TOEFL listening practice test - improve your TOEFL score

TOEFL Listening Practice: Take a Free TOEFL Listening Test with Answers & Learn 7 Critical Tips for a High TOEFL Listening Score

In this guide you can take a free TOEFL listening test with answers, learn 7 critical TOEFL listening tips, and TOEFL listening general exam information to help you prepare successfully for your TOEFL listening test. This page contains everything you need to know and the essential skills for a high listening score.

First off, if you're looking to take a free TOEFL listening practice test or are just curious what taking an official TOEFL listening test is like, then click the START TOEFL listening SAMPLE TEST button below.

play_circle_outline Start TOEFL listening Sample Test

Next up is a list of all our TOEFL listening questions where you can study each question at your own pace. To start a free TOEFL listening test question, click the Mock Test 1 link.

TOEFL listening practice questions

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Table Of Contents

TOEFL Listening Introduction

The listening section is the second section of the TOEFL iBT test. It normally contains 3 conversations and 4 lectures.

- conversation: 2-3 minutes between two people
- lecture: 4-6 minutes of either a professor delivering a speech or a professor interacting with students

Each listening audio will follow with a set number of questions:

- conversation: 5 questions
- lecture: 6 questions

Some test may include an extra conversation and 2 extra lectures. These extra conversation and lectures contain 17 experimental questions (12 of them are from lectures and 5 of them are from the conversation), which aren't scored or worth any points. You won’t know which section has experimental questions until you get your test. The experimental questions will affect the time length of whichever section they appear in.

Normally, there are a total of 34 questions in the entire listening section and you will have 20 minutes in which to complete these 34 questions. This does not include the time you spend on listening to the lectures or the conversation. However, if you encounter a test that include 17 experimental questions, you will have 30 minutes in which to complete all 51 questions. Again, this does not include the time you spend on listening to the lectures or the conversation.

In general, the entire listening section (including time spent listening) will take you between 60 - 90 minutes to complete.

Recording type Number Question Time
Conversation 2-3 5 2-3 min
Lecture 3-4 6 4-6 min
Total 5-7 28-39 41–57 min

On the listening test, once you submit your answer, you


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.

8 TOEFL Listening Question Types

Questions on the Listening section will test your ability not only to understand conversations and academic lectures in English by listening, but also to deal with a variety of question types. Fortunately, there aren’t too many surprises on this section of the test. You’ll be able to get yourself well-prepared to listen effectively by understanding the 8 types of questions you’ll be dealing with on the listening section, and getting some practice with how to recognize and answer them with examples. Below, you can find all 8 question types explained.

Detail Questions

You will need to listen for a specific detail. Usually, you will find detail questions asking about a lecture, but sometimes they ask about a conversation. Think about what the details you hear mean, or why they were included. This question type may be difficult, as the detail could be something related to the main idea, or something very small that was mentioned briefly. Here is an example question:

Question: What does the professor point out about Frantzen's farm scene painting?

  1. It looks like a photograph
  2. It might be her most well-known painting
  3. Frantzen painted it in the impressionist style.
  4. Frantzen painted it while she was living abroad.
  • spellcheck Answer

Inference Questions

For inference questions, you’ll need to decide on the correct answer without the answer being given directly. You can recognize these types of questions by phrases like “What does the professor imply…” or “What can be inferred…”. These listening questions require you make your own conclusion, and use some critical thinking. Here is an example question:

Question: What is it that the professor is implying about the tools that the inhabitants of Catalhoyuk utilized?

  1. They were created using stone from Catalhoyuk.
  2. They were some of the sharpest tools at the time
  3. They were frequently part of religious rituals
  4. One of their primary uses was for agriculture
  • spellcheck Answer

Attitude Questions

These listening questions will ask you to think about the feeling, or attitude of a speaker you heard in the listening. As with the inference question type, the attitude question requires you to rely on other details from the listening to figure out why the speaker feels a certain way, or what kind of attitude he/she has towards a specific topic. Here is an example question:

Question: The professor briefly discusses experiments about the wind speed required to move rocks in the desert. What is professor's attitude regarding these experiments?

  1. Their findings were inconclusive.
  2. The experiments were not conducted carefully.
  3. The length of the experiments was not sufficient to draw any conclusions
  4. The experiments should not have been allowed by the government.
  • spellcheck Answer

Function Questions

Function questions ask you to answer questions which rely on context. To figure out what a speaker really means by saying something specific in that situation, you will need to listen for things that didn’t seem relevant to the conversation, and consider what the speaker really meant. The most important thing you’ll need to understand to answer function questions is context, or, what’s really going on under the surface of the conversation. Here is an example question:

Listen again to part of the lecture. Then, answer the following question.

Question: Why does the professor say this? 

  1. To suggest that the citizens of the United States haven't changed much over time.
  2. To motivate the students to learn more about this particular time period.
  3. To point out why Emerson's essay has lost some of its relevance.
  4. To provide background for the concept she is explaining.
  • spellcheck Answer

Gist-content Questions

The “gist” means the main idea, and in gist-content questions, you’ll be asked about the main idea of the content you listened to. You’ll often see phrases which refer to the main idea of the listening, such as “mainly about” or “mainly discussing”. Think about the big picture. Here is an example question:

What is the main thing that the professor is talking about?

  1. Motor skills development in kids
  2. The method psychologists use to measure muscle activity in the throat
  3. A theory explaining the relationship between thinking and muscle activity
  4. A study about how deaf people solve problems
  • spellcheck Answer

Gist-purpose Questions

Similarly to gist-content type questions, these questions will address the main idea of what you heard listening to a conversation or lecture. However, this question type will focus more on the main purpose, asking “why?”. Think about the general idea, not specific details. Here is an example question:

Question: Why does the student want to speak with the professor?

  1. She is hoping to get an extension on an assignment.
  2. She is asking for a letter of recommendation.
  3. She needs help with the current assignment.
  4. She is trying to drop the class.
  • spellcheck Answer

Connecting-content Questions

These questions will ask you to show that you understood relationships between ideas in the listening. You may be required to fill in a chart to show your answer, rather than select an answer from multiple choice questions. Here is an example question:

Question: Indicate whether each of the following activities describes a displacement activity by checking “yes” or “no”.

Activity Yes No
Instead of attacking the enemy, an animal attacks another object.
During its mating ritual, a bird grooms
When a predator confronts it, an animal falls asleep instead of eating its food
After preening itself, an animal drinks water.
  • spellcheck Answer
    no, yes, yes, no

Organization Questions

For these questions, you’ll need to show you understand how details are organized throughout the listening. Often, these questions simply ask “How is the lecture/talk organized?” It will also help you answer organization questions if you understand the main idea of what you listen to. Here is an example question:

Question: How does the professor organize his lecture on blue jeans?

  1. In a sequence to explain the various methods of producing this faded and worn look of jeans
  2. Through introducing an abstract category like the idea of stone-washing to a specific example of how this is done
  3. By creating a question and answer format to involve the students in the topic of blue jeans
  4. With explaining the development of different kinds of pants and their impact on the popularity of blue jeans today
  • spellcheck Answer

How to Prepare for the TOEFL Listening Test

Many teachers will tell you to listen to spoken English from multiple sources such as English TV channels/radios as much as possible. This is not the most efficient way to study TOEFL listening! The type of material in the TOEFL® iBT is academic. The conversations and lectures in the Listening section are of academic nature. When it comes to passing TOEFL, you will not benefit much from watching movies and listening to music in English. Therefore, the most effective way to prepare for the TOEFL listening is to listen to the types of material that you’ll encounter on the official TOEFL listening test.

How to Study TOEFL Listening With TOEFL Listening Questions

First, you need to complete a TOEFL Listening practice and check your answers. It’s important to follow the allotted time frame. If you run out of time, do not complete the remaining questions. We want to help you improve and cheating will provide you with inaccurate data.

The next two sections are broken down into steps depending on if you passed or failed the listening practice.

Please note that a pass or fail is not the normal above or below 50% mark. It all depends on what your target TOEFL score is, so some people may need to score over 80% on all sections, so anything below that would be considered a fail. However, the average should score above 60%, so we will go with that percentage for the remainder of this article.

Scored below 60%

Step 1: Listen to the same recording again. As you listen, specify the parts of the recording which you are having trouble understanding and make a note on the script (You can print out the transcript). Typically, the cause of the misunderstanding is from unfamiliar words, so look up their meaning and practice their pronunciation...If you’re having trouble, It can help to read them out loud.

Step 2: Now that you understand the unfamiliar words, read the sections of the script that you had problems understanding. This process of speaking what you hear is called “echoing” and is a type of “active listening” activity. Studies have shown it helps develop listening skills more effectively than just passively listening (passive listening).

Step 3: Take the TOEFL listening practice again and see if you can improve your score. If not...repeat steps 1 & 2 until you can fully understand the entire listening conversion/lecture.

Scored above 60%

Step 1:  Re-listen to the sections of the audio where you had doubts. Maybe you were unsure about a question and guessed between two answer choices. This would be a good question to locate in the audio and learn where your doubts came from.

Step 2: Analyze the questions you got wrong. If you find you continue to get the same question type wrong, there must be a reason. It’ll be your job to figure out why you keep missing the information in the listening to answer the question correctly. A question you can ask yourself is “why wasn’t that information in my notes?”.

Proven study method to improve your TOEFL listening score

Follow these steps and you’ll see it works wonders

Completing the above step-by-step process should take you around 45 to 60 minutes per TOEFL listening practice. Of course, if you answered all or most questions correctly, it’ll take you much less time.

Therefore, by committing yourself to 3 hours a day, you can complete more than 50 TOEFL listening questions in less than three weeks. With this intense training, you will see a significant improvement in your TOEFL Listening score.

We have one more suggestion for you! Spread out your 3-hour listening training throughout the day with other TOEFL sections like take a TOEFL practice test or start your speaking TOEFL preparation. This is an optimal learning schedule because exposing yourself to the English language constantly and consistently each day will catapult your learning and you’ll have a much easier time taking the TOEFL test.

TOEFL Listening Tips

Here are seven tips to help you be ready for the Listening section:

  • 1. Take notes while you listen. Only the major points will be tested. TOEFL listening questions will not test you on small details. For example, you won’t see questions that are about a specific year, name, or location. Instead, questions will test your understanding of key points mentioned in the lecture, so do not try to write down every detail.
  • 2. Pay attention to the speaker’s tone of voice. Sometimes you will encounter questions that are about the speaker’s attitude or opinion. To answer these questions correctly, you need to pay attention to the speaker’s tone of voice. For instance, whether the speaker sounds excited, sad or confused can help you answer questions that are about the speaker’s attitude or opinion.
  • 3. Listen for the main idea. You can expect that the first question after almost every lecture is the main idea (gist) question. They are very popular, so it is important to listen for the main idea. At the beginning of the listening passages, the professor usually mentions what the main topic of the lecture will be about, but sometimes the topic might be branched into something more specific. Pay attention to the main idea of the lecture at the beginning and be mindful when the topic changes.
  • 4. Listen to how ideas are connected throughout the lecture. When listening to a lecture, make note of the way the ideas in the lecture are connected. In other words, how the professor organized the lecture. When you encounter a question asking you about how the lecture is organized, you can refer back to your notes. Some of the main relations between ideas include cause/effect, compare/contrast, and steps in a process.
  • 5. When you don’t know the answer, do not give up. If you are unsure of the correct response, try to figure out which choice is most consistent with the main idea of the conversation or lecture. Another way is to eliminate obvious wrong answers.
  • 6. Don’t skip questions The questions in the listening section must be answered in the order they are presented. If you skip a question, you will not be able to go back and answer it.
  • 7. Don’t take more than 2 minutes to answer a question. Don’t take more than two minutes to answer a question. If you spend more than two minutes on a question, you might run out of time. It is not worth it. Leave time for other questions that you have more confidence on. It’s better to have an educated guess and move on than it is to miss out on potential easy questions because you ran out of time.

TOEFL Listening Free Resources

If you're planning to take TOEFL, you'll need strong listening skills to pass 3 out of the 4 sections. Because of this, it's important you train consistently every day until test day.

Below are some resources you can use to train and maintain your listening skills daily.

  1. BBC Learning English -
  2. TED -
  3. VOA Learning English -
  4. Scientific American - 60 seconds science -
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