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Tips for the Advanced Listening Exam

Students often fall down in the listening paper because of technique and not because of their English listening skills. Here are a few tips to think about for next time you try one of the listening papers.

1. Listen to the actors

OK, the actors are not always brilliant. But they do a very good job considering the content of many of the scripts. You need to trust them. Listen to the tone of the actors' voices and try to gain any insights you can.

Look at the different stresses in these sentences:

a. I didn't say that

b. I didn't say that

c. I didn't say that

If we the speaker were to stress the words in bold, what are the differences in meaning?

A would imply that someone else said it.

B implies that he is denying saying it.

C could mean that he wrote it down, whispered it, or even meant it in a different way.

As you can see, depending on which word is stressed, you can be lead to choosing completely different answers about the intended meaning.

2. Listen for language of fact, attitude and opinion

In point 1 we learned that stress and intonation are very important. However, the actual language you hear will also be essential in finding the correct answer, especially to those harder questions.

Success in the Advanced exam is very much about vocabulary. The better your vocabulary the more you will be able to understand in all papers. However, the listening exam is also a reading and writing paper. It's unavoidable when you think about it. You are having to read and understand the questions quickly and make sure you write accurately so that you can tidy things up before you finally submit.

Here are a few examples of lexis that you might have to listen to and differentiate between fact, attitude and opinion.

Reporting verbs

Here are a few examples of reporting verbs in use:

“He denied it ever happening” “Tom advised me not to go to the party” “She refused to help me in the end” “I was told that I would get some help” “The trainer said it would be a good idea”

So what does each reporting verb mean and what could they imply?

Deny means that he said he didn’t do it, but could have done it.

Advise means that I was warned about something but I may have done it anyways.

Refuse means to say no to something, maybe for negative reasons.

I was told is used to say that I would get some help but I didn’t in the end.

Say can be used to express someone’s opinion and not what actually happened.

It can sometimes be tricky to fully appreciate the meaning of reporting verbs, especially as they usually refer to past events.

Adjective adverb collocations

Collocations will play a big role in the Cambridge Advanced exam. Have a look at the following phrases and see if you can work out their meaning:

“Their opinions were deeply divided”“He never knew that he would be seen as utterly useless by them”“Getting to work today was painfully slow, it took ages”So what are the adjective adverb collocations expressing?

A expresses the idea that there was a massive difference of opinion between two or more people.

B really emphasises how he didn’t fully understand before how others saw him as being of no use or help whatsoever.

C expresses that the slowness of the traffic was really irritating.

Working out the meaning of these collocations can prove tricky as the adverb will express the attitude of the adjective.

Here’s a helpful slideshare to give you a better idea of such collocations:


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