You can find below some tips on how to tackle listening comprehension tests:

Tips during the exam:

  1. Make good use of the time you’re given before listening to:
    • read and understand the questions and possible answers
    • highlight, circle…keywords
  2. Use the time you’re given between the first and second listen (45 secs.):
    • re-read questions/answers
    • concentrate again on keywords
    • cross out wrong options/use brackets for headings you are not going to use

You may be faced with different types of tasks:

A. Match extracts to headings: you will listen to different short clips that you will have to match to a suitable heading. You are likely to be given more headings than needed. The headings might be either summarising the gist of the clip or rephrasing one specific part of the clip. 

B. Multiple choice questions: you will be asked to choose the best possible answer.

  • Choose the best answer- it may not necessarily be the only one: choose the most complete, the most accurate option. 
  • Beware of distractors: pieces of information featured in the exam in order to confuse you. These are usually aimed at making you choose the wrong answer by, for example, talking about all the options without being 100% correct. Common distractors include contrasting linking expressions (but, however, although, despite, etc.), negative expressions (not, don’t/doesn’t, never, etc.), or the use of exactly the same words in the recording and the question. (If you hear the same word in the recording as in the question, it does not automatically mean that it will be a distractor, and therefore, will be wrong: simply make sure about its meaning and function in the context!). 
  • Eliminate the options you are positive are wrong– decide on the best/most suitable answer. 
  • Take quick notes on the side to help you remember

C. Fill in the gaps:

  • Before you listen: try to anticipate the kind of information you’re going to need (noun, adjective, verb…)
  • By and large, you’re expected to give the exact word (s) you heard. 
  • Sometimes, however, some word-building will be required. For example, if you hear  ‘I feel happy’, in your answer you will have to write:  The speaker talks about the happiness he’s experiencing.  Or some verb tenses may need to be changed.  
  • partial points may be awarded if the answer is not 100% correct, but somehow does provide some of the information (for example, if you need to fill in the gap with an adjective + a noun and you only provide the noun). 

For most exams, the final tip would be to give an answer to every question, as no points are usually deducted for wrong answers. Check with your exam specifications, anyway. 


More resources for listening comprehension:

Last-minute resources for B2-C1 tests: