Cambridge B1 Preliminary (PET) – Listening
The B1 PET Listening exam is divided into four parts, and each has its unique set of instructions and tasks. Below is a comprehensive breakdown to help you better understand what to expect:
- Duration: 30 minutes (including an additional 6 minutes for transferring your answers).
- Number of recordings: You’ll encounter several recordings that vary in content and format.
- Listening repetitions: Each recording is played twice. So, if you miss any information the first time, you have a second opportunity to catch it.
- Weight: The listening paper represents 25% of the overall B1 Preliminary exam score.
Part 1: Multiple choice with visuals
- Description: In this section, you will hear seven short recordings. These recordings are diverse in topics, meaning they are not interconnected. Alongside each recording, you will be presented with a question accompanied by three images.
- Task: Your job is to select the picture that most accurately answers the given question.
- Number of Questions: 7
- Scoring: Each correct answer will earn you 1 mark.
Part 2: Multiple choice short dialogues
- Description: Here, you’ll be tuning into six concise dialogues. Before each dialogue starts, a sentence will provide some context. After listening, you’ll have to answer a question related to the dialogue.
- Task: Each question provides three answer choices labelled A, B, and C. You must choose the one that best fits the context of the dialogue.
- Number of Questions: 6
- Scoring: You get 1 mark for every correct response.
Part 3: Gap fill
- Description: In this part, you’ll listen to a monologue. You will also be given some notes or sentences summarizing the listening text.
- Task: Some of the sentences or notes will have missing information (gaps). Your task is to fill in these gaps using the exact words you hear in the recording.
- Number of Questions: 6
- Scoring: Every accurate gap-fill earns you 1 mark.
Part 4: Multiple choice (extended text)
- Description: This section involves listening to a more extended interview compared to the other parts. The content will require you to understand in-depth meanings, attitudes, and opinions.
- Task: For each segment of the interview, you’ll have to answer questions based on what you’ve heard.
- Number of Questions: 6
- Scoring: Each correctly answered question is worth 1 mark.
How to prepare for the exam
Listen to some English regularly
If you listen to ten minutes a day of English over a long time, you will see that understanding spoken English becomes easier and more automatic.
Use the right resources
Choose listening materials that are right for your level and –very importantly– that you like. For example, if your level is A2, you can search for A2-level resources: audiobooks, student’s book audio tracks, songs, YouTube videos, etc.
Read and listen, and listen
There are lots of resources where you have written text and audio. If you find understanding English very difficult, read and listen to a text at the same time, work on the vocabulary, and when you understand everything, then listen again but this time without the written text. This will help you learn to recognize English sounds, use context to guess the meaning of new words and expand your vocabulary.
Test your listening
Before taking the exam, practice exam tasks with our listening tests for some time. You will become more confident and will have better strategies when answering multiple-choice and gap-filling questions.
During the exam
Read the instructions and questions carefully
Use all the time you have to read the instructions and questions carefully. Make sure you understand the questions because they will tell you what the recording is about.
Don’t get nervous
Being calm is very important in a listening test. Some students panic because they think they don’t understand anything, and their stress makes the situation much more difficult.
Don’t worry; nobody in a listening exam understands everything. You don’t need to understand everything to answer the questions correctly. As you will see in my next tip, you may guess the correct answer only with a few words.
Be careful about the distractors
Most of the questions in the listening section are multiple-choice. You may hear that they mention more than one option in the recording, but you must pay close attention because only one option is correct; the other options are distractors. For example, check the following question:
Transcription: “We wanted to take a taxi, but we couldn’t find one, and the underground was closed, so we finally took the bus.”
Question: How did they go back home?
- a. Underground
- b. Bus
- c. Taxi
As you can see in the example, they mention the three options in the recording, but only one is correct. You should pay attention and try to guess which options are distractors. Of course, you will not understand everything from the recording, but just with a few words, you can know which option is correct. Take a look:
- Underground: if you can understand the words “underground” and “closed”, that’s enough. You know that this option is not correct.
- Bus: if you can understand the words “finally” and “bus” in the recording, that should make you think that this is probably the correct option.
- Taxi: If you hear “taxi” and then you hear “but”, it probably means that they didn’t take a taxi.
If you practice exam tasks before the exam, you will learn to distinguish the correct answer from the distractors.
Answer all the questions
Don’t leave any questions blank. If you don’t know which option is correct, answer the question anyway. Your answer may be right.