.

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Tip: Different Approaches

When you’re preparing for this part, try different approaches.

First, you can listen to the text for gist meaning. Then, you focus on the general message and prepare a summary of what you just heard.

The other way round, when listening, you can set your mind on specific information, finding them and writing them down. Make predictions about what you’ll be listening to.

Based on the topic and the background information, you may be able to predict speakers opinions and attitudes.

Tip: Things you can listen to…


Podcasts are a great way to find something you’re interested in as they cover a wide range of subjects. There are even ones that are graded to suit different English language levels. 

The English We Speak – is your chance to catch up on the very latest English words and phrases. In under 3 minutes, we help you stay ahead of the pack by giving you ‘must-have’ phrases that you can use in your everyday conversation.

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

Speak English with Tiffani Podcast – A podcast especially created for Intermediate and Advanced English learners. In this podcast, you will learn the specific English tips and tricks that will make you a better English speaker! 

Global News is produced by the BBC World Service, the world’s largest international broadcaster. The podcast is published twice daily and is a roundup of the latest global news. 

TV Shows and Movies

If you want to hear a dialect used naturally, try watching TV shows and movies from the area you’re interested in. 

“Friends”  is good for the New York accent.

Nancy Donovan on the show “30 Rock” has a Boston accent.

“Downton Abbey” is great for hearing proper British accents. You can hear that the difference comes not just from location but also social status.

“The IT Crowd,” is even better. This show has more realistic and modern speech, and it also has different dialects. (One of the characters is Irish, for example).

The great drama “Lie To Me” has a main character who is British, for instance.


If you listen to audiobooks to learn English, you can easily find a reader who uses the dialect you’re interested in.

To hear a smooth British accent, you can listen to books read by Stephen Fry. For an excellent American narrator, try Ron McLarty. You can hear him read “Inherent Vice” by Thomas Pynchon

Some audiobooks even have more than one reader. A good example is Philip Pullman’s “The Golden Compass.” This audiobook is read by the author but also has a separate person reading what each character says.

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