Are you preparing for the Cambridge C2 Proficiency (CPE) exam? Would you like to know some tips to help you feel more at ease? If so, make yourself at home!

When you’ve finished reading this blog, you’ll understand the structure of the Cambridge C2 Proficiency Listening test, how you should approach each part and what you can do to prepare well. Let’s go!


What are the different parts of the C2 Proficiency listening test?


The C2 Proficiency listening test is divided into four parts. Each one tests your ability to listen (of course!) But, what you’re listening for and how you can improve that specific listening skill, varies from part to part. Your ability to select keywords, anticipate answers and identify distracting information will be vital too.


CPE Listening Part 1

Part 1 consists of three extracts, each approximately one minute long, with two multiple-choice questions for each extract, which are usually monologues or interviews. Make sure you read the options very carefully, as there’ll be distracting information to throw you off the scent. Here we have marked keywords to focus on in one of the questions and options.

CPE Listening part 1 | Guide to the Cambridge C2 Proficiency Listening Test  | Oxford House Barcelona

Once you’ve done this, be prepared to hear them used in a combination of ways. Be sure that your answer matches the correct option completely. Let’s look at the information which gives the answer, as well as the distractors.

CPE Listening part 1B | Guide to the Cambridge C2 Proficiency Listening Test  | Oxford House Barcelona

First, the speaker says ‘not just to promote’, so we know that tourism is not the main objective. Next, we also learn that although the bottles are being recycled, it’s not to help the environment in the usual way. ‘Primarily’ indicates the main objective, so we know the answer must be C!

Be aware that in Part 1, you won’t know the order you’ll hear the answers in. So, when you listen to each extract for the first time, try and answer both questions. Then, use the second time to help you consolidate your choice.


CPE Listening Part 2

Part 2 is a monologue about one subject. A speaker will talk for about four minutes and you must complete nine gaps with a word or short phrase. Before the speaker starts talking, you’ll have forty five seconds to read the sentences.

CPE Listening part 2 | Guide to the Cambridge C2 Proficiency Listening Test  | Oxford House Barcelona

The content of each monologue can vary wildly, so give yourself an advantage by using the reading time wisely. Even if the topic is completely new and unknown to you, you can always use the surrounding information to make an educated guess.

For example, in question 8 we can see Mastic resin will _______ only in the region around the Mediterranean. With your grammar knowledge telling you that will is followed by a verb, and the context telling you it’s something connected to food production, you’re on your way to finding the answer!


CPE Listening Part 3

In Part 3 you’ll hear a conversation between two people about a specific topic. There are five questions and you’ll have a choice of four answers for each one. The conversation will last approximately four minutes and you’ll have one minute to read the questions and options.

CPE Listening part 3 | Guide to the Cambridge C2 Proficiency Listening Test  | Oxford House Barcelona

Part 3 tests your ability to pick out information, put it into different words and match it to an answer. Don’t expect to hear the same words that you see in the options. Be sure to anticipate synonyms and paraphrasing.

Try to choose one option the first time you listen, and then use the second time to confirm. Even if you have heard something that has suggested one option, make sure to identify why the others are incorrect.


CPE Listening Part 4

Part 4 consists of two tasks. You’ll hear five speakers talking in turn about the same subject, for about thirty seconds each. Part 4 is separated into two tasks, and although you’ll listen to the complete recording twice, there are two things you need to find for each speaker.

CPE Listening part 4 | Guide to the Cambridge C2 Proficiency Listening Test  | Oxford House Barcelona

A typical format in Part 4 is why the person did the activity, and what the outcome of the activity was. Pay attention to the intonation and speed. Short phrases like “However, it didn’t end up that way” can show that the speaker is displaying a mixture of emotions.

There are two alternative strategies that we recommend. Try them both several times, then choose the one that works best for you.

1. Try to complete both tasks the first time you listen, and use the second time to confirm your answers.

2. Use the first time you listen to focus fully on Task 1. Then use the second time to concentrate on Task 2.

Regardless of which strategy works best for you, make sure that you use the forty five seconds of preparation time to familiarise yourself fully with all of the options. For each task there are three options that are not used.


How should I prepare for the C2 Proficiency listening test?


You should aim to squeeze in as much authentic listening practice as possible. Vary your independent listening practice and listen to as many formats as you can.


  • Interviews
  • Discussions
  • Conversations
  • Speeches
  • Documentaries
  • Instructions

Also, you’ll hear a wide range of accents and dialects, speakers from different age groups, and in different situations and moods. Listen to all manner of styles and topics and give yourself a reason to listen. Here are some areas to focus on:


  • Listen for ‘Who? What? Where? When? Why?’
  • Take notes of key information.
  • Listen for one minute. Then pause and write down what you’ve heard in your own words.
  • Read the synopsis of the listening material and make a list of vocabulary you expect to hear.

Here are some excellent resources for you to practise listening at home:

The BBC Radio 4 Listening Project

BBC Sounds – The Art of Travel

BBC Podcasts

However, don’t forget to practise as much as possible with real exam material. Get started by bookmarking this full Cambridge C2 test.


More helpful C2 Proficiency resources


Details of C2 Proficiency exam

Guide to the Cambridge C2 Proficiency Speaking Test

C2 Proficiency Part 3 reading and use of English (word formation)

C2 Proficiency Part 5 reading and use of English (multiple choice)

C2 Proficiency Part 6 reading and use of English (gapped text)


Looking for further support?


If you’re interested in preparing for the C2 Proficiency exam but don’t know where to start, get in touch with us here at Oxford House today! We offer specific courses that are designed especially to help you get ready for the exam. Let our fully qualified teachers use their exam experience to guide you through your learning journey. Sign up now and receive your free mock test!

Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

at ease (p): relaxed.

throw you off the scent (id): give false information in order to intentionally trick someone.

an educated guess (n): a guess that is made using judgement and knowledge.

squeeze in (pv): manage to do even though you are busy.

all manner of (id): different types of.

bookmark (v): make a record of a website on your computer.


p = phrase

id = idiom

n = noun

pv = phrasal verb

v = verb

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