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Auf Spurensuche wie Sherlock Holmes in Advanced Listening Teil 1

Auf Spurensuche wie Sherlock Holmes in Advanced Listening Teil 1


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Have you ever read any of the books or watched any of the films/series about Sherlock Holmes? If not, there are apparently over 30K adaptations of the books, so you’ve got a pretty good choice if you want to get into it! Even if you aren’t a fan, I’m sure you still know who he is: the world’s most famous fictional detective, famed for his superpowers in observation, deduction, and logical reasoning. Deduction and logical reasoning – two essential skills for doing well in the Listening test. This blog is all about how you can channel your inner Sherlock when doing Listening Part 1.

1. Listening for clues


Whether he’s investigating the legend of a supernatural hound, solving a murder mystery, or tracking down a criminal mastermind, Sherlock Holmes is always on a hunt for clues. Those can be fingerprints, footprints, handwriting, ciphers or even the position of a chair or a cup of tea in a room. He considered every clue he found, no matter how small, to be important.

In the listening, it’s the same story, but in this instance, you’re looking for language clues, such as words with similar meaning or phrases that express a particular emotion. The speakers won’t use the exact same words as the ones in the options (A – C). You need to try to understand what they’re saying and deduce their meaning. In other words, you need to reach an answer by thinking carefully about the known facts, just like Sherlock would.

Listen and answer the question:

The man seems to think that Pam is

A. organised

B. inconsiderate

C. neurotic

How can we deduce his attitude to this friend? What does he say? He says, “Does she really need to check everything three times before she leaves?”. He’s clearly annoyed by her behaviour and seems to think her anxiety is strange or unnecessary. In other words, that she’s neurotic (C).

Listen again and answer the question:

What does the woman think?

A. They should have a coffee while they wait for Pam.

B. They should prioritise their tasks for the afternoon.

C. They probably won’t have time to go to the cinema.

Which phrase/sentence tell us about the woman’s opinion? She says, “I suggest we get the ‘must dos’ over and done with first”. In other words, that they should prioritise (B).

2. Having an open mind

Whenever Sherlock started a case, he approached it with a blank mind. In other words, he had absolutely no theories about it. He didn’t think of anyone as innocent or guilty and never came to any conclusions without having all the information and facts first. This, however, is often not the case. For example, whenever a wife is murdered, the first suspect is always the husband. Police often assume he’s guilty and ignore other potential suspects. In detective work, assumptions can easily lead you to the wrong person, and in the listening test, they can lead you to the wrong answer.

Have a look at this question:

The Costa de la Cruz

A is being spoiled by developers.

B is the cheapest area of Spain in which you can buy a holiday home.

C is close to Portugal.

I read ‘Costa de la Cruz’ and my first thought is that it’s probably an area on the cost of Spain that’s being ruined by tourists and resorts. So, my first instinct, even without listening, would be A. That’s risky though, as I’d now listen for clues in the recording to support my answer, rather than listening with an open mind. Listen and try to find out if my assumption is right or not.

Turns out, I’m wrong. The answer is B. This goes to show that you shouldn’t let your personal opinions, or general bias affect your answer. Listen to what is in the recording and base your answer on that alone.

Let’s have a look at another example. It’s a mystery about what caused a disturbance at night. Listen to the recording. Can you crack the case?

What probably caused the disturbance?

A a cat

B a criminal

C a wild animal

That’s right, it was a wild animal (C). They thought it might have been prowlers (or criminals) but the evidence pointed to an animal in search of something to eat. He says: „It was obvious what it was as there was litter everywhere where it had been looking for food.”

3. Understanding attitudes and opinions

Being a world-class detective involves reading people, as well as situations. In fact, Sherlock was obsessed with understanding people. He’d sometimes actually visit a public place and simply sit and listen to the conversations around him. The more you listen, the more you learn about a person, and the more clues you can pick up. So, listening for clues to understand people better is an important strategy for solving crimes, just like it is for doing Listening Part 1.

Listen again and answer the question:

Alexandra thinks

A that she should probably follow George’s lead.

B George’s actions are a little drastic.

C George should do something more enjoyable.

What is Alexandra’s opinion of George’s life changes? How do you know that?

She says, “What you are doing is rather extreme.” This word tells us that she doesn’t fully agree with his actions and that she thinks they are a bit drastic (B).

Listen again and answer the question:

George is running in the marathon

A only because his doctor told him to.

B for the feeling of achievement.

C in order to lose weight.

What is George’s attitude to running? How do you know that?

He says, “[after running a marathon] I can only assume the feeling of accomplishment will be stronger.” The word ‘accomplishment’ is a synonym of ‘achievement’ so that’s a pretty big clue in helping us to infer what his main motivation is (B).

4. Spotting distractors

It’s a well-known fact that criminals try to mislead the police. For instance, they might plant false evidence or stage a crime scene to make the detectives think one thing, when the reality is something completely different. While that could trick amateur detectives, a super sleuth like Sherlock would not be so easily fooled. He could easily spot these ‘distractors’ and in your Listening test, you should too.

Cambridge Listening tasks are full of ‘distractors or incorrect options in a multiple-choice question which are designed to distract or mislead you. The better you get at identifying them, the better you’ll do in the test.

Listen to the recording. Can you find the right answer as well as the distractor?

Why did David’s career plans change?

A He didn’t get into graduate school.

B He realised he disliked research.

C He enjoys his current lifestyle.


The distractor is B. He says, “If I were a researcher, I’d be working strange, long hours and I wouldn’t have time for hobbies and friends.” So, he does refer to the downsides of being a researcher, but he never says he disliked research. The correct answer, in fact, is C.

Listen to the recording. Can you find the right answer as well as the TWO distractors?

What was Joan’s main complaint?

A She didn’t hear enough of the featured artist.

B The other fans were screaming too loud.

C The weather was miserable.

The distractors are B and C. Jane says, “No, it’s not that [the rain] at all. Besides it was light and it didn’t last long” so the answer can’t be C. Later in the listening, she did complain about “bunch of crazy fans screaming the lyrics” but it wasn’t her MAIN complaint. So, the correct answer then is A.

5. Thinking like a forensic scientist

Finally, Holmes is known for his proficiency with forensic science, which he uses when investigating cases. So, what better way to wrap up the post and test your skills, than an extract about forensic technology?


Listen to the recording and answer the questions. Also, listen out for distractors.

The woman believes that forensic technology

A has reached its peak.

B has a long way to go before it can be really useful.

C has the potential to produce evidence that we can’t yet find.


The man worries that

A a false conviction is still possible.

B many police officers aren’t trained well enough to use DNA as evidence.

C criminals can get access to personal information on police computers.


And now, it’s over to you.

What do you think about our Sherlock method?! Write your opinions in the comment section below 🙂

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