TOEFL Listening Practice: Conversations

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  • 0:01 TOEFL Conversations
  • 1:21 The Passage
  • 2:20 Questions
  • 4:51 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.

Are you struggling with the conversations on the TOEFL listening section? In this lesson, you'll get some strategy tips and practice questions for these passages.

TOEFL Conversations

On the TOEFL, about one-third of the questions you get will be about conversation passages. On these passages, you'll listen to a conversation that might happen in an English-speaking academic environment. For example, it might be set in the library, at a professor's office hours, or at an administrative office. You'll get two to three conversations, each followed by five questions. There are three question types:

  • Listening for basic comprehension questions ask you about basic facts from the passage.
  • Listening for pragmatic understanding questions ask you to understand a speaker's attitude or purpose.
  • Connecting and synthesizing information questions ask you to make connections and inferences based on the big-picture organization of the passage.

In this lesson, you'll practice all three types of questions on a sample conversation passage. Just to start you off with a few strategy tips before you dive into the passage:

  • Take notes - You're allowed scratch paper on the test. Go get some now if you don't have any with you. Write down key names, people, and main points, not every word of the passage.
  • Pay attention to who says what - It might help to divide your notepaper in two, to make a chart so you can easily separate the speakers.
  • Think big picture - Don't worry about every single word; it's more important to understand what's happening in the passage as a whole.

The Passage

Now for the practice questions! Here's the passage to start you off:

STUDENT: Good morning, Professor. I'm here to talk about my paper.

PROFESSOR: Oh, yes. What's giving you trouble with it? You're doing so well in class…

STUDENT: Well, um. I'd like to ask for an extension on the due date because I had it on my laptop, but then my roommate spilled his drink on the computer and it just - it won't turn on, and so now I have to write everything over again. I don't think I can get it done by this evening.

PROFESSOR: Hmm, and you didn't have it backed up anywhere else?

STUDENT: I know I should have. I feel really dumb.

PROFESSOR: Have you gone to the tech support desk at the library?

STUDENT: No. What's that?

PROFESSOR: It's a - a walk-in service to help students with computer problems. They might be able to help you get your files off the computer, even if it won't turn on.

STUDENT: Oh, that would be wonderful. Thanks so much. I'll go right now and see if they can help me.

PROFESSOR: Good. Do that, and if they still can't help you, come back and we'll talk about an extension.

STUDENT: Thank you!


Got that? Now keep your notes out while you work on the questions.

1. Why is the student asking for an extension?

A. The laptop where he saved his paper is broken.

B. He works at the tech support desk at the library.

C. He doesn't understand the class material.

D. His roommate told him his paper needed a lot of work.

The correct answer is A. This is a listening for basic comprehension question because it just asks you about a fact in the passage.

2. Listen to the following two lines again:

PROFESSOR: Hmm, and you didn't have it backed up anywhere else?

STUDENT: I know I should have. I feel really dumb.

When the student says 'I know I should have,' what is he implying?

A. He had another backup, but the roommate destroyed it as well.

B. He had another backup somewhere else.

C. He did not back up the essay anywhere else.

D. He didn't know he could back up his essay.

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