A-level listening exam tips

Improve Spanish listening skillsLanguage listening exams can be the most nerve-racking of all for many students. Here are a few tips to help you tackle the listening exam and how to achieve the best mark possible.

Look carefully at the number of marks set for each question as this will tell you how much information you should give: 2 marks means that the examiner will look for 2 details in your answer.

Listen to the passage all the way through to get the general idea of what is being discussed, then listen a second and a third time for the details.

As you go through the listening exam, read each question carefully and listen to short relevant chunks at a time, by pausing the recording to concentrate on the precise details to answer the questions.

Watch out for “True” or “False” questions and don’t mix these up.

With multiple-choice questions make sure you know how many answers you are supposed to choose.

Do not listen to a particular section of the recording more than three times. If you can’t understand it you will probably find it easier next time around.

Don’t panic if you can’t understand a particular word or phrase. Keep listening, you can always come back to it.
Remember there is a lot of extra detail that may not be needed to answer the question.

Beware of false friends; constipado/a, (a cold), embarazada, (pregnant), éxito, (success) pretender, (to claim/try to) realizar, (to carry out) sensible (sensitive).


At the start of the exam make a note of any vocabulary that is related to the topic, particularly the more difficult ones that you struggle to remember. Cross out your rough notes at the end.

If you are struggling to understand a word, write it down as it sounds. Spanish is very phonetic and seeing a word in written form may help you to work out its meaning.

Revise verb forms well so that you can distinguish easily between the endings for present, past, future and subjunctive verb endings. Listen to where the stress falls: for example, “habló” has the stress on the final “-o” which is the preterite tense, “he/she spoke” whereas “hablo” has the stress on the “a” and is the present tense “I speak”. If you also listen to the context it should make sense.

Remember! Attempt all of the questions; no answer means no marks.

For tips on how to tackle the reading section of the exam, read the blog post: Reading exam tips for AS and A2 language students

For tips on how to do well on the writing section, read the blog post: AS / A2 Writing exam tips for language students

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