TOEFL Listening Tips: Essential Vocabulary and Tips to Practice

Here are my top TOEFL Listening Tips to get you started with the Listening section! 
TOEFL Listening Tips
TOEFL Listening Tips: You should practice each one of these tips using the examples provided. 

TOEFL Listening Tips #1 Take notes

Okay. Obvious I know, but taking notes is an essential piece of this TOEFL listening tips article. Why?

Because few students actually think about how to take notes effectively. Taking notes is a crucial skill for you to develop, and something that will take practice just like any other skill! As you practice, you’ll develop patterns and codes which will really help you to keep track of those longer conversations and lectures!

Here are some pointers for taking notes … 

When in a conversation: 

Don’t try to copy the entire conversation! Develop a system of abbreviations, symbols and capital letters to symbolize frequent topics (for example, as the conversations are university related, I often write ‘P’ for ‘paper’, ‘C’ for class’ and ‘Pf’ for ‘professor’ ).

Try organizing your notes into a table. You could try drawing a line down the middle and when the narrator says ‘listen to a conversation between X and Y’ , you can write ‘X’ and ‘Y’ at the top of each side of the table. Then, as the audio progresses, you can keep each speaker’s main points organized.

Note-taking example:
S Pf
Fin P: doubts..
Q: where Ý res? Check lib sec. 220
😊! More time? Ok…by Fri
Sub. Class/office? Office b/f 5pm

(TOEFL listening tips: You might do something similar as long as it works for you!)

Can you understand my notes? Here I have written some full words, the first syllable of longer words (fin= final res= resources, lib=library, sec=section, b/f=before), used singular letters for common words (P=paper, Q=question) and some symbols (happy face= great! , upward arrow= more).

These are just some examples, and to be honest, it doesn’t really matter what abbreviations, symbols, or characters you use as long as you understand!

When listening to lectures: 

Try making a flow chart. You can start with a column for the main ideas, and draw arrows to supporting examples, key facts, or contrasting ideas.

Listen for connecting words, so you can follow the organization of the lecture! You don’t have to write down these words, but when you hear them, you know that important information will follow. These words will act as an auditory clue, so pay attention to what comes next.

Examples of what to listen for:

  • Adding information: In addition, for example, furthermore
  • Explaining a result: Therefore, as a result, consequently
  • Comparing & Contrasting: However, in contrast, on the other hand
  • Giving reasons: Because (of), due to, for this reason, since, thanks to
TOEFL Listening Tips
TOEFL Listening Tips: Listen for auditory clues to gauge the speakers statement.

TOEFL Listening Tips #2 Pay attention to Tone and Stress

As you’ve probably noticed from TOEFL Listening files, there are lots of intonation changes in English. Rarely will a speaker have a flat tone throughout an entire sentence, unless they’re bored that is!

Although the test may be a slightly dramatic at times with all the ups and downs, you’ll notice that native speakers actually do this, and it’s an important part of conveying meaning and attitude.

On the TOEFL Listening section, you’ll hear informal conversations between two people, and you’ll often be asked about the speaker’s attitude. To help you answer the question, pay close attention to the speaker’s tone of voice, and which words he/she chooses to emphasize.

Let’s consider an example:

Boy: “How do you like your new social sciences class?”

Girl: “ It’s really great. The teacher is always absent.”

Question: What is the girl’s attitude towards the class?

There are two possibilities here, depending on how the girl says the sentence. If she lengthens the word ‘really’ and has a flat tone throughout the second phrase, she is probably showing sarcasm, and therefore doesn’t like the class.

On the other hand, if she pronounces ‘really great’ and ‘always’ with a high tone, she is showing excitement and she must like the class as the teacher is never there (less work for her!).

Common intonation patterns to listen for:

–Confusion/Uncertainty: multiple pauses/slow speech/fillers ‘Um..well..I guess I could”

–Excitement: high tone ‘That’s great!

–Surprise: rising tone ‘Are you serious?

–Consistent flat tone: boredom/indifference “That’s great

TOEFL Listening Tips #3: Expand your vocabulary

Because the listening involves “real-life” conversations, you can expect lots of phrasal verbs, idiomatic expressions, and university-related vocabulary. In order to understand the context of the conversations, you should know words like:

Dean= the head of a college or university faculty or department.

Registrar= an official in a college or university who is responsible for keeping student records.

Scholarships= a grant made to support a student’s education, usually given based on academic or other achievement.

Prerequisite= a course that is required to be completed before entering another course.

Student Loan= a sum of money borrowed from the bank to be used for university tuition and payed back once a student graduates.

Tuition= the amount of money paid for instruction at a college or university.

Transcript= an official record of a student’s grades and courses taken.

Deadline/Due Date=The day by which something should be completed or submitted.

In the conversations and lectures, you will often hear phrasal verbs and idiomatic expressions, so you should start learning and practicing them early on.

Some common ones just to get you started may be:

Hand in =submit (an assignment)

Check out =take a book out from the library

Take up (sthng) with (so)= discuss an important issue in detail

Look over= review in detail

Find out= discover

….but there are so many more!  Check out verb lists for TOEFL Phrasal Verbs or on Memrise.com to practice.

Do you want to know what adequate TOEFL preparation time you need? Check out TOEFL Preparation Online.

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Written by Meaghan.  

TOEFL Listening Test | Answering Different Question Types

The TOEFL listening test is tricky, especially if you’re unsure about what to listen for in the audio recording. 

This article from E2Language will explain the components of the TOEFL listening test and provide samples of the types of questions you may encounter on test day! 

There are two components to the TOEFL listening test:

  1. Conversations
  2. Lectures
TOEFL listening test
Don’t overcomplicate your test preparation. Focus on building your listening skills around the conversation and lecture components of the TOEFL listening test!

Conversations

The conversations you will hear take place on a university campus and relate to student issues. These could be conversations between two students about a recent class, an upcoming assignment, or a change in university policy.

Or, you might hear a conversation between a student and a professor related to a student query.

You might also hear a conversation between a student and the registrar regarding administrative issues like changing courses, applying for a student loans, or asking about student accommodation.

Lectures

The lectures are all related to academic topics. But don’t worry. You don’t need to be familiar with the topics of the lectures. Everything you need to answer the questions will be in the audios. The lectures could be about anything from history, art, psychology, sociology or zoology.

All together there are between 6-9 audios (2-3 conversations and 4-6 lectures). Each audio goes for 3-6 minutes. There are 30 questions in total and the listening section goes for between an hour and an hour and a half.

You will hear the audio, take notes, and after the audio finishes, there will be a series of questions related to what you just heard.

To move from one question to the next, you will click a “next” button. There is no going back once you have answered a question and clicked “next”.

Once you have answered all the questions for one audio, you will hear the next one. You will only hear each audio recording once.

Listen Carefully  

toefl listening test
Get into your groove and relax a little, this will help you to concentrate on your task at hand!

You need to listen out for the following:

  • The purpose or main idea: why a conversation takes place, or what a lecture is mainly about
  • Detail: specific points from a conversation or lecture
  • Function: why a speaker says something, rather than what they said
  • Opinion: what the speaker thinks about a topic or idea
  • Inference: what a speaker means by something he or she said
  • Organization: how a lecture is organized
  • Non-standard format: identify correct or incorrect details by checking boxes in a table or chart.

Helpful Hints 

For each audio recording, you will be able to take notes using a pencil and scratch paper provided. You should listen out for what the speakers say, as well as how or why they say it.

Context vs Content Questions

TOEFL listening

Many of the TOEFL listening questions are related to context rather than content. Content questions are related directly to a point mentioned in the conversation or lecture.

For example, you might hear a student talking to a professor about submitting a late assignment. The professor may say “You can submit your assignment by email next Friday before 2pm”.

A content question might ask: What must the student do by 2 o’clock on Friday?

  1. Send an email
  2. Meet the professor
  3. Hand in an assignment
  4. Attend a lecture

The answer to this question would be C. In this case, you will answer using information directly stated in the audio and you will be able to refer to your notes to find this specific point.

However, a context question relates to how or why a speaker says something and what they mean by it in the context of the lecture or conversation.

For example, a student might say: I found the topic quite interesting, but I just wasn’t able to grasp the theory. The professor replies: Well, it would have helped if you actually came to class.

A context question might be: Why does the professor say “it would have helped if you actually came to class?”

  1. To show his irritation with the student
  2. To explain to the student that everything they need to know is covered in class
  3. To prove that the student he is willing to help
  4. To give the student a second chance

The answer to this question would be A. In this case, the answer is not directly stated. Rather, you would need to consider the context of the conversation and how the phrase was said (tone of voice) to determine the answer.

Another content question might be related to how a lecture is organized. In this case, the lecturer will not clearly state this. You will have to refer to your notes to deduce the answer.

For example, if a professor is explaining a historical era, and mentions certain events chronologically, you will write each event and the year it took place in your notes.

If the question asks: How does the professor organize the lecture?

  1. Thematically
  2. Chronologically
  3. From most important to least important event
  4. From least important to most important event

You will be able to look at your notes and see that each event was mentioned by year. So, the answer in this case would be B.

After some practice on the TOEFL listening test you will be able to tell the difference between context and content questions! 

For TOEFL preparation tips and strategies to get you started, check out the E2Language blog post here!

Learn from my experience as an IELTS teacher by checking out my TOEFL Reading Tips here!

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Written by Jamal Abilmona.