TOEFL® listening Practice
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TOEFL® listening Practice 1 / 1
TOEFL® listening Practice 1 / 1
TOEFL® listening Practice 1 / 1
TOEFL® listening Practice 1 / 1
TOEFL® Listening Detail Question Type - How to Answer Correctly
The detail question is often asked in an academic talk. The question asks why a minor detail is mentioned in the talk. This detail is often an example provided in the lecture. This question is not easy because sometimes the details can be too minor and you didn’t pay attention to it when listening to the lecture. The sad news is there is no real way around this question if you did not catch the details while listening. So take notes! Take as much notes as you can!
However, even though there is no safe way to fully get around this question if you did not catch the detail, there are still some tips you can use to make the best educational for a correct answer.
Let’s look at an example.
Class, today we’ll be looking at environmental adaption, and animals that do well in how they’ve adapted. We’ll be focusing in on a species of fish, called the Notothenioids. A bit of a mouthful, I know.
Scientists have documented over 90 species of Notothenioids, in both deep and shallow waters. If you’re getting creeped out by the powerpoint slide, don’t worry, they really only live around Antarctica. Coldwater fish. Even if they did live around here, most of them are pretty small. However, a few species can weigh up to 150 kilograms.
These fish can be identified by their huge eyes, insulated with a layer of thick transparent protective tissue. This kind of tissue protects the fluid in their eyeballs from freezing in the incredibly cold saltwater. Remember, saltwater has a lower freezing point than freshwater, so moisture in an animal’s tissue would be particularly vulnerable to freezing and causing cell death.
So while the cold ocean of Antarctica could freeze and kill most fish, the Notothenoids end up thriving in these icy waters. They actually make up nearly 95% of all fish species in the southern ocean around that cold continent.
That kind of thing is a stark contrast to tropical oceans, where the biodiversity is extremely high. When you think of a tropical reef, for instance, you probably imagine a plethora of different types of fish and sea creatures living together and preying on each other. The average coral reef supports over four thousand types of fish, sponges, crustaceans, and others. To have one species of fish in an entire section of ocean? Pretty impressive.
How, er, when did the Notothenioids end up taking over the southern ocean?
I'm glad you asked. That was actually my next point of interest. So, about thirty million years ago, the water in that area was a lot warmer than it is today. Way back then, South America and Antarctica were actually connected. The air from around the equator could travel south to heat up the chilly Antarctic waters. The warm tropical waters could also flow southwards, bringing the rich biodiversity along with it.
Because Antarctica’s waters were relatively warm back then, it could support a lot of different types of animals. We confirmed this by looking at the fossil record, even finding out that 90 or so of the Notothenoids even existed back then.
Historians think that somewhere between five and fourteen million years ago, two huge changes occurred. First of all, a chance mutation allowed the Notothenioids to develop a special protein that now flows through their body. A type of anti-freeze, this protein works by bonding to an ice crystal that formed inside their flesh, preventing it from growing any larger.
At the time, the waters they swam in were still decently warm, and the protein didn’t do much for their overall survival rates. Still, somewhere around this time period, there are records of a collosal shift that moved around the Earth’s tectonic plates.
Continental drift, as it is now known as, pushed Antarctica away from South America and down toward the chilly southern end of the earth. This caused a current to swirl up and form, encircling the cooling continent with a rush of cold water that prevented warmer tides from intermingling. It eventually dropped to the sub-zero icy landscape we know today
As you may have guessed, the tropical fish didn’t do so well in the sudden drop of environmental temperatures, and many species went extinct. Luckily for the Notothenioids, they had a handy dandy gene mutation that let them produce this antifreeze protein. Now the only type of fish that could survive the cold waters, it had virtually no competition for food or resources and went wild.
They migrated to different habitats, split off into sub species, mutated a bit more, had a bit of geologic morphology going on, very cool stuff. We call this kind of physical differentiation a process of Adaptive Radiation. It really only happens when a species rapidly changes, and ends up with quite a few new species to fill empty niches that either didn’t exist before, or weren’t available.
So now we have about 90 species of Notothenioids, kicking it in the southern ocean.
Why does the professor mention that coral reefs support more than 4,000 species of fish?
- To find out what students know about tropical fish
- To contrast two types of ocean environments
- To imply that there may be species in the Southern Ocean that have not been discovered yet
- To imply that there may be fossil evidence of coral reefs in the Southern Ocean.
Step 1: Look into your note
The first step to solving this question is looking into your notes. If you happen to take note of the details earlier, read through your note about that section. Then read all the option choices carefully. While reading each choice, try to make sense of the choices, dig from both your notes and your memory for a connection between the prompt detail and the choice.
Step 2: Eliminate wrong choices
Eliminate choices that you know are wrong. There is very little time to answer listening questions, and there is also no way for you to re-check your answer since you cannot listen to the lecture again. From what you understand, the choice is wrong. Go with your gut. Sometimes, the test makers try to trick you with answers that contain keywords that are mentioned in the prompt detail. Having matching keywords does not make the answer choice correct. Do not be tricked away by the matching words. Consider the choices carefully like you would normally do with other options.
(A) is an example of tricky choices with matching word ‘fish’ to the prompt detail. If you understand the general theme of the lecture, you can eliminate (A). Since the professor mainly talks about cold water fish, tropical fish is not a concerned topic for this lecture. (C) is incorrect. Even though the professor does mention the high population of Notothenioid in the Southern Ocean, he never goes further and makes any implication about undiscovered species. (D) is a wrong answer that is hard to catch. The professor mentions coral reef as a small example of a type of different environment compared to the Southern Ocean. It is also a small detail in the lecture that you may miss. However, this answer is wrong because the lecture does not imply or state anything about the existence of coral reefs in the Southern Ocean.
Step 3: Educational guess
This final step is for when you did not catch the detail while listening to the lecture earlier or you are not sure what the final answer is. Use common sense and background knowledge from other questions to base your guess on. If you did not take notes on the exact details earlier, you can try to make the connections between other sections of the lecture in your notes to find a place where this detail can fit most. It is still a guessing game but it’s your best chance to get this question right.
TOEFL® Listening Inference Question Type - How to Answer Correctly
Inference questions are very similar to Function questions. This type of question requires you to look further than the surface and literal meaning of the speech, ideas or sentences to find the correct answer. The question sometimes will let you listen again to a small section of the speech and asks you why the speaker says what he says. You see, the purpose of this question is very similar to the function type questions. Then, what make Function questions and Inference questions different from each other?
Inference questions are different from Function questions in:
(1) Function questions are often asked in a conversation type questions, while inference questions are asked in lectures.
(2) Function questions are more likely to ask about slangs, idioms or expressions that the speaker uses in the speech. For example: "Well, you know...", "I feel like...", "Sit tight",etc... Inference questions can ask about the expressions sometimes, but even then, inference questions will still focus more on the inference of information than the way the speaker presents it.
(3) Function questions often ask "Why does the speaker say....?", while Inference questions ask "What does the professor imply?" Or "what is the implication of?"
Let's look at an example for Inference question.
Today I’d like to talk about an interesting phenomenon on Earth called ocean mixing. Ocean mixing happens when the upper layer of the ocean mixes with the lower layer of the ocean because of the movements of the ocean currents.
In the previous lecture, we learned that winds can vary considerably from week to week, but over longer periods the wind will usually blow more often from one direction than from any other. We also learned that a wind that consistently blows more from one direction is known as a prevailing wind. As the winds sweep across the ocean surface, they drive the ocean surface currents. Over periods of months to years, they set up a global circulation of surface currents, which reflects the patterns of the prevailing winds.
Now the question is how does this mixing occur? You see when the wind blows across the ocean surface, it pushes the water away. The water then rises up from beneath the surface to replace the water that was pushed away. This process is known as “upwelling”. It usually occurs in the open ocean and along coastlines. Now remember cold water has a higher density than warm water. And water gets colder with depth because cold, salty ocean water sinks to the bottom of the ocean basins. Therefore, water that rises to the surface as a result of upwelling is typically colder and is rich in nutrients. These nutrients fertilize surface waters, meaning that these surface waters often have high biological productivity. That’s why good fishing grounds typically are found where upwelling is common. A similar mixing process driven by the tides also occurs when the ocean current moves up and down.
Over the past century, scientists have attributed the driving forces of ocean mixing to the wind and the tides. Both create ocean currents which contribute to the mixing in the ocean, but according to new research, there might be another crucial force in ocean circulation that scientists haven’t accounted for. That is the billions upon billions of small marine animals that live in its depths.
Throngs of tiny organisms called zooplankton inhabit the ocean—everything from microscopic protozoans to krill to jellyfish. Many of these animals live deep underwater during the day to avoid predators and migrate to the surface to feed at night. The new research suggests that the zooplanktons’ daily collective movements may have a profound influence on ocean dynamics by mixing up its waters.
To mimic the zooplanktons’ migration in the ocean, a group of researchers devised an automated laser robot that had the capability of moving blue light through a water tank filled with thousands of brine shrimp. The shrimp known as sea monkeys followed the laser light as it swept from the bottom of the tank to the top. And interestingly, as they swam, they kicked back water behind them.
Individually, a sea monkey’s kick doesn’t move much water, but as the researchers discovered, their collective migration created large eddies. The researchers suspect that when an untold number of zooplankton migrate up and down the ocean every day, they may have a substantial effect on the circulation of the ocean. Many oceanographers are skeptical of this theory, particularly since the zooplanktons’ migration is much harder to measure in the real world than it is to measure such regimented things like the wind and tides. In my opinion, the ocean is much bigger than the tank in the lab so it has billions and billions of them opposed to the tank with only a few thousand of these organisms.
What does the professor imply about the experience of mimicking the migration of the zooplankton?
- The tides of a large body of water like an ocean certainly impact the migration of the zooplankton
- It was difficult to see any movement created by the organisms in the tank, and therefore it is assumed that there would be little movement created in an ocean by similar organisms
- If eddies formed in a small tank with a much smaller number of organisms, then it is highly likely that the same would be true in an ocean with billions of organisms.
- There is not much validity about the experiment conducted in the lab so the results are flawed.
Step 1: Pay attention to the replay
With inference questions, sometimes there is a replay, sometimes there is not. If there is, pay attention to the replay carefully. That is your chance, your precious chance to be reminded about the context of what the question asks about. Since the inference question does not ask directly what the speaker says, but what is implied by the speech. So the “surrounding” context of what the speaker says can be even more important than the speaker’s exact quote. So the replay can give you the context you are looking for the answer the question or at least remind you of the context in the original long listening you have listened to earlier.
Step 2: Check your notes
If you are not so lucky and there is no replay in the question, you will have to rely solely on your notes. Even if you are lucky and there is replay in the question, still, you have to look into your notes. Again, this is a question asking you to look further and deeper than what is said by the speaker on the surface so everything said around the detail the question mentions is worth considering. For example, the question mentions the details of the mimicking of the migration of zooplankton. In the speech, the speaker says “To mimic the zooplanktons’ migration in the ocean.” It does directly mentions the information within the question but that sentence won’t help you solve the question at all. The important information to answer the questions is all the information “around” that sentence. And if you have taken good notes while listening earlier, this is the time to look for all the information related to the information asked in the question.
Step 3: Grasping the main idea
To be honest, this question type is not easy, since you do not only need to catch the information that the question asks while listening to the speech earlier but also needs to understand the general idea of the whole speech. Why is that? The inference that the question asks will not be clearly stated anywhere within the speech. However, you can be sure that the correct answer for the question will not be one that goes against the main idea of the whole speech. So if you read through the answer choices, regardless of what the question asks exactly, if there is an answer choice that goes against the main idea of the speech, you can cross that out. In this example, the obviously-wrong-answer are B and D. The whole speech focuses much on explaining how the migration of zooplankton or the mimicking of them creating a big eddies and kick back much water. So option B saying that the movement is difficult to see and D saying that the experiment is flawed are going against the whole general idea of the speech. That makes B and D options wrong.
Step 4: Keywords
There is a rule about the keywords for this question. Keep in mind that this rule is not always right. It is more like a suggestion that you can rely on sometimes. Sometimes, the keywords in the speech and the question will not be in the correct answer. The reason for that is because this is the inference type question so the answer might not be something so obvious on the surface. So the keywords that constantly appears in the speech may not be your go-to. The keyword that appears quite often in the speech and again in the question is “migration.” There is one answer option that has the keyword “migration.” It’s option A. That does not automatically make A becomes wrong. However, you can start having a suspicion with option A. In cases that you have no idea what the answer for a question is, having this tip in your pocket can give you a little faith in guessing.
Step 5: Connection
The question asks you to look further than the surface but it won’t ask you to shoot a million miles to look for the answer. The connection from the direct information in the question to the correct answer should be close, which means the information that relates directly to the correct answer is not mentioned anywhere too far from the details asked by the question in the speech. The two options left are A and C. And compared the two, C is closer in idea to the details the question asks, which is the mimicking of the migration of zooplankton. A is not only further in idea but also very general and does not tie closely to the information asks by the question. C is the correct answer for this questioni.
Extra step: Just understand
All the previous 5 steps are tips and tricks. If you truly understand the question, the general idea of the speech and the answer choices, you can know the correct answer. The inference questions can be tricky but they are no where near impossible. They are logical questions that require understanding of the bigger picture of the speech. If you can logically understand and figure out the right answer for this question, use the stated tips for some extra push and then just go with the answer you think is correct.
TOEFL® Listening Organization Question Type - How to Answer Correctly
This listening question often asks for the very general organization of the whole lecture, about how details and information are organized in the talk or lecture. The most typical question is ‘how is the lecture/talk organized?’ In order to answer this question correctly, you do not only need to understand the organization of the lecture, but you also need to know the main theme and purpose of the talk or lecture. Let’s look at a typical example of this type.
Morning class! Today we are going to take a look at blue jeans. Blue jeans, first invented by Strauss and Jacob Davis in 1873, came into prominence amongst teenagers in the 1950s. Since then, blue jeans have become a constant in almost every wardrobe around the world. Blue jeans are famous probably because of their faded and worn look. But have you ever wondered how blue jeans get this special “look”?
In approximately the 1950s, a textile manufacturing technique was invented to gives jeans this faded look. Known as stone-washing, this technique involved washing the jeans with rough pumice stones in a rotating drum. Blue jeans were originally made of denim, a sturdy cotton textile. The rough pumice stones could scrape a layer off the denim, thus producing a faded- worn appearance. Because this look was so effective, the stone-washing technique was immensely popular. However, the expanding cost of importing pumice stone from abroad led to extensive mining of pumice deposits in the United States. This triggered a negative response from American ecologist groups. In addition, stone washing is detrimental to the fabric, consequently reducing the lifespan of the blue jeans themselves.
Then in the 1980s, a different technique called acid-washing was introduced. Like stone-washing, acid-washing used pumice stones, but chlorine was added in the process. With chlorine, the denim is bleached white. The end result of acid-washing is still faded jeans, however, the acid-washed jeans have white streaks or spots where the dye faded.
Both stone-washed and acid-washed jeans were popular in the 1980s. Today, as a result of advancing biotechnology, industries no longer need to use stones to fade jeans. These stone washing techniques have been replaced by a process called “biostoning.”
Biostoning produces the similar desired effects of the stone-washed and acid-washed techniques, but utilizes enzyme. The enzyme used in this process is called cellulase. You see, cellulose is a main component of cotton. Because the enzyme cellulase breaks down cellulose, the cotton in the jeans is affected. This process occurs when the cellulase binds to the cellulose on the cotton fibers and breaks the molecular bonds between them. Thus the dye particles are released from the surface of the jeans, producing this “faded” effect.
Even though this biostoning technique is much more effective and less time-consuming than the other two techniques mentioned, some manufacturers still produce blue jeans using the stone-washing technique. This is because there are a number of customers who prefer their jeans to have a worn 'stonewash' appearance. I guess it has a bit of old-fashion style. Stonewash jeans have now become a world-wide leisure and fashion item.
How does the professor organize his lecture on blue jeans?
- In a sequence to explain the various methods of producing this faded and worn look of jeans
- Through introducing an abstract category like the idea of stone-washing to a specific example of how this is done
- By creating a question and answer format to involve the students in the topic of blue jeans
- With explaining the development of different kinds of pants and their impact on the popularity of blue jeans today
Step 1: Eliminate the obviously wrong answer
Sometimes there are answer choices that state obvious wrong technical, organizational details. Those are easy to catch. Start eliminating those obvious choices first to save time. In this example, (C) should be the first option to be eliminated. Only the professor talks throughout the whole lecture. There is nobody else talking to make it a question and answer session.
Step 2: Consider overall purpose
To solve this question, you need to understand the general idea and purpose of the lecture. Understanding the lecture normally can help you eliminate the options that miss the important theme or main purpose of the lecture. For example, (D) misses the main purpose of the lecture. The professor focuses only on blue jeans, not different kinds of pants. (D) is not a correct choice.
Step 3: Consider the overall organization
This is the final step to solving this question. This last part concerns about the actual organization of the lecture. Sometimes, after listening, you cannot point out exactly how the lecture is organized on your own. Instead of trying to figure the organization out yourself, start reading the option choices. Take the answer choice description of the lecture and apply back to the lecture to see whether the option sounds logical. After you eliminate the more obvious wrong choices from the previous two steps, you have to consider carefully what’s left. In this example, the two options left are (A) and (B). (A) says that the lecture is organized in a sequence of methods used to make jeans. (B) says the lecture is organized in a general-to-specific format using abstract category of methods as examples. Ask yourself does either (A) or (B) seems more correct, then go for the one that makes more sense for you.
If you can’t know for sure which one is more accurate with the lecture, start to compare the two options. The main difference between the two options is the term ‘an abstract category’ in (B). The professor does explain the actual process of stone-washing, and all other actual manufacturing techniques. The process of making jeans is not an abstract idea. Therefore, (B) is wrong. That’s left us with (A) as the correct answer we are looking for.
TOEFL® Listening Gist-Purpose Question Type - How to Answer Correctly
Purpose questions often appear in dialogue type question. The prompt asks about the purpose of the dialogue, or why the dialogue happens. This question often comes in the “why” form. Sometimes, you see questions that ask “what is the purpose of...” Be careful, even though there is the word “purpose” in the prompt, if the question asks for a specific detail instead of the big general purpose of the whole talk or dialogue, it is not a purpose question but a detail question. You need to distinguish the type of questions correctly before proceed on with the steps and tips. The purpose question often looks for the overall purpose of the dialogue, or why the dialogue happens in the first place, not any specific detail. You should only focus on the big picture of the dialogue for this question. Let’s look at an example.
Professor: Jack, could you come here for a moment?
Student: Sure, what is it?
Professor: I was really impressed with your latest essay. I think you’ve got a skill for writing.
Student: Oh… ummm, thanks. No one’s ever told me that before.
Professor: It’s important to know when you’re doing well. Which brings me to my next thought: would you be interested in becoming an English tutor? I think you could really help other students with writing essays.
Student: Nah. I’m a biology major, not English, so I really wouldn’t know anything about it. Besides, I don’t have any idea how tutoring or teaching or stuff like that works.
Professor: You don’t have to be an English major to be good at writing.
Student: Yeah, but like, this paper was related to biology, so it was pretty easy for me. I don’t think I can do the same for other topics, so I wouldn’t really be able to help anybody.
Professor: That’s not true. There are a lot of biology students who struggle with papers in their own discipline and need help. Writing skills can be applied to any subject. In fact, you’ve got a great opportunity here because many science majors feel the same way you do and don’t realize the importance of writing in every field.
Student: It sounds like a lot of work. I mean, I’ve got my own stuff to worry about, you know? Plus, like I said, I don’t know how to tutor people. It’s not like I can just magically make them see writing like how I see writing.
Professor: I understand your concerns, but I still think this would be a great opportunity for you, Jack. I recommend that you take a teaching course that will teach you the basic principles of teaching people how to write.
Student: Taking another class? That’s, like, even more work.
Professor: I know, but you’re in college and you should be challenging yourself. I had a student last term who did this exact thing and she really learned a lot. Besides, this class is worth two credits. You’ll earn college credit, and learn a lot, which will enable you to do some tutoring work.
Student: It’s just, I know it sounds kinda selfish, but I’m busy with my own stuff.
Professor: I’m sure you are busy, but I’m also sure you have the time for this. You should really get the most out of your college career possible, and this is a great step towards doing that.
Student: I guess I am here to learn.
Professor: You certainly should be! Like I said, you’ll learn a lot, and then you’ll be able to pass that learning on, which is a great feeling. Who knows, you might even like it enough that you consider a career in teaching.
Student: I wouldn’t go that far.
Professor: Fair, but you really do have a talent and I’d hate to see that go to waste.
Student: Alright, alright. I’ll try it out, since you think it’s such a good idea.
Professor: Wonderful! This will be a great experience for you.
Why does the Professor ask to speak with Jack after class?
- To reprimand him for poor grades and attendance
- To hand him back a graded assignment
- To ask him if he would like to be a tutor
- To give him more homework
Step 1: Understand the overall purpose
This question is not difficult if you understand the overall purpose of the dialogue. You need to recheck your notes to link all the details you have together. The purpose of the dialogue is sometimes not stated outright. However, it is also not that tricky since the whole conversation will be built towards the main purpose. The main purpose of the talk will be mentioned at the beginning of the conversation or towards the very end. Look at your notes on those two sections and use common sense to link all other details in your notes to help you figure it out. With dialogue questions, using common sense will help you a lot with coming to a logical answer. In this example, the professor mentions the purpose of this talk with his student right in the beginning of the conversation.
Step 2: Avoid details specific answers
This question asks you about the general purpose and idea of a conversation, not specific details. After figuring out the purpose in step 1, you’ll move on to read the answer choices. Eliminate all options that are too detailed specific, or oddly more specific than the rest of the other answer choices. In this example, (A) is the most specific choice. It mentions ‘bad grades’ and ‘attendance,’ which is not discussed during the dialogue.
Step 3: Eliminate wrong answer choices
Check through each answer and eliminate the answer choices that have information that is not mentioned in the dialogue. In step 2, you already eliminated the answer choices that are too specific. In this last step, you’ll eliminate the answers with incorrect information. (B) and (D) are not mentioned by the professor during the dialogue. (B) and (D) are incorrect. Therefore, what is left is (C), our correct answer.
TOEFL® Listening Gist-Content Question Type - How to Answer Correctly
Gist means the main point or key idea of something. There are two types of Gist questions in the listening section: gist purpose and gist content. We talk about the gist-purpose question in another tip article. Normally, there is always a gist question in every speech or conversation, either gist-content or gist-purpose. However, there will only be one for every question, not both. Let's look at an example of this question type.
Student: Okay, so we really need to figure out just how to deal with this used furniture.
Staff: I agree. What progress have you already made?
Student: Umm…I talked to a bunch of the local charities and some of them agreed to take a bit of our used furniture and donate it to people in need.
Staff: That’s a lovely idea. That way, our furniture will go to use and it won’t keep cluttering up things here.
Student: Yeah! That’s what I was thinking. So I’m really hoping it’ll work out.
Staff: Okay, well, I will need to confirm this through the school and go through a few procedures to get it approved…
Student: Okay, there’s a bit of stuff on my end too, with the charities.
Staff: Oh, yeah? What’s that?
Student: Well, they said it’s best to give them like…a month’s notice. Because they already have a bunch of stuff, they’ll need to clear a bit of space in their warehouse’s in order to make room for our furniture.
Staff: That does make sense. Well, what I can do for that is keep you informed about where we’re at in terms of the process so that you have enough time to inform the charities.
Student: Great, that would be super helpful.
Staff: Do you have anything else lined up.
Student: Umm…..not really. Is that bad?
Staff: No, absolutely not. I think you’ve done a great job so far. I just have another idea, if you’d like to hear it.
Student: Sure! I’d love to hear anything that could help.
Staff: Well, awareness about this donation is pretty low. If you wrote a paper and published it in the school newspaper, that could get more people to support it.
Student: Ohhh….that is a good idea! Maybe then some people would even donate extra furniture they have lying around and don’t want.
Staff: That certainly is a possibility. Also, it might get the school to speed up the process a bit. It shows how serious you are and then if there is support, which I’m sure there will be, it will highlight the importance of what it is you’re doing.
Student: And if the school speeds up the process, then those people in need will be able to get some of the items that they don’t have sooner, and we’ll get rid of the extra stuff just sitting in the way faster!
Staff: That’s the idea.
Student: Perfect. I’ll get started on that right away. And you'll keep me in the loop about the approval process?
Staff: Yes. I’ll email you every time we move on to a new step, and I’ll definitely make you aware of any increase in the speed so you can give the charities notice.
Student: Alright, thank you so much!
Staff: No problem. Good luck with writing the article.
Student: Ughh….yeah, I’ll need it, but thanks again!
What are the student and staff member talking about?
- How to make more sales
- What to do with the used furniture
- What kind of furniture to buy
- What to do with the new furniture
Step 1: Combine note and memory
If there is a gist-content question in the listening, it will very likely be the first question asked. The good thing is that, since it is the first question right after the speech, your memory of the speech is still fresh. You can use your notes like you usually do if you took careful notes earlier while listening, or you can just use your memory. Don’t completely depend on your notes for this question. If you read half way of your notes, and you combine the notes with your memory, you think you can figure out the correct answer, then go for it. Trust your gut. That will help you save a lot of time combing through your notes. However, if you are not confident, go ahead and read through your notes like you would normally do for other types of questions. The notes are there for you for a reason.
Step 2: Select information
This question asks you for the general idea or content of the conversation or speech. In other words, it asks for the main topic and theme of the listening. Pay attention to keywords or ideas that keep being brought up during the conversation. Those are the keys to answering this question. Also, since those keywords are supposed to be the main topic of the conversation, they will be mentioned very early on in the conversation. So trace back to your early notes. Furthermore, you need to be able to differentiate the main topic and supporting ideas. Supporting ideas are the branches that get developed from the main idea during the course of the conversation. Don't be distract by those. This question does not ask for specific details. For example, in this conversation, the idea of "what to do with used furniture" is constantly brought up. After talking, more supporting ideas start evolving like people donating extra furniture or writing an article for the school newspaper. Those are the branched off idea from the main point of "what to do with used furniture."
Step 3: Eliminate wrong choices
For questions that ask for the general idea from the listening like this, sometimes, eliminating wrong choices is easier than choosing the correct one right out of the batch. There will be two types of wrong options for this question: the obviously wrong, and the close-to-correct options. The obviously wrong are the choices that go completely against the main topic of the conversation or never mentioned during the listening. In this example, option C and D are obviously wrong. The staff and student don't look to buy anything or mention anything about new furniture. There are only A and B left. A is a close-to-correct option because it can distract you easily. During the conversation, the staff and student mention a few ways of increasing the productivity level of what they are doing. If you are not careful, you will be trapped. And to be honest, the only way to not be tricked is to depend on your notes. Did the staff and student mention selling the furniture? They did not. So the correct answer is B. When it comes down to only 2 options left, a tiny wrong detail in the option is a good enough reason to eliminate that option.
TOEFL® Listening Function Question Type - How to Answer Correctly
This question does not ask you the "what" question but the "why". The function question won't ask you what does the listening mean like other questions, but it asks you why the speaker says what he says. Many times, the speaker uses slangs or idioms or says things that are not directly relevant to what the question asks. Your job is to figure out what those seem-to-be-irrelevant information do in the whole dialogue or talk.
Student: Hi, I was thinking of changing my major and was hoping you could help me.
Consultant: Okay. Why don’t you tell me what your current major is and what you’re thinking of changing it to.
Student: I’m a Digital Arts major and I kind of want to change to Biology.
Consultant: Alright, is there a reason you want to switch?
Student: Well, I really love animals and if I switch, I could spend more time with them.
Consultant: Would you consider a career as a veterinarian, then? Or are you interested in marine biology?
Student: Ummm… I don’t know. I didn’t really think that far. Both of those sound good though.
Consultant: That’s fair. You don’t need to have those answers right now, but it’s smart to be thinking about how switching your major can impact career possibilities.
Student: Hmmm…. that’s a lot to think about.
Consultant: You’re right. It is, and I don’t want to overwhelm you, but you don’t sound like you’re fully committed to the idea of switching yet, so I want to make sure we look at this from all angles.
Student: Yeah, that makes sense I guess.
Consultant: Can you tell me what it is you’re worried about?
Student: Well, my friend was telling me that biology is pretty hard and so….I don’t know about that.
Consultant: A lot of people worry about that, so what you’re feeling is normal. And I want you to know that for some people, yes, biology is really difficult, but plenty of students really excel. Also, it’s important that you know that it’s only possible to change programs in the first year, so there is a time frame on this.
Student: But…how do I know if I’m one of those students that will excel?
Consultant: I recommend that you do more research about being a biology major. Really find out as much as you can so that you can make an informed decision. It could be that once you have more information, you’ll think you really can succeed.
Student: That makes sense, but I’m not really sure how to research it more. Like….just go around talking to people?
Consultant: You can make an appointment with the head of the biology program. Administrators are always happy to speak to students, especially when it means helping students in their college career. We all want to make sure you’re on the right path for you. It wouldn’t be good if you did switch over, but then realized you didn’t like biology and wanted to switch back.
Student: Okay. So, I’ll do the research and then try to figure things out.
Consultant: Great, that sounds like a solid plan. Remember, that you can always come back and talk to me if you think that would help. Also, it can be a good idea to talk the idea over with your family.
Student: Alright. I’m sure I can do that. Thanks for all your help.
Consultant: Good luck.
Listen again to part of the conversation. Then, answer the following question.
Student: Well, I really love animals and if I switch, I could spend more time with them.
Consultant: Would you consider a career as a veterinarian, then? Or are you interested in marine biology?
Student: Ummm… I don’t know. I didn’t really think that far. Both of those sound good though.
Why does the consultant ask the student this question?
- To get him to change his mind and stick with Digital Arts
- To scare him and stop him from changing majors
- To help him understand the long-term consequences of changing majors
- To become better friends with him.
Step 1: Pay attention for the listen again
Pay attention to the playback of the short section. It is normally very short, less than 10 seconds. So if you are not paying attention, and you miss it, you’ll miss out on all the information to answer this question. The question will read the question prompt out loud before the audio playback. That will give you a few seconds to pay full attention and take out your notes to jot things down if necessary.
Step 2: Connect to the rest of the dialogue
Look at your notes to see where the playback section is according to the rest of the dialogue. That will give you more background on what that playback section infers. If the speakers use slangs or idioms in the playback, and you know the idioms, you will not have much trouble choosing the correct answer. However, if you happen to not know the slangs, understanding the background of the talk can help you guess the correct answer very efficiently. In this example, the student comes to talk with the consultant about changing his major into Biology. The playback section is a part of the whole dialogue which means it has to follow the same theme with the rest of the dialogue. Therefore, (D) is incorrect since it has nothing to do with the student wanting to change his major.
Step 3: Use common sense and attitude of the speaker
This question often comes with dialogue type of listening. The dialogue type is the very casual talk that often happens in daily life. Using common sense will help you a lot in eliminating the wrong answers. Besides, you need to incorporate the speakers’ attitude into the decision-making process. After eliminating (D), all the three answers left are ‘major-changing related.’ Then you have to use the attitude of the speakers to eliminate the wrong answers. Throughout the dialogue and the playback, you can tell that the relationship between the student and the consultant is neutral and polite. There is no hostile or negative feeling. (B) is an answer that suggests the consultant’s attitude was a bit threatening, and that’s incorrect. (A) is also incorrect. Even though (A) is related to the ‘changing major’ topic of the rest of the dialogue, it focuses on the ‘Digital Arts’ major, and the playback section mentions nothing but Biology related information. Therefore, the correct answer we are looking for is (C).
TOEFL® Listening Attitude Question Type - How to Answer Correctly
This question type comes in many different forms. It asks about a detail that the professor mentions in the lecture or the speaker says in the talk. However, the difference between this type and the detail question type is that this question does not ask about the specific detail but the intention and attitude of the speaker when he/she talks about that detail. In other words, this question is about why the speaker mentions a specific detail. This question shows you details in the prompt but does not actually asks about it. It can be tricky sometimes. The most important trick to getting this question right is to look further than the surface. Let’s look an example to have a better understanding of this question type.
Good morning, everyone! I hope you managed to finish the assignment from last week. I will collect them shortly. Today I will be talking about some interesting adaptations of painted turtles. I think this lecture will help you get started on the new assignment. So, let’s begin!
Many freshwater turtles such as painted turtles experience winter periods. During this time, they are trapped under ice and are unable to breathe in anoxic water. So how do you think they possibly can survive if they can’t even breathe?
Professor Taylor! I have a question. You mentioned painted turtles can’t breathe in anoxic water. What does anoxic water mean?
Oh! Sorry! I forgot to mention that! The word anoxic indicates the absence of oxygen, so anoxic waters are deplete of dissolved oxygen. The US Geological Survey defines this term as those waters with dissolved oxygen concentration of less than 0.5 milligrams per liter. Anyway, the number here is not really important. The important question is how do painted turtles survive with limited oxygen?
So after many years of research, biologists found out there is a slowing down of the metabolic processes within the cells of the painted turtles when the oxygen level is low in the water. This decrease in metabolism is due to a decrease in ATP consumption. Now, you might be wondering what ATP is. In simple terms, ATP is a high energy molecule found in every cell, so if it is consumed very fast in cells, then the animals will need oxygen and food to produce ATP to replenish what is lost. Likewise, if ATP is consumed very slowly, animals will not need much oxygen or food to produce ATP. So why was ATP in the cells consumed slowly?
Let me answer that. When the oxygen level is low, there is a sharp reduction in a cellular process called an ion pump. An ion pump is one of the major consumers of ATP. It consumes a lot of cellular energy when animals are active. Basically it is a protein capable of transporting ions from cells containing high levels of ions (by using the energy from ATP) to cells containing low levels of ions. We don’t know where and how this mechanism occurs during anoxia, but we are sure it is important in circumstances involving reduced metabolism in animals.
Now we know how painted turtles survive in waters without much oxygen by reducing the consumption of ATP. How about in the lower temperatures? How do they manage to survive in this freezing environment? Does anyone want to guess?
Exactly! In the winter, painted turtles burrow deep into the mud at the bottom of ponds and go into hibernation. But not just hibernation that helps them survive in the winter. When the temperature is below zero, painted turtles can actually control the formation of ice in their blood. The dropping temperatures cue the turtle’s liver to produce special proteins that cause very small ice crystals to form in fluids such as the blood plasma and urine. Because the ice crystals are kept very small, damage to surrounding tissues is minimized.
But no matter how small they are, ice crystals cause irreparable damage if allowed to form inside cells. So another adaptation allows painted turtles to protect their cells from ice damage. When ice begins to form outside the cells, the cells produce sugar compounds called cryoprotectants. Cryoprotectants protect the cells from damage and prevent the water inside the cells from freezing, just like the antifreeze in your car’s radiator. That’s quite interesting? Right!
What was the professor’s intent behind explaining the consumption of ATP?
- To show the correlation between the consumption of ATP and the painted turtle’s brain cells
- To show the correlation between the consumption of ATP and the irreparable damage inside cells caused by the formation of ice crystals
- To compare the results of fast and slow consumption to the quantity of oxygen and food needed for plants
- To compare the results of fast and slow consumption to the quantity of oxygen and food needed for animals’ survival
Step 1: Avoid answers that give directly stated information
This step is not always 100% correct. However, believe me, this trick is accurate most of the time. Avoid answers that give directly similar information to the details that is asked in the prompt. As said earlier, the most important trick for this question type is to look further than the surface of an answer. Answer choices that have exact keywords like in the prompt are often not correct choices. For example, the keywords in the prompt question are ‘ the consumption of ATP’. You can guess (A) and (B) are unlikely to be incorrect because they are the only options that contain the exact keywords.
However, keep in mind that this step is only a trick to picking out some answers that are likely wrong. You don’t solely base on the repetition of the exact keywords to eliminate the options. You need to read the answers and eliminate them based on their content as well. In this example, (A) is incorrect because ‘brain cell’ has never been mentioned in the lecture. (B) is wrong because it talks about inside cell damage that is caused by ice crystals, which is part of the ‘hibernation’ process, not the consumption of ATP. The question asks about why the professor explains the consumption of ATP. The answer needs to show the connection.
Step 2: Consider the speaker’s attitude
You need to think back to the lecture and the speaker or professor’s attitude when talking about the topic. When it’s a lecture, the attitude of the lecturer is usually neutral and informative. When it’s a talk, it can be either positive or negative. For a talk, you can use the positive or negative of the speaker to help you eliminate answer choices that do not follow the speaker’s attitude either positive or negative. In a lecture, the answer choices should be informative and neutral. Therefore, you can eliminate options that dramatically positive or negative about a certain issue. In this example, both (C) and (D) are informative and neutral in tone. We do not eliminate either option yet.
Step 3: Make inferences
For this step, you need to make an actual inference from the lecture. Choose out options that mention something closely related to the prompt detail. In this example, the main detail in the prompt is ‘the consumption of ATP.’ Among the four answer choices, the detail ‘fast and slow consumption of oxygen and food’ is relevant to the consumption of ATP. It is shown in the professor’s saying: ‘In simple terms, ATP is a highly energy molecule found in every cell, so if it is consumed very fast in cells, then the animals will need oxygen and food to produce ATP to replenish what is lost.’ This step is difficult if you do not take good notes from listening to the lecture since you do not only need to know what the professor says but also have to understand the general idea enough to get the inference and reference out of it. Both (C) and (D) have the term ‘ fast and slow consumption of oxygen and food’. We keep them both for further evaluation.
Step 4: Compare and contrast
Most of the time, you do not even need this step. You can get the correct answer after getting the inference from step 3. However, sometimes, in cases like the example, there is more than one answer choice that contains the inference we are looking for. At this point, you need to compare and contrast the answer choices to see the difference between them so that you can choose the best answer. You need to read the question carefully and pay attention to this step. The differences are normally small and sometimes hard to catch. The difference between (C) and (D) is the last part of their sentences. (C) says ‘for plants,’ and (D) says ‘for animals’ survival.’ This case, it is not difficult to choose (D) as the correct answer, after you point out the difference between the two options. The lecture has not at all mentioned ‘plants.'
TOEFL® Listening Chart Completion Question Type - How to Answer Correctly
Chart completion question
This is one of the very few multiple choices listening questions. If there are three columns, the question is worth two points instead of one. The question can ask you to categorize answer options into categories or put the options in a specific order. This question is not an easy one. It requires more skills than other one answer option. The key to answering this question is to consider every option carefully, especially in the question that asks you to put options in order. If you choose the wrong option in the first place, you will at least have two answer choices in wrong order. So be careful. Let’s look at an example with the ordering choices question.
In this first lecture in our What is Chemistry? series, we’re going to look at Alchemy. Now a lot of people simply dismiss alchemy as puedo sceince, but chemists can’t ignore it completely, because, regardless of some misguided ideas, alchemists are responsible for laying the groundwork for modern chemistry.
So, let’s first look at what alchemists were trying to achieve. When you think of alchemy, you probably think of the turning of metals … base metals…into noble metals like gold and silver. But that wasn’t all they were after. Basically, alchemists were preoccupied with the idea of perfection. Gold and silver were considered the highest, purest form of matter, and, since it appeared naturally on earth, they assumed that they were formed naturally using the other non-precious substances available inside the earth, such as copper or iron. Alchemists took it upon themselves to recreate this process.
In the same way, they had the idea of human perfection, and they thought that human perfection could also be achieved through alchemy: that they could create an elixir of life that would endow someone with wealth, health and immortality. So, alchemy was not just about chemicals. It actually has its roots in spirituality and mysticism.
Who were alchemists? Well, it’s difficult to pinpoint, exactly where and when it originated. In India and China, alchemical practices were going on sometime before the Common Era (CE) with meditation and medicine designed to purify the spirit and body and thereby achieve immortality. In the West, well, in Egypt, metallurgical practices were going on as far back as the fourth millennium BCE. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, who was alive from 384–322 BCE, stated that all matter was made up of earth, air, fire, and water, plus a fifth element, quintessence, which was capable of transforming one substance into another, and this idea was very influential for many years.
Alexander the Great, who was around at a similar time, was all for alchemy, and it was he who had the Library of Alexandria built, specifically to house alchemical texts, which were, unfortunately, destroyed in the 3rd century. But from the earliest texts that we have on the subject, we can see it’s mysticism rather than the medical or practical application of the subject that motivated practitioners.
In the 7th century CE, it was the Arabs who dominated alchemy, and in the 1500s, a Swiss traveling physician called Paracelsus proposed that the body’s organs worked alchemically, that is, their function was to separate the impure from the pure, and as a result, disease could be treated by the experimental use of chemicals accompanied by observation, and from this, he has become to be known as the first toxicologist. So, as you can see, the era of alchemy spans the globe and several millennia, and for that reason alone, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it contributed to science. In fact, until the 20th century, alchemy was completely written off by the early scientists, as they were, rightly, focused on the scientific method . So it wasn’t until relatively recently that people really began to understand what alchemy gave us and it was accepted as a forerunner to modern science.
So, what exactly did it contribute? Well, alchemists used, taught and passed on a lot of the general techniques that are used in chemistry nowadays, including solution, calcination, distillation, cohobation and coagulation. Through their experimentation with distillation, they discovered mineral acids, and their counterparts, alkalis. In fact, they discovered a vast array of substances which were used later by the ‘true’ chemists, like mercuric chloride and metal oxides. They learned how to extract metals from ores, and how to compose many types of inorganic acids and bases. Zinc was produced by a fourth-century Indian alchemist using the process of distillation, and a 17th-‐
century German alchemist isolated phosphorus.
They developed balances, test tubes, closed crucibles, the retort and furnaces, which are still used in labs today. They also began to write down and organize this information, creating rudimentary periodic tables, and this allowed alchemists to clarify and anticipate the products of their chemical reactions. They contributed to the "chemical" industries of the day, such as metalworking, leather tanning, glass manufacture, liquor preparation and the production of gunpowder, ink, dyes, paints and cosmetics.
You see, alchemists differed from artisans in that the artisan had a practical approach – : he wasn’t interested in why and how it happened, he was just interested in the result. The alchemist, however, was concerned with how and why things worked, and they wrote down and shared their ideas with others, and began to use experiments to demonstrate which view was correct, and approached the topic of matter with a more academic and more theoretical approach. What they didn’t do was separate chemistry from mysticism. As far as they were concerned, there was a spiritual reason for all the observations they were making. They also lacked a common language for their concepts and processes. They interspersed their texts with terms and symbols from the bible, from pagan mythology, astrology, and other spiritual arenas, making even the simplest formula read like a magic spell or ritual. And none of these were standardized. All alchemists seemed to be noting things down in their own particular idiom.
Despite these limitations, we can now view alchemy as a kind of foundation although their conclusions about how matter is made up were way off track....that development stage was necessary in order for science to advance. And although alchemy has often been seen as a get-rich-quick scheme, and many alchemists are now considered as charlatans and pretenders, many were in fact serious‐minded practitioners whose work helped lay the groundwork for modern chemistry and medicine.
Complete the flow chart outlining the development of early alchemy
Order Development 1 (A) The use of chemicals to cure disease is proposed 2 (B) Spiritual practices to attain immortality are developed in the Far East 3 (C) A library of alchemical texts is created 4 (D) It is proposed that matter is created from four elements
Step 1: Use notes
This is the most important thing you need to do to get this question right. Take notes when listening to the lecture and use that notes as efficiently as possible. When taking the notes while listening to the lecture, try writing the details in chronological order. So you can save some time trying to organize the notes on the chart. Sometimes, the questions ask you to order the options according to certain prompt, but most of the time, the question will just ask you to put the options in chronological order. That is the case of the example we are looking at. The question asks for the order of ‘development of early alchemy.' The professor explained the development of alchemy in chronological order in his speech, so taking notes in the order of the talk also helps with the order asked for in the question. If you take good notes, this will be the only step you need to complete this question. You just need to be very careful while considering the order of the options.
Step 2: Use common sense and knowledge
Even though this type of question is not easy, common sense can help you. Many questions can be answered using the background knowledge you get from understanding the talk or lecture, or from just understanding the options. Sometimes, you can use common sense to see what information should come before what information.
The order of the answer option is
Order Development 1 (B) Spiritual practices to attain immortality are developed in the Far East 2 (D) It is proposed that matter is created from four elements 3 (C) A library of alchemical texts is created 4 (A) The use of chemicals to cure disease is proposed