In Cambridge A2 Key Listening, you have to listen to five different parts for around 25 minutes and then transfer all your answers onto an extra answer sheet.
I’m sure you can imagine that this can be stressful for candidates. The Listening paper is one of the more difficult parts of the exam because most students don’t usually listen to English for such a long time.
But wait, I’m going too fast. In this article, I’m going to show you what the Listening test looks like, what you need to be careful with and some little tips and tricks for each part. This way, you will learn everything you need to get high marks without feeling stressed.
Before we get started, I would like to recommend one of my other articles. I think it is always better to start with a general overview and then go into detail. That’s why I wrote a post that shows you what Cambridge A2 Key looks like, the different papers and some extra information that can help you prepare. If you are interested, just follow the link below end enjoy.
What do you have to do in A2 Listening?
In A2 Key Listening, there are five different parts. Each of those parts comes with a different type of recording (monologues, short dialogues, long dialogues) and a different kind of task (multiple choice, gap fill, matching) so you have to be careful and know what exactly you have to do.
Luckily, you can listen to each recording twice so you always get a second chance if you missed and answer or made a mistake.
3-option multiple choice – You have to listen to five short dialogues. With each dialogue, you get a question and three pictures and you need to choose the picture that shows the correct answer to the question.
Gap fill – You listen to a monologue and get some notes about the recording, but there are some gaps in the notes. You have to fill in the gaps with information that you hear in the monologue.
The information you put in each gap can be exactly one word, a number, a date or a specific time, but nor more than that.
3-option multiple choice – In this part, you listen to one longer dialogue. With the recording, you get five questions with three possible answers A, B and C and you have to choose the correct answer for each question.
Here are just three example questions, but you get the idea.
3-option multiple choice – In another multiple-choice task, you need to listen to five different short recordings (monologues and dialogues). There are one question and three possible answers for each recording and you choose the correct one.
Matching – In the last part of the Listening exam, you listen to a dialogue between two people who know each other (for example, family or friends) and you have to match different pieces of information.
Now that you know what the different parts look like, let’s see what problems candidates typically experience in A2 Key Listening.
What is difficult about A2 Key Listening?
In A2 Key Listening, there are some typical problems that make the test more difficult. Some of these issues are part of the design of the exam while other things depend on each candidate.
One of the biggest problems with Listening is that there are tricks built into the recordings. In most of the tasks, you have to choose the correct answer from three options A, B or C.
This might sound easy, but almost always can we find information in the recording that matches all three options. Of course, only one answer is correct, but the extra information can be very confusing so we need to pay extra attention.
Here is an example:
In this question from Listening Part 4, you can see the situation, the question and the three possible answers. Option A talks about the speed of the motorbike, option B about the price and option C about how easy it is to repair.
Now let’s have a look at the transcript:
In the transcript, we can find information that matches each of the three possible answers. The woman says that “[she]’ll be able to get to college in ten minutes now.” (option A), that she “paid quite a lot for it” (option B) and the man says the “[she was] always having to repair [her] old bicycle” (option C).
We now have to check which piece of information matches one of the answer options perfectly and in our example, it is option A. The information related to option B says the exact opposite of what answer B says and the part that matches option C talks about a bicycle and not a motorbike.
As you can see, you have to be really careful and listen closely so you can hear the little differences between the recording and the answer options.
Another difficult aspect of Cambridge A2 Key Listening is that the speakers in the different recordings talk in various English accents.
You might find speakers of British and American English, which are the two most common accents, but there might also be other accents, for example, South African, Australian, Irish or Scottish.
You should try and listen to as many different accents as possible when you prepare for the exam and even though it might be a little bit scary, it can also be a lot of fun like in the video below.
For many candidates in A2 Key Listening, the talking speed of the people on the recordings can sometimes be too fast so they might miss some of the answers.
However, you can easily fix this problem by practising listening every day. There are so many resources online that you don’t have an excuse. Listen to podcasts, audiobooks or watch something on Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ or any other streaming platform you like. The possibilities are there – you just have to make use of them.
Also, always remember that you can listen to every recording in the exam twice. If you can’t hear an answer during the first round of listening, take a deep breath and try again during the second round.
Tips and strategies for A2 Key Listening
Doing the Listening paper in A2 Key is definitely not easy and it is really important that you know what you can do to prepare for the exam, but also how you can get through the test without making the same mistakes as the ones I described earlier.
There are some tips that work for all five parts, but we are going to look at each task individually too.
We can break up my general tips in two parts.
I have already talked about it, but I’m going to repeat it here again. If you want to improve your listening skills, you have to practise listening regularly.
There are so many options available to you that you can easily practise for 5-10 minutes daily. After some time, you will see the first improvements, but there are a couple of important points that you need to remember.
First of all, the things you choose to listen to should be interesting to you. Think about topics that you like and that you usually listen to in your own language, for example, music, films, sports, fashion, the news and many more. Then, look for something in English that matches your favourite topics.
Secondly, the things you listen to should be so easy that you can understand most of it, but also not too easy. You have to find the right balance. For example, when I listen to a practice recording in Spanish, I try to find something that I can mostly understand (85-90%), but with enough new words and expressions that I have to listen very carefully (10-15%).
My favourite option are podcasts. There are so many online that you can find the right one for you very easily. You can also check my recommendations HERE so you can get started today.
Look for a language class
My second general tip is to find a language school in your town or city and study in a group with a teacher.
Working with other students who have the same goal can be very motivating and a good teacher can help you a lot with little problems and questions.
Also, language schools usually check your level and put you in a class that is perfect for you so the listening materials are just right for you and your level so you cam improve quickly.
Follow a plan
We can practise our listening skills in general, but we also have to look at the exam and try to find out how we can do A2 Key Listening in the best possible way.
My advice is to make a plan for each part. This can help you a lot because you have a step-by-step process in your mind and you can follow this plan every time you practise the exam tasks as well as in the test itself.
Now, let’s have a look at the different parts and how we can do them best. I’m going to give you the plan for each part and give you the opportunity to do an example test.
In the first part of A2 Key Listening, we have to choose one of three pictures to answer a question.
In my opinion, the best plan for this part is:
- Check the question
- Check the pictures
- Listen and choose the correct picture
2. Look at the pictures and think about what you can see. In our example, picture A shows people in a museum or art gallery, picture B a hairdresser’s and picture C a few people in a cafe or restaurant.
3. While you are listening, try to find words that match the three different options, but remember that there will be distractors so don’t get confused.
Now, let’s listen to the recording twice and you choose A, B or C. I will give you the correct answer below.
Cambridge A2 Key Listening Part 1 – Example
Did you find the correct option? The answer is A.
Answer B is incorrect because Claire says, “I’m just having a sandwich in the café”, so that’s where she is in that moment (before they meet). Answer C doesn’t work because Claire has got an appointment at the hairdresser’s at 2 o´clock after they meet. Alex asks Claire to come to the museum (“Why don’t you come and meet me here?”) and she agrees (“OK, but just for an hour.”). That’s why option A is correct.
You can now do the rest of Listening Part 1. First of all, here are the other questions:
And here is the audio for the rest of Part 1. Once you finish, you can check your answers at the end of this article.
Cambridge A2 Key Listening Part 1 – Questions 2-5
Part 2 is different from the other parts because you have to write down your answers instead of choosing from different options.
You always listen to a monologue and you must fill in the gaps in the notes above. In each gap, you need to write one word, a number, a date or a time.
To make this task easier we can follow a step-by-step process again.
- Check what type of information is missing in the gaps
- Listen and fill in the gaps
You can see above what kind of information is missing. Now, we have to listen and fill in this information. Let’s do question 6 together as an example.
Cambridge A2 Key Listening Part 2 – Example question 6
I hope you were able to find the correct date. In the transcript, we can look for the correct answer.
In the second paragraph, it says, “The camps start on the fifteenth of June so you must be free from then until August the twentieth“.
I’ve highlighted the two dates for you so we can see that the missing word is August.
Here is the complete audio for Part 2. You can listen to the recording twice and try to fill in gaps 7-10. The correct answers will be at the end of this article for you to check.
Cambridge A2 Key Listening Part 2
In Part 3 of the Listening test, you listen to a conversation between two people and you have to answer five multiple-choice questions with three possible answers A, B and C.
The strategy is very similar to Part 1 because we also have to choose between three possible answers.
- Check the questions
- Check the answers
- Listen and choose the correct answer
2. When you read the answers, check how they are different from each other. In the recording, you might not hear the exact same words, but possibly some synonyms so be ready for that.
3. While you are listening, try to find similar words to the ones in the answers, but be careful with distractors.
Cambridge A2 Key Listening Part 3 – Example Question 11
For question 11, the correct answer is B. The question is who has already decided to go to Dublin with Robert and only some of his colleagues have agreed.
In the transcript, Robert says that his cousins are “playing in a tennis competition” so they can’t come to Dublin, but he also says that “there’ll be four of us from my office”, which means that he works with those four people.
As always, we need to be careful with distractors. In the recording, Laura and Robert talk about family members, tennis and colleagues, but only Robert’s colleagues are coming with him.
Below, you can find the other questions and the full recording of Part 3. You can find the correct answers at the end of this article together with the answers to all the other parts.
Cambridge A2 Key Listening Part 3
In Part 4, you listen to five different short recordings. For each recording, you need to answer a question and choose from the options A, B or C.
We looked at the first question as an example earlier in this article when you learned more about distractors and the similarities to Part 3 should be clear. The only difference between the two tasks is that in Part 3, there is just one long recording while in Part 4 you listen to five different conversations or monologues.
Our step-by-step plan looks the same as in Part 3:
- Check the questions
- Check the answers
- Listen and choose the correct answer
2. The possible answers are usually short, but you still need to look at them carefully. Remember, you might hear different words with the same meaning and distractors are everywhere.
3. As always, you can listen to every recording twice so don’t panic if you miss an answer during the first go.
Cambridge A2 Key Listening Part 4
You can listen to the recording above and try to choose the correct answers. The correct answers are at the end of this article.
Part 5 is the last task of A2 Key Listening. In this part, you listen to a longer conversation between two people and you have to match different items with each other.
In our example task, Maria and Simon talk about different people and about the different types of food that each person will bring to their party.
For Part 5, a good step-by-step plan looks like this:
- Read the situation and the question
- Look at the two groups of items on the left and right
- Listen and match the items
- It is important for you to read the situation and the question at the top so you know what the people will talk about and you already get an idea of what kind of vocabulary you might hear.
- You should think about possible words that belong to each word family, for example, apples and pears are different kinds of fruit so the speakers might use these words instead of the word fruit.
- When you match the people on the left to the types of food on the right, be careful because on the left, we have five people, but on the right, there are eight different kinds of fruit so we don’t need to use three of them.
Cambridge A2 Key Listening Part 5 – Example Question 21
In the transcript, we can easily see what Barbara will bring.
Maria says in the last sentence that “Barbara’s going to bring some oranges and grapes”. Because these are different kinds of fruit, answer F is correct for Barbara.
Below is the whole recording. You can listen to Maria and Simon’s conversation and choose the correct answer for the other people as well. Just like with the other parts, you can find the correct answers at the end of this article.
Cambridge A2 Key Listening Part 5
In this article, I showed you everything you need to know about Cambridge A2 Key Listening. We looked at the different tasks, possible difficulties and the best tips and strategies for you to prepare for the exam.
Now it is time for you to practise. Use my recommendations and improve your listening and exam skills so you can do the exam feeling relaxed and confident.
Lots of love,
Teacher Phill 🙂
PS: Here are the correct answers for the five different tasks:
Part 1: 1A, 2C, 3C, 4A, 5A
Part 2: 6-August, 7-19, 8-drive, 9-65, 10-photograph
Part 3: 11B, 12A, 13C, 14B, 15B
Part 4: 16A, 17B, 18C, 19B, 20A
Part 5: 21F, 22C, 23A, 24D, 25H