TOEFL Listening Section Overview

TOEFL Listening Section Details

You will listen to 4-6 recorded academic lectures (6 questions each) and 2-3 recorded conversations (5 questions each). Then you will answer questions regarding the information you hear. The more correct responses you give, the higher your score will be.

TOEFL Listening Purposes

  • To obtain basic comprehension, such as understanding the main idea, key points, structure, purpose, conclusion, important facts and relevant details
  • To learn from listening, such as understanding various relationships between ideas (e.g., compare-and-contrast, cause-and-effect, agree-disagree, or steps in a process) and tracing the development of ideas or events throughout the recordings. Note any digression during the talk and any side comments.
  • To make inferences about author’s opinion and what is implied in a recording

    TOEFL Listening Section Format

    The listening section requires the test taker to answer questions based on two different types of listening activities: lectures and conversations. There are 4-6 lectures that are between 3 and 5 minutes long each (about 500-800 words). You will have to answer 6 questions per lecture, for a total of 24-36 questions in total. The conversations last about 3 minutes, or 12-25 dialogue exchanges. There are 2-3 conversations in the listening section with 5 questions per conversation, totaling 10-15 questions. This section takes about 60 minutes to complete.

      TOEFL Listening Section Format

      Outline Details
      Length of Lecture: 3–5 minutes long each - about 500–800 words
      Number of Lectures: 4-6 lectures
      Lecture Questions: 6 questions per lecture; 24-36 questions in total
      Length of Conversation: about 3 minutes long - about 12–25 exchanges each
      Number of Conversations: 2-3 conversations
      Conversation Questions: 5 questions per conversation; 10-15 questions in total
      Total Time: 60-90 minutes
      Avg. Time per Question: About 1 min
      When Questions will appear: After listening material is finished playing
      Screen/Test Details: (a) Pictures on the screen can help test takers image the setting and the role of the speakers; (b) Test takers will see and hear each question before seeing the answers; (c) Note taking is allowed. After testing, notes are collected and shredded before the test taker leaves the test center; (d) In some questions a portion of the lecture or conversation is replayed so the test taker does not need to rely on memory of what was said

      TOEFL Listening Screen Details

      • Pictures on the screen can help test takers imagine the setting and the role of the speakers
      • Test takers will see and hear each question before seeing the answers
      • Note taking is allowed. After testing, notes are collected and shredded before the test taker leaves the test center.
      • In some questions a portion of the lecture or conversation is replayed so the test taker does not need to rely on memory of what was said.

        TOEFL Listening Recording Types

        • Lectures – Note that one lecture per test is spoken with a British or Australian accent.
        • A monologue by a professor
        • An interactive lecture with one or two students asking
        • Conversations in an academic setting. Examples include:
        • During an office hour between a student and a professor or teaching assistant
        • Between a student and a registrar, housing director, residence assistant, librarian, bookstore employee, departmental secretary, etc.)

          TOEFL Listening Question Types by Format

          • Questions with four choices and a single answer in traditional multiple-choice format
          • Questions with four or more choices and one or more answers
          • “Listening to learn” chart questions
          • Require test takers to order events or steps in a process
          • Require test takers to match objects or text to categories in a chart

            TOEFL Listening Question Types by Content

            • Attitude/Purpose: These questions types are not always easy to answer, as they are not details found specifically in the lecture or conversation. The purpose of a lecture or conversation is its primary function, whereas the attitude of a speaker is his/her feelings, thoughts and emotions. Remember – tone of voice is key to finding the attitude of a speaker.
            • Inferences: Similar to the reading section, the listening has quite a few inference questions, which require you to come to a conclusion about a statement not directly stated. Inference questions require a sharp eye for interpretation, often involving the words “infer” or “imply.”
            • Predictions: Prediction questions aren’t quite as common as inference questions, but they require you to determine what will more than likely happen in the future, based on what a speaker says or doesn’t say.
            • Categorizing: Also like the reading, the listening has several categorizing question, which often come at the end of a series of questions. These types of questions often take longer to determine and requires a test-taker to filter through his/her notes. Pay close attention to any categories, types or divisions when taking notes on the TOEFL listening section.
            • Summarizing: When you encounter a summarizing question, you are asked to put a series of actions in order. This occurs through the “drag and drop” process on the computer, so it enables you to see the sentences in order right in front of your very eyes.
            • Main Idea questions: When identifying the topic or main idea of a lecture of conversation, questions along the lines of: What is the subject of the conversation/lecture? What is the topic of the discussion/academic talk? Keep in mind these are general questions needing general answers.
            • Key facts questions: These questions are asking for particular pieces of information, as stated by the speakers. Note-taking is essential for these types of questions, as well as a good memory!

            • Paraphrase questions: Paraphrasing means saying the same thing in similar words. On the TOEFL, paraphrase questions will ask you to choose a sentence that is most like a specific highlighted sentence within the passage.

              • Variations: Definition questions, which ask you to recall the sound bites which define a word or phrase

            • Chart questions: order events or steps in a process or match objects or text to categories in a chart.

            Above all – the most important skill you can do on the TOEFL listening section is to take notes. In the meantime, familiarize yourself with these listening questions so you can answer them with ease on test day. As with the reading section, when you are able to identify a listening question type, it very well might help you move through the section faster.

             
            add chat to your website