Five Tips to Improve Your TOEFL Listening Score

Posted on November 2, 2009 | Filed in TOEFL

Not getting your ideal score on your listening section and looking for concrete ways to improve it?  The listening section on the TOEFL exam can be overwhelming for many students with its complicated lectures and at times lengthy conversations.  Here are 5 proven tips to up your score – guaranteed! (1)  Keep it simple. Remember: you don’t have to write everything down.  The TOEFL listening section does not want or expect you to write down every single detail – such a feat would be impossible, even for a native speaker.  When taking notes for conversations, differentiating by columns what the male speaker says versus the female is quite useful, as there will more than likely be questions regarding opinions and statements from each speaker. With lectures, make sure to write down key words and not get bogged down with too many details.  You don’t want to lose track of the lecture or conversation because you’re so concerned with specifics. (2)  Organize your notes. It’s always a smart idea to number or letter your notes by section, particularly if the speaker gives examples. Be aware that when any sort of process is described in a lecture or conversation there will be questions later on in the test regarding what order the process comes in.  Organizing your notes as you hear them will save you time later and be invaluable when answering “rhetorical function” questions, which are very common on the listening section. (3)  Listen to academic audio recordings. If you can, go to your library or search online for academic lectures; specifically, history, science, philosophy or the arts.  The lectures presented on the TOEFL exam are lectures that would be typically heard by freshmen or sophomore students at a university.  Challenge yourself by seeking these types of audio recordings out so you can be familiar with the structure and language.  If you can’t find academic recordings, then try listening to the news online, which is usually spoken in Standard American Dialect and uses advanced vocabulary words, all of which are applicable to the TOEFL. (4)  Watch TV. Yes – believe it or not, you’re being given advice to watch TV to study for the listening section on the TOEFL.  Not just any type of TV program, either: sitcoms and hour-long dramas.  Why? These are useful to the conversations presented to you in the TOEFL listening section because they are spoken in dialogue and deal, ultimately, with problems and solutions.  When watching a sitcom or hour-long drama, take notes and make sure to identify the problem and the solution.Research any idioms or slang you might hear – this will also come in handy, as many rhetorical function questions deal directly with idiomatic expressions. (5)  Listen to less music and more spoken words. Download news articles from the BBC or Business English from I-Tunes and try to listen to them instead of music for thirty minutes a day.  Pick topics that interest you – there are a wide variety of podcasts to choose from.  This will sharpen your listening skills and expand your vocabulary, not to mention make you more well-informed. Remember, listening skills can be improved just as your reading, speaking and writing skills.  And keep in mind – the TOEFL does not expect you to have a preconceived knowledge of any of the material based in the lectures or conversations, so don’t feel overwhelmed when you are given a lecture on cellular division in plants or the geographical history of a particular nomadic tribe.
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One Response to Five Tips to Improve Your TOEFL Listening Score

  1. Jon Hodge

    Comment posted on November 3, 2009. Bookmark the permalink.

    Having taught TOEFL for 15 years and having owned a TOEFL-Only tutoring company for more than 5 years, I applaud many of the suggestions above. I do, though, want to note that sit-coms and dramas are not the best way to improve TOEFL listening skills. The language is too idiomatic and the topics are wholly irrelevant. Instead, I would suggest watching documentaries since that language will be a very close match to TOEFL listenings and it will offer visual cues to help aid your comprehension.