Top Tips for Preparing for the Cambridge PET Listening Exam

If you want to score high marks in the listening part of the PET exam, you will need to have two things; a good intermediate level of listening, and the techniques to answer the questions well in the time you are given.

Here at Atlas, we have intermediate courses that help our students improve their level of listening. We also teach the techniques you need to do well in this part of the PET exam.

In the PET listening exam, there are four parts for you to answer questions on. You might hear monologues (one person speaking) or dialogues (two people having a conversation). The topics will generally be neutral or informal and they will be on a range of everyday topics.

Here are some of the best tips and techniques that we recommend to our learners.

How to do Part 1

In this part, you will be given 7 short listening texts, and for each one you will have a question with three pictures (A, B or C). You have to listen to each recording and choose the right answer from the 3 choices.

Because the answers will always be visual, this might make it sound easy. However, you will have to pay attention to the details in each small picture. Here’s an example of such a question:

PET Listening Part 1

When deciding the answer, there are certain things you will need to remember or do:

  • Always read the question carefully and look at the pictures before you listen.
  • Know the answers can be at the start, middle or end of each recording. They might try to trick you by putting what could be the answer at the start, when the key information is at the end.
  • You might need to listen for a lot of information, or sometimes only one small detail. If a picture is quite detailed, then you will have to pay extra attention to the details.

Here is the text to the question above.

PET Listening part 1 Example

You can see from this answer that she mentions all three: jewellery, a t-shirt and the chocolates. However, the answer is clearly the t-shirt. They will nearly always mention something about all the pictures, so you will have to pay special attention to what’s being said.

How to do Part 2

This part has 6 multiple-choice questions, but you will hear one long monologue or interview here instead of individual short ones. You have to listen to the recording and choose the right answer (A, B or C) for each question. You will need to listen to identify specific information and detailed meaning.

Here is a typical question you may be asked:

PET Listening part 2

  • The questions will often use different words from the recording, so think about synonyms and paraphrasing.
  • If you don’t hear the answer to one question, don’t worry about it. Keep focused or you could miss the answer to the next. Remember you always get two chances to listen to the recording.
  • Before the recording starts, you get some time to read through the instructions and questions, you should use this to help you focus on and understand what you are likely to hear.

Here is the text to the question above.

PET Listening part 2

We can see that it was not a new race as he was running his ‘normal events’. He also mentions that he ‘wasn’t last’. He says that he got ‘injured’ which is the paraphrase of the answer ‘hurt himself.

As you can see, the recording uses language that appears in all three answers. However, you have to pay attention and listen for the correct one. The answer will nearly always be paraphrased so make sure you are prepared for that.

How to do Part 3

In Part 3, you will hear a longer monologue and will need to fill in 6 gaps. You will have to fill them in using one or two words and to do this you will need to identify, understand and interpret information.

Here is a typical question you may see:

PET Listening part 3

When deciding on the answer, there are certain things you will need to remember or do:

  • The words you write will always be the same as you hear on the recording. However, the words around the spaces may be different, so make sure you are ready to listen for paraphrased texts.
  • Guess what kind of words you need to listen for. For example, is it a verb, noun, adjective, adverb that is missing? Is it a place name, address, location, number, amount, or activity that’s missing?

We can see from the question above that in 14, something or someone is missing. In 15, the type of information we are looking for is clearer – it will be a date.

Here is where you can find the answer in the text:

PET Listening part 3

We can see that the something for question 14 is ‘elephants’. However, there are other alternative answers like ‘animals’, ‘birds’ and ‘plants’ that are used as distractors. Distractors in tests are answers or information that are incorrect or inferior alternatives. Their purpose is to trick or distract you from choosing or identifying the correct answer.

Two dates are also mentioned: the 16th October and the 14th May. The first one is clearly a distractor, again some language that could distract you from identifying the correct answer. The listener will need to know and recognise that ‘by’ is a synonym for ‘before’ here. Importantly, though, be careful of what you hear before you chose the correct answer.

How to do Part 4

For the last part of the PET listening paper, you will hear a longer informal dialogue between two people. You will be given 6 sentences and will need to decide whether they are true or false. You will have to listen for detailed meaning, and to identify the attitudes and opinions of the speakers.

Here are typical statements you may see:

PET Listening part 4.png

When deciding on the answer, there are certain things you will need to remember or do:

  • Read the instructions first. They will tell you who the speakers are and what they will talk about.
  • Listen carefully to what both speakers say. They will give their opinions and agree or disagree with each other.
  • Try turning them into yes/no questions. For example, “Was the festival better than Jack expected it to be?”, “Did Helen buy her ticket for the festival in advance?”

Here is where you can find the answer in the text:

PET Listening part 4

Question 20 says that the festival was better than he thought it was going to be. But in the text, Jack said “It wasn’t as good as I thought”. So that means the answer for Question 20 is false. The statement in Question 20 is not true.

For Question 21, it says “Helen bought her ticket in advance”. In advance means to do something before a certain time. In the text, the answer isn’t clear. However, Helen asks “Didn’t you book early? My ticket was much less.” This suggests that she did book her ticket earlier and got it at a cheaper price. So for question 21 the answer is true.

Take the PET Exam at Atlas

These tips and suggestions will hopefully put you on the right track for preparing for the Cambridge PET Listening questions. Make sure to also take advantage of our tips for the PET Speaking exam and PET Writing questions.

However, just knowing and practising the techniques will not be enough for the exam.

So make sure to listen to English, whether it is films and songs in English, podcasts or even watching a football match on tele.

If you haven’t started preparing and using the techniques in the above post, we’d love to help you get started.

Features of our exam preparation courses at Atlas are:

  • All Cambridge courses are developed and supervised by our Academic Management team who also run the Cambridge Exam Centre at our school. You can study and prepare for a Cambridge english exam at atlas, and take the exam with us in the school.
  • Experienced Cambridge PET preparation teachers who know and understand the exam.
  • Focus on improving skills and exam technique.
  • Full mock exams for all students who register for the exam.