THE FCE BLOG by Claudia Ceraso

Friday, October 20, 2006


The FCE Listening Paper: Overview and Online Practice

What is listening comprehension?
Listening skills go beyond understanding the meaning of individual words. At FCE level, you will not be asked to simply prove you can understand what someone says. The test has been built to focus on certain characteristics that are always present when speaking in real life:

  • Purpose: We always listen for some reason, not just to practice as you may have done as a learning exercise.
  • Expectations: There is some idea in our mind to anticipate what we will hear. The topic, the purpose, even general knowledge of the world can help you prepare your ears.
  • General idea or detail: As learners, we would like to understand exactly how things were said. But in every day life, we discriminate whether we need to understand one specific word -a name for instance- or just get the gist of it.

It will help you a great deal if you become aware of what is being tested in every part. It will also soothe your nerves!

Listening Paper Overview

How long does it last?
The test lasts for about 30 minutes. There are five extra minutes of silence at the end of the tape for you to transfer your answers onto the answer sheet.

This Cambridge ESOL link will show you a brief overview of the listening test. Have a look at the duration, number of questions and distribution of tasks.

What skills are tested?
This is the question to bear in mind.

Read this article by Costas Gabrielatos. You will find a chart with information about each part of the Listening Paper. There are notes on:

Focus: which skills are tested

Format: how skills are tested

Procedure: how to organise your listening and note taking


How do I practice? What accents are spoken?
You will hear a variety of British accents. It is advisable to try to listen to BBC radio or other British sources frequently. That will make you feel more confident about your listening.

I believe that if most students listened to a paper without knowing the FCE tasks they are supposed to do, the overall impression would be that they understand native speakers much more. You could definitely have a successful conversation with them!

However, the listening paper will not test how many words you know or understand. Actually, you should expect some unkn
own words -or chunks- and still manage to perform the task. For example, if you are asked to infer how the speakers feel about an issue, intonation may be more important than the actual words used.


Now that you know the rules of the game, you are ready for some practice.

FCE Listening Online
Except for the FCE Handbook from the
Cambridge site, it is hard to find real FCE listening practice online. Here is a selection of sample listening papers:

The British Council site Learn English Professionals has a full listening test online.


More practice to be found here:

The site instructions are in Czech not in English, but it is easy to follow:

Related Post: Past Papers -FCE Handbook with mp3 listening

Earphone image source:



    This is my answer to a comment posted in the shoutbox:
    Argentina: hi, am a teacher of english and currently living in seville, i have a doubt as regards the listening paper, do sts listen to the whole paper once and then listen to it again or do they listen to each of the four parts twice? hope u can help me, CONGRATS !

    Thanks for pointing this out. I had not mentioned it in my posting.
    The listening paper lasts for about 30-35 minutes with some extra 5 minutes of silence for students to transfer their answers onto their answer sheets. Every part is heard twice only. At the end of each part there is a short silence and a beep sound. Then, that part is repeated before the next one starts.

    All of these starts, pauses, repetitions and the extra five minutes are recorded on the CD. It is important to know that the invigilator will not stop the tape, time it or repeat any part. Students are supposed to ask any questions they may have before the listening paper begins. No one must talk during the test. Some sighs will be heard, perhaps!

    Wish you good luck for you and your students in Seville. If you have any other question, just post somewhere!

    By Blogger Claudia Ceraso, At 10:39 am  

  • Oops! I am awfully sorry about the abbreviations.
    On the other hand, thanks for your answer about the listening paper. The question is that I have a book which does not repeat each part, so I have to rewind the tape at the end of all four parts, and I thought it could've changed.
    By the way, I just want to tell you that I started teaching English many years ago by 1990 in AACI and quit before coming to Seville, so I am really grateful for all the experience I gained while I worked there. There are really awesome pros there, and your website is gorgeous! regards, Paula

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 6:52 pm  

  • Small world Paula, isn't it?

    By Blogger Claudia Ceraso, At 10:24 pm  

  • Thank you Zbig for your comment on the content of this Listening entry.

    Your comment is rather short for me to understand.
    Could you please send me email and explain?
    fceblog (AT)gmail (DOT)com

    Thank you for contributing to make my blog better.

    By Blogger Claudia Ceraso, At 2:49 pm  

  • Hi Claudia,
    I've read bits from your Blog. Congrats on keeping it alive.

    I myself have been involved in training FCE candidates for some years now; and I thought it might be of interest to both you and your new FCE students to look at and try this out

    eWorkbooks is my new 'passion'. Find FCE_Listening eWorkbook and FCE_Speaking simulation for Parts 2 and 3, Paper 5.

    You might want to give them a try and tell me what you and your students think.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 11:42 am  

  • Stan,

    Thank you for introducing yourself to us and for you letter.

    I am going to take a closer look at your site. I understand it is a commercial site, but hope you leave some of the content for free access.

    Needless to say you and your students are more than welcome here.



    By Blogger Claudia Ceraso, At 11:46 am  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 9:48 pm  

  • Oops- I am moderating the previous comment for not respecting the privacy and signature rules here.

    I quote Julis
    "I am going to take the FCE in june this year. I am from Mendoza and I need to know which part is the most difficult.
    Moreover, I need the percentage of aprovement. Some people say that you can aprove with the 60% but I really do not know. Dont answer whit " you aprove with a, b, c, etc.." because I already know it!! please tell me the percentage.
    thankyou "

    OK Julis, I won't say A, B or C. That would be kind of obvious, don't you think.
    You are quite right about the 60% of correct answers. Just remember that is a good reference, but not a prediction about the results you will obtain.
    Because the FCE results are not an average of marks. The key word is 'overall' marks.
    What does that mean?
    Your results will be displayed in a profile graph. There you will see how much you got in each paper.
    The surprise is you could get a borderline mark in one given paper and still get an 'overall' higher mark in the test.
    Do you follow me?
    When you study, think of the 60% minimum of positive answers to give you an idea. But do not worry much if your listening is your weakest ability. You may do good in the test as well.
    Unless you get borderline marks in all of the papers. If this is the case, study hard!!

    Thank you for commenting. Come back sometime to let us know how you are doing.


    By Blogger Claudia Ceraso, At 10:01 pm  

  • Hi Claudia, I am Rocío from Argentina and I am sitting my FCE this year.I just want to thank you because I visited the sites you have published for Listening practise, and they have been very useful for me...
    Also, I would be very grateful if you can tell me where or how I can practise more listening comprehension because It is really difficult for me.. Thanks again and kisses.

    By Blogger Unknown, At 4:48 pm  

  • Hi Rocío,

    It's important for me to know the opinion of students after they use the sites I recommend.
    I don't have other links at the moment. If you find any and would like me to review it, leave a comment.

    Thank you and all the best for the exam!

    By Blogger Claudia Ceraso, At 11:04 am  

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