Cambridge Listening & Cambridge Writing Tasks – Podcast EP4

Cambridge Writing Tasks & Listen Test

1. Cambridge Writing Tasks – Tips and Strategies

What are some good tips for improving your writing skills generally? 

  • Practice as much as possible (writing tends to be least practiced skill)
  • Find a reason to write (start a blog, send emails home, find a “pen pal” etc)
  • Get someone to correct your writing – highlight, think about, learn from your mistakes
  • Proofread
  • Make sure spell and grammar check is on when typing – and pay attention to it!
  • Use an app or other online tool – Grammarly for example to help you prepare for the Cambridge writing tasks


What are you being marked on in the Cambridge writing tasks?

Content – have you answered the question as asked?

Communicative Achievement – have you completed the task using the correct type of language 

Organisation – have you structured, signposted, laid out your writing properly?

Language – have you used a good range of grammar and vocabulary


What are some good tips for the Cambridge writing tasks?

  • Think about who you are writing to and use an appropriate style of language – understand the difference between an argumentative article, a business report, and an email to friend


  • Make a plan / outline of what you’re going to write – make sure you are answering the question exactly as asked – plan what will go where and possibly even where you’ll get particular language in


  • Use a wide variety of language – in a high-level exam you need to demonstrate your level. Don’t play it safe, take a few risks with your language (especially in the Advanced)


  • Make sure everything is clearly laid out, in terms of paragraphs, openings & closings, and task-appropriate. You HAVE to use lots of linking words and cohesive devices


  • Keep the ideas simple – it’s not a test of your general knowledge or amazing arguments, it’s just about the English


  • Save time at the end to proofread – know the mistakes your frequently make – eg third person ‘s’


2: Listening


Tips for improving your listening generally


Expose yourself to a wide variety of accents – TV, film, podcasts, local radio, etc


Cambridge (unlike IELTS) has two listens – practice listening to other things twice and see how much you understand (eg 3 mins of a podcast, radio report, etc)


Tips for the exam


Use your time wisely – underline key words, predict the type of answer you’re listening for (a number, a noun, etc), partially rule out unlikely answers.


Do practice tests and then listen back with the transcripts to see where you went wrong, where you could have improved.


There are ALWAYS distractor words. You are looking for synonyms, not exact words from the question


The Multiple Matching part (especially in the Advanced where you are answering two questions for each speaker) takes lots and LOTS of practice. 


Be prepared to change your answer when you listen a second time – you are listening to get the ones you missed AND confirm ones you’ve got already


A lot of the question involve you understanding how speakers feel about certain things so really learn the vocab and grammar around this (relieved, excited, confused, etc) and reporting verbs (admitted, denied, etc)




Do something for the sake of it. To do something for the sake of it is to do something just because you want to but not for any good reason. So maybe you are at a meeting and someone asks a question just for the sake of it. Not because they need an answer, just because they like asking questions. 

To work writing it into your routine, to make it part of your schedule.

Proofreading is reading back over a piece of work when you’re finished, looking for any mistakes 

Take some risks, don’t play it safe

Within reason, meaning to do everything you can, but not if it’s something ridiculous. So, I’ll do everything I can do pass the Cambridge exam, within reason. You know, I won’t drink 30 cups of coffee and study for 72 hours with no sleep. That would probably be a bad idea. 


Before you put pen to paper [remember there are no articles or possessives in this expression – it’s not to put your pen or a pen to some paper, it’s to put pen to paper – to begin something]


To put yourself in the right frame of mind. To be in the right frame of mind is to be thinking the right way for a task. 


To eavesdrop is the word we use to deliberately listen to a conversation that is not meant for you – to eavesdrop on a conversation. 


A similar expression, but in a different situation is to overhear sth. This is to hear something by mistake. 


If you are outside someone’s door trying to hear the conversation inside, you are eavesdropping. If you walk past someone’s door and the people inside are speaking very loudly you might overhear them. An important difference. 

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