Choosing the Right Passage

The passages are all graded on the Common European Framework of Reference, the CEFR. There are six levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2. The learners should choose the difficulty level that suits their ability.

The important thing is to enjoy listening.

Learners shouldn’t worry if they don’t understand everything, as long as they understand most of it. It is often useful to listen to passages that are a little easy.

There are Two Ways to Choose a Passage

Choose Anything that Looks Interesting

Explore the site, and find something interesting. The listening page has details about the passage: the topic, the CEFR level, how long it is, how fast it is, what sort of accent the speaker has.

After choosing a passage, then just listen and enjoy. If learners understand most of it, or if they enjoy listening to it, then the level is right. If not, they should choose another.

Use the Self Assessment Grid

Read the table, and choose the appropriate level.

  • C2 = I essentially understand everything that typical educated native speakers understand, including fast colloquial speech, in almost any accent, in any register, on an extensive range of topics.
  • C1 = I may have occasional difficulty understanding some fast-paced informal interactions between native speakers.
  • B2 = I can understand most normal spontaneous speech, but I may have some difficulty when it is very fast or very colloquial.
  • B1 = I can understand much informal speech, but fast idiomatic or colloquial speech is often challenging. I often need speakers to speak a little more slowly and carefully on extended topics.
  • A2 = I can understand normal speech if the topic is familiar, the language simple and the delivery slow and clear. Most extended informal speech is beyond my comprehension.
  • A1 = I can recognize familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.

Once learners have a good idea of their level, they should explore the site, and choose a passage at the appropriate level.


Is the Difficulty Level Right?   

How do learners know a passage is at the right difficulty level? The best way is just to go with their own feelings.

  • if they enjoy listening to it, then it is the right level
  • if they feel comfortable listening to it, then it is the right level
  • if you think they understood most of it, then it is the right level
  • if you think they got the speaker’s point, then it is the right level

If they don’t feel they understood it, then they should try another passage.

  • try one a little bit shorter
  • try one a bit slower
  • try one on a familiar topic

Learners should feel free to go back and choose passages from a different level. They should not be frightened of listening at an easier level. Most of the passages are interesting, and even C1 and C2 listeners can still enjoy B1 and B2 passages. The more they listen, the better their English will become.

Easy is Good

It is good practice to listen to passages one level below their own ability level.

Listen to lots of easy passages.


When They Don’t Understand

Learners won’t understand everything they heard. Natural English is quite fast. And speakers will use some English they don’t know. When they don’t understand, they should just try to guess, relax and keep listening.

If they still find it difficult:

If a passage is too fast, then they should listen to it a second time. Or just listen to the difficult part again. They can use the audio player to listen again, and repeat the parts that are difficult.

  • They can read the transcript. This often helps them. In many cases they will know the language, but just not understand it when they hear it. If there is a word they don’t know, they can find it in the transcript and look in the dictionary. The transcripts may seem a little strange at first. We have provided a full explanation of our transcription system.
  • Each passage has a number of comprehension questions at the end. Learners can take this as a test, but they can also use this to help them understand. They can read the questions, look at the answers, then listen to the passage again. This will help them to understand it better.

Remember, it is not important to understand everything.

Be an Active Listener!