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Introduction to the TOEFL Listening Section

Madison Oster July 25th, 2018

The TOEFL listening section is the second section of the TOEFL iBT test. It tests your understanding of spoken English and your ability to answer questions about the conversations and lectures you hear. In this guide, we will give you a full introduction to the Listening section on the TOEFL.

About TOEFL Listening Section

The TOEFL listening section contains two conversations and four lectures in a university setting (Some test may include an extra unscored conversation or 2 extra unscored lectures. You will not know which will be unscored, so it is important to do well on all of the conversations and lectures). After each conversation or lecture, there is a set of questions asking about the information that was being presented. You have 20 minutes in which to answer questions. This does not include the time you spend listening to lectures and conversations. Individual questions have no time limit. You can take as long as you want to answer a question, as long as you answer all questions within the time limit. The entire Listening Section will take you about 60-90 minutes to complete.

RECORDING TYPE NUMBER QUESTION TIME
Conversation 2-3 5 2-3 min
Lecture 4-6 6 4-6 min
Total 6-9 34-51 60-90 min

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.

When you begin the Listening section, you will see a computer screen with a photograph of a test-taker wearing headphones. The screen will tell you to put on your headphones.

TOEFL listening - put your headphones

The next screen tells you how to change the volume by clicking on the volume icon on the toolbar.

TOEFL Listening - change volume

Next, you will see a direction screen. After clicking on the "Continue" button, the Listening Section begins immediately. 

TOEFL listening direction

On the TOEFL listening test, once you submit your answer, you CANNOT go back to it like you can on the reading test. Therefore, you cannot skip questions like on the reading test, so you may need to guess an answer if you get stuck. You cannot afford to spend too much time on one question as you may run out of time and potentially miss easy questions, so if you DO get stuck, unfortunately, you HAVE to move on. 

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 B

TOEFL Listening Conversations

TOEFL listening conversations are dialogues between two people. One person is always a student. Another person may be another student, a teaching assistant, a librarian, a university administrator, and so on. These conversations take place on a college campus - in a dormitory, library, cafeteria, classroom building, or a professor's office. They deal with situations related to university life such as solving a problem one of the two people is having. You will first see a picture that shows the two people in the setting and set the scene for you. However, the picture will not help you answer questions. Usually, the conversation lasts about 2-3 minutes and is followed by 5 questions. You will not see questions until the conversation is over. 

TOEFL Listening Conversation Questions From ETS TOEFL

1. Why does the man go to see the registrar?

  1. To find out why he is not on the list of graduating students
  2. To explain why he has not fulfilled his graduation requirements
  3. To find out the exact requirements for graduation
  4. To submit a document required for graduation

2. According to the registrar, what step is currently taken to ensure that students fulfill their graduation requirements?

  1. Academic records are regularly checked by the registrar’s office.
  2. Students meet with a department chairperson to plan their coursework.
  3. Students receive letters listing the courses that they still need to take.
  4. Warning letters are sent to students who have fallen behind in their coursework.

3. Why does the man mention his classmates?

  1. To explain how he obtained information about field research
  2. To point out that many students like to do field research
  3. To show that it is difficult to get intermediate-level credits
  4. To emphasize his motivation to do field research in two of his courses

4. Why does the registrar tell the man to contact his chairperson immediately?

  1. A deadline has already passed.
  2. The man has a limited time to resolve his problem.
  3. The man first needs to find out if the chairperson will help him.
  4. Issuing a new grade may take longer than expected.

5. Listen to this Track.

  1. She is uncertain about the reliability of the computer.
  2. She will approve the man’s form despite her doubts about it.
  3. She needs more information about the man’s credits.
  4. She needs to call someone to help her fix computer errors.
Answer
1. D
2. B
3. D
4. B
5. C

TOEFL Listening Academic Lectures

TOEFL listening lectures take place in a classroom and are usually given by a professor. Lectures may be monologues (one professor) or academic discussions involving one professor and multiple students. They involve a wider variety of subjects: anthropology, biology, botany, business, archaeology, psychology, chemistry, and so on.  Usually, the lecture lasts about 4-6 minutes and is followed by 6 questions. You will not see questions until the lecture is over. 

TOEFL Listening Lecture Questions From ETS TOEFL

1. What is the lecture mainly about?

  1. How animals emit ultrasonic pulses
  2. How bats use acoustical signals
  3. A comparison of echolocation and radar
  4. Variations among bats in the use of ultrasound

2. Why does the professor decide NOT to add more information to the diagram on the board?

  1. She wants students to complete the diagram themselves as an assignment.
  2. She needs to look up some information in order to complete the diagram accurately.
  3. The additional information is not relevant to the topic that she wants to discuss next.
  4. Students already have the additional information in their textbook.

3. According to the professor, what are two ways in which a moth might react when it detects the presence of a bat? Choose 2 answers.

  1. The moth might stop beating its wings.
  2. The moth might emit high-frequency sounds.
  3. The moth might leave the area.
  4. The moth might change its color to match its surroundings.

4. What surprising information did a recent experiment reveal about lesser spear-nosed bats?

  1. They filter out echoes from some types of trees.
  2. They can analyze echoes from stationary objects with complex surfaces.
  3. They cannot analyze “jagged” echoes.
  4. They cannot analyze echoes from certain types of small moving objects.

5. According to the professor, why does a pine tree produce a “smooth” echo?

  1. Because it has a smooth trunk
  2. Because it has large branches spaced at regular intervals
  3. Because it has many small, densely packed needles
  4. Because it remains stationary in all types of weather

6. Listen to this Track.

  1. To answer a question that Carol asked
  2. To correct a statement that Carol made
  3. To praise Carol for an example that she gave
  4. To give an example of a principle that Carol stated
Answer
1. B
2. D
3. A, C
4. B
5. C
6. B

Our TOEFL Listening Practice Questions

Our TOEFL listening practice questions were designed to look and feel identical to the official TOEFL test. We made sure everything was the same including difficulty, formatting, and even how the test functions. 

To access all 120 TOEFL listening practice questions, go to our TOEFL App and click on "TOEFL QUESTIONS" menu.

Please note we offer 4 simulated TOEFL tests with never before seen questions. This means that in addition to our mock listening practices there are an additional 24 waiting for you in the form of a simulated TOEFL test. You just have to go to our TOEFL Practice Test section. 

 
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