TOEFL Listening Practice: Lectures

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  • 0:01 TOEFL Lectures
  • 1:14 The Passage
  • 2:28 Questions
  • 4:46 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.

Lecture passages are where you'll score most of your Listening points on the TOEFL. In this lesson, you'll get some tips on managing them and some practice with a sample passage.

TOEFL Lectures

On the TOEFL, you'll get two different kinds of listening passages: lectures and conversations. In this lesson, we'll just focus on the lectures.

Lecture passages reproduce the kind of spoken English you might hear in a classroom. Some will be a professor talking the whole time; others will have a professor and students having a discussion.

You'll get four to six lecture passages on the test. Each lecture will last between three and five minutes and will be followed by six questions.

When you're taking the test, you'll first listen to the passage and then answer the questions. You won't be able to read a transcript of the passage or go back to listen to it again. But you will be able to take notes while you're listening, and you'll have your notes to help you on the questions.

While you're taking notes, don't try to write down everything. Instead, try to hit just the important points and key ideas.

If you don't have one, go grab a pen and paper right now so you can take notes like you would on the real test. And then get ready for the passage!

The Passage

PROFESSOR: So today, we're going to talk about the, the - origins of the First World War because it seems a little strange, doesn't it, that the whole continent of Europe would get involved in a war that nobody really wanted and nobody actually meant to start? Kind of funny, right? Well, it really started in the Balkan Peninsula, which is, uh… the region of Southeastern Europe around Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, that area. Does anyone remember the term we had for the Balkans around 1914?

STUDENT 1: 'The Balkan Powder Keg'?

PROFESSOR: Exactly. The political situation was so tense that the whole region was called 'the Balkan Powder Keg.'

STUDENT 2: But what does powder have to do with anything? And a 'keg,' isn't that about beer?

PROFESSOR: Well, the 'powder' here refers to gunpowder, and a 'keg' is the container that you would store the gunpowder in. Um, and if you think about gunpowder, what is it designed to do? Explode, right? It's very dangerous, very, uh, unstable. So if you call the Balkans a 'powder keg,' it means the whole area, all those countries, are just ready to explode into war at any time, like a big pile of gunpowder.

STUDENT 2: Oh, okay. I get it now. Thank you.

PROFESSOR: Good. So, we have this powder keg - this very unstable situation in the Balkans, in the summer of 1914, and this is where the First World War really kicks off…


Okay, now you've heard the passage. Keep your notes handy while you answer the questions.

1. Listen to the following two lines again:

'PROFESSOR: Exactly. The political situation was so tense that the whole region was called 'the Balkan Powder Keg.

'STUDENT 2: But what does powder have to do with anything? And a 'keg,' isn't that about beer?'

What is the student confused about?

a. The location of the Balkans in Europe

b. The uses of gunpowder

c. The political situation of the Balkans in 1914

d. The relevance of the name 'Balkan Powder Keg'

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