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Introduction to the TOEFL® listening section

Introduction to the TOEFL® listening section

The listening section of the iBT TOEFL® test aims to measure one’s ability to listen to, hear and understand spoken in English. For academic purposes one has to listen to lectures and conversations. The Academic listening will usually be done for either one of the following three purposes:

  • Listening for basic comprehension: comprehension of the main idea, key points and the most important details related to the main idea.

  • Listening for pragmatic understanding: here, one listens to be able to recognize a speaker’s attitude and level of certainty as well as appreciating a speaker’s purpose or function.

  • Connecting and synthesizing information: the test-taker has to recognize the information presented and understand the relationship between ideas such as comparing and contrasting, cause and effect or just the steps in a given process.

Under this category is making inferences and drawing conclusions on the basis of what is implied in the material one is listening to. Making connections among pieces of information presented, noticing changes in topics in a lecture or conversation as well as recognizing introductions and conclusions in a lecture also fall under this bracket.


Description: Listening section

During the test, listening material include very natural sounding academic lectures and conversations. Taking of notes on any of the listening material all through the entire test is accepted.  Typically, most of the questions following the lectures and conversations are multiple choice questions with four choices and a single correct answer. There could, however, be other question formats: multiple choices with more than one correct answer, those requiring that one puts the steps in a process or those requiring one to match objects or text to categories in a given table.

The test consists of four to six sections each lasting anywhere between three to five minutes. These are then followed by six questions per lecture. The test may also include two or three conversations each about three minutes in length. The whole exam takes sixty to ninety minutes (an hour to one and a half hours). Granted, one must be sufficiently ready for the exam, a status only achievable by having as much practice as possible. That is the point at which instructors come in. Utilizing material from BestMyTest should afford you the confidence and skill only attainable by having enough practice.  These simulated tests are set up exactly like the actual tests and the test taker can get a feel of how appropriate their timing.




4 integrated and 2 independent tasks

20 Minutes



Academic Lectures

The lectures in the test reflect the sort of listening and speaking that occurs in the classroom, complete with comments and question by students. Other lectures including engaging sessions between a lecturer and students with questions and answers passing between them. Accompanying photos will indicate whether one or more people are speaking.

Conversation in an academic setting

Conversations in the TOEFL iBT test may be set in an office involving a professor or a teaching assistant. The restriction here is the conversation has to remain academic in nature. It might also be over a service encounter. This type has a bit more freedom on what it may cover.

This is very much a skill test and practice has been proven to make perfect in life. One may perfect their listening skills by listening to English speakers and reading varied academic material. You may also get skills from the media such as radio and movies. As always there is the option of signing up for our course and getting the best practice and self-assessment material.