December 7


3 Useful Tips to Improve Your Listening Score in the C1 Advanced Exam



In this podcast episode we discuss the Listening tasks in the Cambridge C1 Exam. 

You can download a Cambridge C1 Advanced exam sample here.


Kristian speaking

Hello hello ambitious learners of English! Welcome to Cambridge Exam Coach Podcast. My name is Kristian – and I am Alexandra – and together we’re the team behind the brand new Cambridge Exam Coach podcast.

If you want to improve your English and learn more about exam preparation – this podcast is for you. We’ll use vocabulary and grammar in a way that’s engaging, authentic, and non-trivial. And if you are a visual learner, you can find the transcripts of our episodes on the website as well.

Today we’re going to be talking about the listening part of the Cambridge C1 Advanced Exam.

First, we’ll give you three top tips you can use IN the exam. And secondly, we’ll share a few practical ideas on how to prepare FOR the exam.

Now, in 2022 this is the moment you will hear a jingle to get you even more excited, but today we’re still living in 2021, so we’ll dive straight into the podcast episode.

So, without further ado, let’s go!

Kristian speaking

Heey Alexandra, how are things in Moscow these days?

Alexandra speaking

Hey Kris! It’s amazing, it’s snowing outside and I’m dreaming of making a snow angel, you know. I love this when it’s winter. How is it for you? Are you excited about your trip to Saint Petersburg?

Kristian speaking

Yes, but I’m just thinking about a snow angel – it sounds fabulous. Yes, I am elated because I’m leaving tomorrow and I’ve prepared everything, I think. I’ve got boots because it is -20 in Saint Petersburg. I bought new boots because I’m not used to that kind of weather in Rotterdam and all is fine with all the necessary admin staff like the visa, all that kind of thing. I’m elated and also a little bit nervous, but good nerves, you know. The ones you should have when you go on a trip like that.

Alexandra speaking

I think you won’t get snowed in or frozen. Anyway, grab a cup of coffee or mulled wine and enjoy your stay in Saint Petersburg.

Kristian speaking

Yeah, just one more question – you’ve been there a couple of times, right?

Alexandra speaking

Yeah, so many times. Countless times.

Kristian speaking

One tiny recommendation for me?

Alexandra speaking

Wear a hat and gloves. Just to keep your ears and fingers warm.

Kristian speaking

Thanks so much, I will do that. All right then, let’s get the ball rolling.

So, in this episode we’re going to be talking about the listening part of the C1 Exam. There are three essential things you need to know before you start doing the tasks.

First, I will name these three things and then Alexandra and I are going to talk a little bit about these points. So here we go.

The first thing you need to understand is that you have plenty of time to read through the text carefully before the audio recording starts playing. This is not only for the C1 exam but also for the C2 exam but this is extremely helpful and Alexandra’s going to tell you more about that.

Point number 2 is that you’re going to hear each recording twice. So I’ve been told that this is not always the case in other exams but again Alexandra knows more about that because she also helps IELTS students. So we’ll get back to that later.

And then point number 3. This was a surprising one for me. There are a few significant differences between the paper based and computer based exam. That is something that we are also going to elaborate on.

But first, Alexandra, as I mentioned, everyone, our listeners, if they are doing the Cambridge exam, they’ll get plenty of time to read through the questions and the tasks. Right? What do you tell your students about that time? How can they utilise that? How can they make use of it efficiently and effectively?

Alexandra speaking

Yeah, actually there are a couple of ways people can do this, but still I give some recommendations to my students all the time.
The first thing is that there are some tips that are applicable for all listening tasks. And I always start by saying that it’s good to read the instructions first and do this carefully because you need to know exactly what you should do in the task. For example, how many words you can write in one gap. Then you might want to skim the task and it’s always super super helpful because when you read the task quickly or skim it you get the main idea and know what the recording will be about.

So these are some general guidelines and of course to have something up my sleeve when it comes to each part specifically. For example, in parts 1 and 3, in the parts where you have multiple choice questions, there are certain things you need to do. First of all, I always recommend reading the stem questions and underlining key words in them. Many people rush there because they start reading everything – the questions and the options, but I think it’s a no-no at this point because again you need to get the general idea of what the question is going to be about and only after that after you read them and underlined the key points it’s good to focus on the options.

Next, Part 2 is when you hear a monologue. After you’ve skimmed it after you’ve skimmed the text, it’s great to read through the set of sentences and think about the types of information that are missing. For example, whether you need a common noun or a proper noun, what part of speech should be there in general. I always say: never underestimate the words that come before and after the gap. They will also give us plenty of information. They might do this, okay.

Part 4, which many people consider the most challenging one and I’m no exception here as well, so in this part you hear 5 different speakers and you have 2 sets of questions and probably that’s the most challenging part. That’s the obstacle. So my recommendation here is to read the task for each set and underline the key words and then, so, you will be ready to go with this listening task.

So, no universal truth, of course, but no rocket science at the same point, so you can devise the plan for you. Kris, what do you think?

Kristian speaking

Absolutely. I reckon it makes sense and I’ve got nothing to add there. I will talk a little bit more about preparing for the exam but that will be later. For now we’re going to move to the second point that I mentioned before. People, exam candidates, get to hear each recording twice. Now I know that there are different opinions on this topic – how to utilize that luxury, right? Because, as I’ve been told by you, yeah, it’s apparently a luxury. Can you tell more about that?

Alexandra speaking

Yeah, because some students have experience with the IELTS exam and they know that on the IELTS exam you have only one attempt. And when they know that, when they learn that they have two attempts here, they say it’s a blessing. And yeah, actually, that’s it. So when you listen for the first time, you get the main idea and that’s why I suggest and many people do that, they just mark one or several answers after they’ve listened to the recording for the first time. When they listen again, they can confirm these answers. So, you know, nothing special here, but just, yeah, that’s good to know that you have 2 attempts basically.

Kristian speaking

Yeah, definitely I think also to each his or her own. I just practice and figure out what works for you, but it’s indeed a luxury and we can all be happy about that. Now the last one, the last point that we’re going to talk about is that was also surprising for me because in my experience I’ve only had students that have taken the paper based exam but as you told me the situation is a bit different with the computer based exam. So could you elaborate on that?

Alexandra speaking

Yes, sure. First it should say that there is no difference in the format. So the computer based or paper based formats are the same but the technical side of it all is a little different. The first thing is that in a paper based exam you have one audio player for all the candidates in the room, while in the computer based exam each candidate has their own set of headphones which is so good because you’re not distracted. You’re your own boss here. And one more thing is that when you take a computer based exam, you don’t have to think about transferring your answers on the exam sheet – you just pick the right answer, click on it and Bob’s your uncle. Now it’s done for you, don’t have to worry.

Kristian speaking

Perfect, perfect. And I have to admit that I really like the option that you have your own headphones in the computer based exam, because I’ve heard some horrendous stories from students, you know, that there was noise in the room or the audio wasn’t clear because they were sitting too far away. So yeah that’s definitely a great tip that you gave there. Any other things that you would like to elaborate on or can we move to the second part of this podcast?

Alexandra speaking

I think we’ve mentioned all the basic points here.

Kristian speaking

Okay, great let’s move on then. So now I’m going to give you 2 tips on how to prepare for the listening part of the exam. So my first tip is extremely important or as they say in C2 words of paramount importance. You can also say essential or vital or crucial. My point here is that it’s essential to use sample papers and practice tests. You have to emulate the exam day when you practice at home. And what I mean by that is that you have to do those tasks without any distractions. Nowadays we are distracted all the time by notifications on our phones, on our computers, on our tablets. There are also as Alexandra told me once, let’s say domestic challenges, like pets, family members that might make noise or disturb you.

Let me get back to my point. Yeah we have to create circumstances that are similar to the exam. So what I mean by that is focus on doing the task, don’t get distracted and then only when you are not happy with your answers, you can do the task again but then with help from the transcript. That can help you to find the correct answers. Because usually there are phrases or maybe even some literal words that form the answer or are the answer that you need. So I always recommend people to also use the transcript if they are not happy with the results after practicing. Emulate exam day at home which means turn off your phone, put it away and turn off your notifications and tell your pets and family members that you are practicing for 40 minutes and you don’t want to be disturbed. Did I miss something there, Alexandra?

Alexandra speaking

No, no, I subscribe to every word of yours here.

Kristian speaking

Perfect, thank you so much. So that’s the first point – use sample papers and practice tests. Second point. Yes, you can use authentic materials, you know, many many teachers and coaches and shooters they say – listen to podcasts, watch and listen to TED talks, maybe even movies or audio books. And I say yes but ,caveat emptor, – be aware, because what you’re doing is that you’re training your passive listening skills. But in the exam you have to be active, you’re using your active listening skills. So it means that if you’re using authentic material, you have to make yourself active and you can do that, for example, by using the questions or the assignments or tasks that are available on that TED website when you are watching TED talks. You can do that. Or you can create your own questions if you know what a certain podcast episode is going to be about. Yeah, usually that is, for example, often described in the introduction of a podcast. You can ask yourself – okay I’m going to listen to that particular detail. But again, it is really hard to do that, I admit that, so I want to get back to my first recommendation. Please use a lot of sample papers and practice tests if you really want to practise for the listening part of the exam. Anything to add, did I miss anything there Alexandra?

Alexandra speaking

No, you didn’t. I would add one thing. I remember one question in our Facebook group and it was Svetlana if I’m not mistaken. She asked us whether we recommend watching films and turning on the subtitles at the same time. And it’s a really good question to ponder. And what I recommend is that you don’t turn on the subtitles because when you watch a video or film, you have, first of all, the visual picture and you practice listening too at the same time. But if you understand that you haven’t got the idea or you want to see how some word or phrase is spelt, you can turn on the subtitles, rewind it and then see it. Because we can’t watch and listen at the same time. Obviously, that’s what works for me and for my students as well. So that’s what I would add.

Kristian speaking

Excellent, excellent point. I couldn’t agree more. And this gives me the opportunity to say something that I often tell my listeners and my students – it all comes down to practice practice practice. You have to make the effort, right? So what you just said means that you have to make a little bit more effort, right? It all comes down to do the work.

Alexandra speaking

But one thing – remember that you’re not computers. Don’t treat yourselves like computers, you know, listeners, because many people become too engaged in this. Don’t do that. Enjoy the ride.

Kristian speaking

Yes, absolutely. I totally agree. Is there anything else that we missed, Alexandra?

Alexandra speaking

I think no, because we have given food for thought to our listeners now.

Kristian speaking

Good then. I’d just like to say that these will be available as a transcript on the website but give us some time because it’s going to take time for us to create the transcript. And for the people who want to maybe even listen and read at the same time there will be a transcript available. All right that’s it for me then.

Alexandra speaking

Yeah, I think we’ve covered it all. That’s all for today. If you like this episode you can leave a comment on our website

We read all the comments and will be happy to discuss with you all your ideas and suggestions.

Thank you for listening! Happy learning and we hope to catch you in the next episode. Cheers!

Kristian speaking

Take care of yourself. Bye bye!

Episode Notes

Hi everyone! Welcome to Cambridge Exam Coach Podcast! 

My name is Kristian – and I am Alexandra – and together we’re the team behind the brand new Cambridge Exam Coach podcast.

If you want to improve your English and learn more about exam preparation and beyond – this podcast is for you!

We’ll use vocabulary and grammar in a way that’s engaging, authentic, and non-trivial. And if you are a visual learner you can find the transcripts of our episodes on the website as well. 

If you’ve got an idea for an episode, then do get in touch with us! 

Or you can join our Facebook Group, where we share exercises and articles every single day. 

And finally, you can also follow us on Instagram

But no matter what you choose, don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast! 🙂 

For more information, visit our website:

About the author 


Kristian is from The Netherlands and until the end of 2021 he's living in the beautiful city of Rotterdam. He is a CELTA qualified teacher who passed the Cambridge C2 Proficiency exam at grade A. When he's not working, he likes to chill out with music, a book, podcasts or an audiobook.


You may also like

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}