TOEFL Listening Section Breakdown – Question Types

Posted on July 13, 2010 | Filed in TOEFL

While the Listening section on the TOEFL doesn’t have as many question types as the reading section, it’s still important to know the types you might encounter.  As with the reading section, when you are able to identify a listening question type, it very well might help you move through the section faster.  Keep in mind: the listening section on the TOEFL exam has 34 questions total with 6 main question types.

  • Topic/Main Idea: When identifying the topic or main idea of a lecture of conversation, questions along the lines of: What is the subject of the conversation/lecture?  What is the topic of the discussion/academic talk? Keep in mind these are general questions needing general answers.
  • Details: These questions are asking for particular pieces of information, as stated by the speakers. Note-taking is essential for these types of questions, as well as a good memory!
  • Attitude/Purpose: These questions types are not always easy to answer, as they are not details found specifically in the lecture or conversation. The purpose of a lecture or conversation is its primary function, whereas the attitude of a speaker is his/her feelings, thoughts and emotions. Remember – tone of voice is key to finding the attitude of a speaker.
  • Inferences/Predictions: Similar to the reading section, the listening has quite a few inference questions, which require you to come to a conclusion about a statement not directly stated. Inference questions require a sharp eye for interpretation, often involving the words “infer” or “imply.” Prediction questions aren’t quite as common as inference questions, but they require you to determine what will more than likely happen in the future, based on what a speaker says or doesn’t say.
  • Categorizing: Also like the reading, the listening has several categorizing question, which often come at the end of a series of questions. These types of questions often take longer to determine and requires a test-taker to filter through his/her notes. Pay close attention to any categories, types or divisions when taking notes on the TOEFL listening section.
  • SUMMARIZING: When you encounter a summarizing question, you are asked to put a series of actions in order. This occurs through the “drag and drop” process on the computer, so it enables you to see the sentences in order right in front of your very eyes.

Above all – the most important skill you can do on the TOEFL listening section is to take notes.  In the meantime, familiarize yourself with these listening questions so you can answer them with ease on test day.

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