Tips on FCE for Schools Listening

This article is one of a series of articles on features of Tower Bridge Books, specifically on preparation for the FCE First for Schools. 


In order for students to excel in the Listening section of FCE for Schools, exposure to vocabulary as well as a wide range of different pronunciations and accents is of utmost importance. Teachers can show them videos from the internet, inviting them to follow the general discussion on various topics, and jot down specific words or expressions, which they will use when talking about what they heard. This way, both speaking and listening skills are honed. 

An interesting activity would be to expose students to as many English accents as possible. In every lesson, the teacher can present short monologues or dialogues of English speakers via the internet, and have the students play a guessing game, so as to place the accent of the speakers. For example, British/American/Australian/South African and other accents. 

Another way to help students improve their listening skills is by having them record voice journals, using free websites. More specifically, teachers can prompt speaking by asking questions like “How would you teach English if you were a teacher for a single day?” or “Describe your best/worst holiday.” Then, students are assigned to listen to and comment on their classmates. Moreover, the teacher can give a phrase, and ask students to use it in a context/dialogue with another classmate. For example, “I’ve got a weakness for concerts” or “We were given the royal treatment last night.” This way, students are prompted to engage in a dialogue. 

On another note, by conducting debates, students work on their skill of coming up with arguments both for and against the issue at hand. They exchange ideas and work in teams or groups in order to find sound arguments to convince their interlocutors. In doing so, both grammar and vocabulary are drawn upon. Furthermore, finding examples and explanations to bolster their arguments, either for or against, which is a skill essential to listening and speaking, is mastered. By means of debates, students are enabled to develop both their listening and speaking skills. 

Current affairs should inform the tasks students engage in as a way to keep up to date with what’s happening around the globe. Students can be invited to role play being news reporters by presenting the articles they have written in class. They are exposed to a wide variety of topics. Teachers could ask and guide a group of students to discuss the main current affairs of the week or International Day (against bullying and so on), spurring them on to become reporters, adjusting their language accordingly. Then, another group of students, who are listening to them and taking notes, are asked to say what they have heard. As is obvious, listening and speaking skills go hand in hand.

Another activity for students to master both listening and writing skills—as these two are inextricably related—is by asking them to listen to some lectures or speeches online, and then write a summary. Thus, they are encouraged to focus on key words/ideas, which they present in a coherent short text. 

In order to acquaint students with specific sounds and nuances, and enable them to distinguish or identify particular vowel sounds/clusters, teachers can have them read out loud minimal pairs, such as peach/pitch, lick/leek, and so on.

This is the rationale behind our book. The level of the vocabulary and expressions found throughout the eight tests is slightly higher than that expected in the exam, with a wide variety of topics covered in all the Listening parts of the exam. Students are exposed to all sorts of formal and informal communicative situations in order to tackle the Listening section with confidence.

Last but not least, just like all of our books, First for Schools has an online version, which helps every student practise their Listening skills at home by saving time in the classroom. Students can do each Listening test as many times as they wish, in order to practise their listening skills, and excel in the exam. The teacher has access to his or her students’ scores, and can follow their progress. Most importantly, this saves time in the classroom, where the teacher can focus on the weaknesses of each student, thus fostering individualised learning, and converting the classroom into a workshop. The online practice provides, not only answers, but also annotations for the correct answers, so that the student knows why A is right, and D is wrong. It’s the perfect way to practise Listening skills. The online version of FCE for Schools is excellent practice for those students who would like to do the computer-based FCE for Schools exam.

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