FCE Listening Part 3

1. Overview

In part 3 of the listening test you hear 5 short clips, each from a different speaker, on the same topic. There are 8 options and you have to match the options to the speakers. Obviously that leaves 3 options that don't match any of the speakers.

The introduction is always the same and you should pay attention to two things:

In this example, the topic is a visit to a city, which probably means vocabulary about travel and cities. You have to say what the speaker liked most about the city. Without looking at the options, what would you expect to see on the list? The food, the weather, the architecture, the people?

When you've eliminated the 3 wrong answers and decided which speaker said what, your finished paper might look like this:

2. What skills does part 3 test?

This part of the exam is about how you understand attitudes and opinions, plus your ability to work out the overall meaning of what someone is saying.

For example, you might hear 5 people talking about their last holiday, and you have to decide if their holiday was stressful or fun, expensive or cheap.

That means understanding that a person was happy with his holiday even though he never used the exact word 'happy'.

3. What are the biggest mistakes students make?

Mistake 1

One trap a lot of students fall into is hearing specific words on the audio and matching them with words in the options. For example, take a closer look at two of the options from the picture above:

Now 'listen' to speaker 1.

Oh my time in Rome was fantastic! All the people are so well dressed - they’re so stylish! And the markets were great fun - really good!

Is the answer C or D?

Think about it...


As I hope you guessed, the correct answer is neither C nor D. The people have style, but answer D is about the buildings, not the people. And the markets might be good but answer C is about the variety of goods.

If C was the answer it would sound like this:

There was such a range of products for sale! Every market had a different speciality, like fish, or fruit, but even in the fruit market you could still buy some sneakers or even some DVDs.

Get it? If you hear the exact word it's 98% NOT the answer. Repeat - NOT THE ANSWER!

Mistake 2

I don't know about you, but all my students are very lazy and arrogant (except the ones reading this...). They listen to the CD for ten seconds and write their answer. Then they pick up their phones and send smiley faces to their boyfriends.

That's a big mistake because the answer can be in the middle or the end of each speech. It's a DOUBLE mistake because if you write 'B' as the answer for question 1, but B is really the answer for question 4, then you're sure to get two questions wrong.

It's a listening test and you have to listen!

The good news is you get to listen twice - use the opportunity to check your answer the second time round.

Mistake 3

I always give my students time to read the task and options before I play the CD. Sometimes they use this time to draw little spider webs on the page or add facial hair to people in the coursebook. What they should be doing, as you know, is reading the options and underlining key words!

4. Case Study

Let's 'listen' to one of the speakers from the example above and discuss it a bit.

We were pretty tired when we first arrived so we were glad just to relax. We’d booked late and I have to say that the room wasn’t the best I’ve stayed in. But we had a view of the lake, which was a real treat – we were really impressed by the forests and mountains around the city. We made good use of the swimming pool, though we were too lazy to go to the famous markets. We didn’t take advantage of all the shows either. Lots of people told us how good they were so that was a pity. And the theatres themselves were supposed to be impressive.

Here are the options:

  • A   the efficiency of the public transport system 
  • B   the natural beauty of the scenery 
  • C   the variety of goods in the markets 
  • D   the style of the architecture 
  • E   the well-designed plan of the city 
  • F   the helpfulness of the people 
  • G   the range of leisure opportunities 
  • H   the standard of the accommodation 

Okay, first up - the room. The room WASN'T the best, and our job is to find what the speaker LIKED, so we can rule out H.

We had a view of the lake, forests, mountains - that sounds like B - the natural beauty. But let's keep listening just in case.

We were too lazy to go to the market - so it's not C. How can it be his favourite thing if he didn't even go?

And what about G - the range of leisure activities? He mentions a swimming pool, shows, theatres... but he didn't go to the last 2 things and he doesn't say it was HIS favourite thing, only that he heard good things about it from others.

So B then.

5. Watch This Video I Made About Part 3

FCE Listening Part 4

You hear an interview or conversation (about 3 minutes long) and have to answer 7 multiple choice questions. By this time, you might be quite tired from concentrating so this will be a challenge even if you’re normally quite good at this kind of task.

Like in the rest of the listening test, you have to ignore distractors, listen for linking words, and understand the meaning of what the people are saying.

What it looks like

After underlining key information, eliminating wrong answers, and choosing the right answer, your paper might look like this:

Read the question - carefully!

Make sure you read the questions carefully because some of the answers might be true without being the answer. A good example is when the question asks you to find the main reason for something. Example:

What’s the main reason the writer moved to Spain?

  • a) the weather
  • b) his girlfriend
  • c) the food
‘What everyone knows about Spain is that the climate is perfect for writers, and I’m a bit of an amateur chef so it’s great to be surrounded by good restaurants and fresh ingredients. But despite that, I would have stayed in England had it not been for my partner. She wanted to be close to her family, whereas it’s quite easy for me to work from anywhere in the world.’

As you can see, the speaker mentions all three choices - the food, his girlfriend, the food. But only one is the MAIN reason for his move.

Guess before you listen

Another good tip is to think what the answer will be before you hear the recording. But while that can be VERY helpful, some students go too far with it. A lot of my students work in banks, so imagine you’re a banker and this question comes up:

What is the speaker’s opinion of bankers?

  • a) They are true heroes; princes among men
  • b) They are thieves and criminals
  • c) They are bad people in good suits

Sometimes my students will decide ‘the answer must be A, of course!’ and as a result they don’t listen to the CD. The correct method is to think, ‘My answer is A, but I wonder what the speaker says?’ That way, you are alert and attentive.

More Tips

  • When you’re practicing this before the exam, don’t only try to find the answer. Also say why the wrong answers are wrong. That will really help you build the skills you need to do well in the exam.
  • The answers are in the same order as the questions. 
  • You’ve got a lot of text to read in part 4, so as soon as part 3 finishes, turn to part 4 and start underlining key words.
  • As always, be very suspicious when you hear the exact words from the answers in the audio.
  • You probably won’t know every word, so sometimes you’ll have to guess the meaning. That’s a skill you can work on while you’re preparing. Take a text with a new word and instead of reaching for your phone to check the meaning, think about what it could mean from the context.

Case Study 1

Here’s one taken from everybody’s favourite Cambridge English: First preparation book, Ready for First. It’s about a man who gives guided tours of his city called ‘ghost walks’.

Alan says that his customers on the ghost walks:

  • a) are never disappointed
  • b) want to be frightened
  • c) laugh at all his jokes

Before we listen, let’s use our knowledge to guess at the answer. First, nobody ever laughs at every joke, so I think it’s unlikely to be C. And customers are always complaining about something - people even complain about the free information I give on these websites! So probably it’s not A. How about B? People want to be frightened? Seems strange, but horror movies are very successful, and most people like to sit around a fire and tell ghost stories. Right, let’s listen:

Interviewer: How about people who go on the tours? Do they get frightened?
Alan: Well, obviously these are ghost walks, so it wouldn’t be much fun if there wasn’t a bit of fear involved. Not too much, of course, we often have children in the groups, so we have to be careful. But people expect to be scared and they’d be disappointed if they weren’t, so we aim at least to give them goose bumps, and perhaps even a little fright - after which they all laugh nervously and enjoy the release of tension.

What do you think the answer is?

Me, I don’t think it’s A. He uses the word ‘disappointed’, which makes me suspicious. I want to check exactly what he says - ‘people would be disappointed if they weren’t scared.’ Okay but that’s very different from ‘his customers are never disappointed’, right? I mean, an ‘if’ sentence is for things that are less than 100% certain, so that doesn’t match the word ‘never’. Never means 100%.

He does say that they laugh at his jokes… maybe it’s C? But wait - he gives them a little scare and then they laugh - not because of a joke. Ah! They nearly tricked me! In fact, he doesn’t mention telling jokes at all.

That leaves B, and we know that’s the correct choice because he says ‘people expect to be scared’ and they ‘would be disappointed if they weren’t scared’. It seems that people will pay you money to frighten them. Good business model!

Case Study 2

This one’s from a Cambridge exam book. It’s from an interview with a man called Tony who makes wildlife films.


Tony says the achievement he is most proud of is:

  • a) helping to make a popular film
  • b) doing a scientific study
  • c) working on an award-winning project

Before I listen, I’m already on high alert! I’m pretty sure Tony will mention ALL THREE THINGS because the question asks for the one he is MOST proud of. So I’ll have to filter out the two that are not the right answer. Deep breath - okay I’m ready!

Interviewer: What have you achieved that you’re most proud of?
Tony: Actually, one of my most popular films was the one I did on lions but I didn’t feel it got anywhere near, in terms of being closest to my heart, to the time I spent rescuing orphan monkeys. The special sanctuary I set up won a world nature prize. A close second would be the research project I was involved with on whales in the South Atlantic. I spent quite a bit of time there and it was brilliant.

Ha! That was easy! So the first mention was the film on lions - okay that’s his most popular film, probably the reason that most people know him. But the most important part is what he says next. The sentence construction is a little bit complicated, but in a simple form goes like this:

My most popular film is the one about lions but helping orphan monkeys meant more to me.

The monkey project won an award (the world nature prize), so C is closer to the answer than A.

All we need to do now is check whether B made him more proud than C.

‘A close second would be the research project’ - that’s pretty clear! So the things that made him most proud go C>B>A.


Actually, one of my most popular films was the one I did on lions but I didn’t feel it got anywhere near, in terms of being closest to my heart, to the time I spent rescuing orphan monkeys. The special sanctuary I set up won a world nature prize. A close second would be the research project I was involved with on whales in the South Atlantic. I spent quite a bit of time there and it was brilliant.


You can try a free listening test online RIGHT NOW by following this link. The answers are here.