English Exam Cracker Blog

9 Tips on how to improve your listening for a proficiency exam faster than ever

1. Accept the fact that you are not going to understand everything.

It’s not necessary to understand each word or phrase you here, firstly try to grab the main idea of the message. In FCE, CAE, and IELTS listening sections you are going to listen twice, so you will get a chance to add the details later.

2. Stay relaxed even if you don’t understand what is said, don’t panic too early and reread rule 1!


3. Don’t try to translate into your native language.

Doing so can easily distract you from other parts of the message which may be crucial for further understanding, so it would be better just to concentrate as much as possible on what the person is saying, rather than create barriers between you and the speaker.


4. Bear in mind that in the majority of cases the information will be repeated by the speaker.

Have you noticed that it’s natural to repeat what we are saying in our native language? Listening in an exam situation is not an exception! Far too often speakers tend to repeat what they have said by rephrasing things, adding details or developing ideas. If you stay calm while listening, your chances to hear the repetition increase!


5. Use the introduction, question, heading/subheadings or notes given to predict what your listening task is going to be about.

This will help you be more confident in yourself before listening as well as give you the idea about the context of the message.


6. Use key words and the context.

Key words give you the clue of what the speaker is going to talk about, to put it simply, they help you concentrate on the main idea of your listening task, creating a meaningful context which, in its turn, may help you understand the whole message.


7. Use the co-text.

In case you are asked to fill the gaps using the words from the track, pay attention to the number of gaps to be filled as well as to what part(s) of speech may be missing. Pay attention to the words surrounding the missing one, they will definitely give you the idea about the kind of word(s) you need to use


8. Pay attention to the moment when the subtopic is changed.

It’s always important to capture a moment when the speaker changes the subject and starts talking about a different matter, but how do you know that the answer to the next question is coming? Longer pauses between parts! Each time the speaker makes a slightly longer interval between sentences you should assume that he or she is going to change the subtopic, so it’s time to turn to the next question!


8. Pay attention to the moment when the subtopic is changed.

It’s always important to capture a moment when the speaker changes the subject and starts talking about a different matter, but how do you know that the answer to the next question is coming? Longer pauses between parts! Each time the speaker makes a slightly longer interval between sentences you should assume that he or she is going to change the subtopic, so it’s time to turn to the next question!


9. Practice, practice, practice…

Skill comes with practice!

All my students know that it’s one of my favorite tips! If you want to develop the skill, you are to listen a lot! My recommendation would be to listen to the mixture of a great range of the exam listening tasks, as it’s very important in terms of getting used to the proficiency exam format along with listening to some authentic speech by way of watching movies, videos, presentations, listening to the songs, etc.


If you want to prepare well, check our online english courses.