Structure of the TOEFL Listening Section

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  • 0:02 TOEFL Listening
  • 0:51 Listening Passages
  • 2:08 Question Types
  • 3:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

This lesson is an introduction to the Listening section on the TOEFL; watch it for an overview of what you can expect to see on the test, including passages and question types.

TOEFL Listening

Wondering what you'll see on the TOEFL Listening section? Well, wonder no more - here's all the information you need to make it work. The TOEFL Listening section tests how well you can understand spoken English and answer questions about it. It's between 60 and 90 minutes long, with anywhere from 34 to 51 questions.

Listening can be hard because the passages go by pretty fast - it's not like reading where you can go at your own pace. But, if you know in advance what kinds of passages you'll get, it's a lot easier to make it through the test without getting frazzled. In this lesson, first, we'll cover the passages you'll be listening to, then, we'll move on to the types of questions you'll be asked.

Listening Passages

Let's start with passages. In the Listening section, you'll get between six and nine total listening passages. The passages come in two types: lectures and conversations. Lectures are passages designed to imitate a classroom lecture. Sometimes, only the professor will speak; sometimes there will be a discussion between the professor and students. You'll get anywhere from four to six lectures on the test. Each lecture will last three to five minutes and be followed by six questions.

Conversations are passages designed to imitate the kinds of conversations you might have at a school in an English-speaking country. For example, they might be about requesting books from the library. You'll get two or three conversations on the test. Each conversation will last about three minutes and be followed by five questions.

Some of the passage narrators in the Listening section will have American accents; others might have British or Australian accents. While you listen to each passage, you'll have scrap paper to take notes on if you like. You'll be able to refer to your notes while you answer the questions. You don't have to take notes, but it's a good idea.

Question Types

Now you know what the passages will be like; it's time to look at the questions. There are three types of questions on the TOEFL Listening section:

  • Listening for Basic Comprehension questions test whether you can understand basic information from the passage.
  • Listening for Pragmatic Understanding questions are more complicated. They test whether you can recognize a speaker's attitude and purpose. On these questions, you don't just have to understand what the speaker says; you have to understand how she feels about it and why she's saying it.
  • Connecting and Synthesizing Information questions are the most complicated of all. They test how well you understand connections among different parts of the passage, and how well you can put different parts of the passage together to draw conclusions from them.

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