Things which make FCE Listening Part One questions difficult and easier to answer

From your experience of this part of the exam, what tricks do the examiners use tothe questions more difficult? What things can help you tell a right or wrong answer is coming, eliminate wrong options, choose the right answer and check your answers?

Decide if the things below are more of a help (+) or more of a hindrance (-).

Students sometimes have to listen out for whether something is in the past, present or future.

Contrasting phrases (“but (in fact)”, “however”, etc) often help indicate a right or wrong option.

How things are said, especially intonation, can sometimes help guess the right option and/ or eliminate wrong options.

If you are guessing, it might be worth crossing off an option just because you heard the exact same words (rather than just something that means the same thing) on the recording. However, the examiners obviously know students do this as they sometimes do include key words from the correct option on the recording.

It is absolutely impossible to guess which of the options is less likely before hearing the recording.

It is often only one part of a wrong option which is different from what is said in the recording, e.g. if the options says “She is going to have her haircut tomorrow” it could be “she” “going to”, “have her haircut” or “tomorrow” which are different, with the recording saying “My husband had a trim”, “I had all my hair chopped off”, “I’m going to cut my daughter’s hair tomorrow” or “I’m going to the hairdresser’s this afternoon”.

Synonyms are more common in the correct answers than the wrong options, so students will sometimes be able to guess correctly just by listening out for phrases that mean the same as something in one of the options.

The correct option almost never has the same words as the recording. It is usually an expression which means the same thing, but it could also be just an example of that thing or even other things such as related vocabulary.

The other wrong option is usually a slightly different topic to what is said in the recording but often including some of the same words, e.g. the option says “She had problems with her leg” and the recording says “I’m not sure if I have the sea legs for it”.

The recording almost always contains something related to both of the wrong options, meaning it should be possible to cross them both off and just have the right answer left.

The three options are not necessarily in the same order as the recording.

There is sometimes more than one hint of whether something is the right or wrong answer. For example a wrong option sometimes is both in the wrong time (past, present and future) and has a slightly different topic, or there is always two or more words related to the topic of the option with questions like “Where are the people going? A: a football match”.

Usually, one wrong option is the opposite of what is in the recording, e.g. the option says “She is happy about her new job” and the recording says “I’m not very satisfied with my work”. As with this example, the wrong options are also sometimes written with different language to the recording.

Design questions using those things to make them more difficult and more manageable to test another group with. Your teacher will give you recordings or transcripts, or ask you to make up the scripts too.


PDF version for easy saving and printing: Things that make FCE Listening Part One questions easier and more difficult

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