TOEFL Listening Practice: Connecting & Synthesizing Information

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  • 0:01 Connecting &…
  • 0:48 Tips & Tricks
  • 1:32 The Passage
  • 4:11 Questions
  • 6:58 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.

Connecting and Synthesizing Information questions are some of the toughest nuts to crack on the TOEFL Listening section. Here, you'll get some tips and practice.

Connecting & Synthesizing Information

Connecting and Synthesizing Information questions are some of the hardest parts of the TOEFL Listening section. These questions ask you to understand the passage as a whole. You'll have to understand the organization of the passage and relationships between ideas, draw conclusions, and make inferences from the information presented. In other words, you'll need to have a handle on more than what the main idea is. You'll have to understand how the speaker presents his ideas. This can be really tough, especially under time pressure. So, in this lesson, we'll go over a few tips and then work on some practice questions.

Tips & Tricks

Before heading into the practice questions, here are a few tips for success on the Connecting and Synthesizing Information questions:

  • As you're listening, take notes on the organization of the passage. Find a system that works for you and practice with it - for example, you might mark topic changes with a star, or put brackets around the introduction and conclusion.
  • Listen for transition words - words like 'first,' 'second,' 'third' guide you through the speaker's ideas.
  • Note logical relationships between ideas in your notes - for example, you could show cause and effect with arrows or comparisons with a quick chart.

The Passage

And now for the actual practice passage. Make sure you're taking notes. If you don't have a pen and paper, go get one right now.

PROFESSOR: Okay class, today, we're going to discuss the problem of charter schools. Now, charter schools, those are schools that are funded with public money, so they're paid for by taxes, but are governed independently, so, um, the curriculum isn't necessarily the same as it is with public schools. With a charter school, you can have a specialized school for specific subjects, like a school that really focuses on math and science. Or, you can have a school for specific types of students, like a whole school just for English-language learners.

For your reading, you read about charter schools and whether or not they work to reduce inequality in education. The author talked about the evidence for both sides, and today we're going to go over that: the pro-charter and the anti-charter arguments. So, can someone summarize for me the major points in support of charter schools?

STUDENT 1: Well, um, the idea is that they'll be more flexible, so you have schools that serve all different kinds of students better, so it gives more students a fair chance, like, if English isn't your fist language, you don't have to fall behind.

STUDENT 2: And, that you're going to give parents a choice, so it's like, um, if the regular schools have some competition, they'll have to get better to compete with the charter schools. So, in the end, everyone has to improve.

STUDENT 3: Right, and so because of that, it'll help reduce inequality, like the way that schools in poor areas tend to be worse than schools in richer areas. If all the students from poor areas can just go somewhere else, they can, like, escape and they aren't trapped in just the one bad school.

PROFESSOR: All right, good. So, now we have these arguments in support of charter schools - what about against?

STUDENT 4: Um, okay, first of all, the author cites a bunch of studies that actually the schools don't reduce inequality; they actually increase it because the applications are really complicated, so the parents of poor students don't always understand how to do it, and it ends up just being the richer students who go there anyway.

STUDENT 1: Right, and also, um… the managers of the charter schools have to show that their school is successful, so they're really motivated to pick the kids who are doing really well, not the kids who need help. So, they won't take people who really need it, like the kids who don't know English really well, they can't get in.


Okay, you've heard the passage. Now here are some questions:

1. Listen to the following section of the passage again:

PROFESSOR: All right, good. So, now we have these arguments in support of charter schools - what about against?

Here, the professor is:

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