TOEFL Listening Practice: Listening for Pragmatic Understanding

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  • 0:01 Pragmatic Understanding
  • 1:37 The Passage
  • 2:47 Questions
  • 5:48 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.

On the TOEFL, Listening for Pragmatic Understanding questions will ask you about a speaker's tone and attitude, and other related concepts. Watch this video to get some practice with them.

Pragmatic Understanding

When you're taking the TOEFL Listening test, you won't just have to answer questions about what the speakers said, you'll also have to answer some questions called Listening for Pragmatic Understanding. These questions will ask you to infer information about a speaker's attitude, purpose, tone, and degree of certainty. It's not just what the speaker said; it's how and why he said it. In other words, how did the sentence function in the conversation?

On the TOEFL, Listening for Pragmatic Understanding questions will follow both types of passages: lectures and conversations. In this lesson, you'll get some practice with answering these questions. But first, a few tips:

  • Take notes on the reading passages. You'll be allowed to take notes on the real TOEFL, and good notes will really help. Don't try to write down every word - just write down the most important information.
  • Listen for tone, pitch, volume, and speed, as well as words. The sound of a speaker's voice can tell you a lot about the speaker's attitude. If you need some practice, there's a whole separate lesson in this course on listening for tone and attitude.

If you don't have any notepaper, pause the video and go get some now so you can take notes just like you would on the real TOEFL.

The Passage

Ready to hear the practice passage? Here you go:

MALE STUDENT: Hi, I'm having trouble signing up for, uh… Intermediate Russian.

ADMINISTRATOR: Hmmm… let me check your file. Are you a first-year student?

STUDENT: No, a second-year. I'm transferring from… from another school.

ADMINISTRATOR: And you took Beginning Russian there?

STUDENT: Yes.

ADMINISTRATOR: Oh, okay, well, um, it looks like our system isn't recognizing your credit for that course. So you'll, you'll need to either retake Beginning Russian or, uh, take a placement test in the Russian Department to show that you're ready for the intermediate course.

STUDENT: Wait, no, I don't get it. Why isn't the credit recognized?

ADMINISTRATOR: I'm not sure; the system won't tell me. But there's nothing I can do to change it, so until you take the placement test, you won't be able to register.

STUDENT: But that's so silly! I've already taken the course! Alright, fine, where can I take the placement test?

ADMINISTRATOR: You can go to the Russian Department anytime between… um, let me check. Anytime between 9 am and 3 pm, Monday to Friday.

STUDENT: The Russian Department?

ADMINISTRATOR: It's in Building 12, on the third floor.

STUDENT: Alright.

ADMINISTRATOR: Is that everything you needed help with today?

STUDENT: Yes, thank you.

Questions

That was the passage - hopefully you took some good notes! Now, on to the questions! You can use your notes on the questions if you like:

1. Listen to the following lines from the passage again:

ADMINISTRATOR: Oh, okay, well, um, it looks like our system isn't recognizing your credit for that course. So you'll, you'll need to either retake Beginning Russian or, uh, take a placement test in the Russian Department to show that you're ready for the intermediate course.

STUDENT: Wait, no, I don't get it. Why isn't the credit recognized?

Which of the following best describes the student's attitude at this point in the passage?

a. Resigned

b. Bored

c. Confused

d. Irritated

Pause the video if you need time to think about the question.

The correct answer is c. The student says 'I don't get it,' and asks for more information about why the credit was refused. This indicates that he's confused about why the credit isn't acceptable.

2. Listen to the following lines from the passage again:

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