Put Your Ear to the Test

Posted on January 14, 2008 | Filed in TOEFL

The Listening section of the TOEFL can be one of the most difficult sections on the test. Of course, the best way to improve one’s listening is to practice over time. Most people find that watching television shows or movies in English or listening to songs in English are great ways to improve. If you are fortunate enough to have friends who are native speakers of English, or if you live in a country in which the predominant language is English, then you also have a great advantage.

The Listening section requires you to sort through lectures and conversations that are purposefully filled with distracting pauses and brief digressions such as “um” and “uh”. Although this section may be frustrating, you can conquer it by learning to find certain patterns.

There are two different kinds of speech to listen to in this section:

  1. Lectures
  2. Conversations

Lecture Analysis

This section will simulate an academic setting where a professor lectures to a group of students. In a similar fashion as the reading section, you are asked to answer questions based on the information provided. Although you cannot see the paragraphs in front of you, the speaker will provide an introduction, supporting reasons and examples, and some sort of conclusion.

Listen for the following:

  1. Topic – This should appear early in the lecture, after the greeting.
    - Identify what the topic is.
    - Figure out why the topic is being addressed
  2. Purpose – Soon after the topic is introduced, the purpose of the lecture will be stated.
  3. Examples – The majority of the lecture will be examples and details. Don’t try to write down or memorize every single one.
  4. Conclusion – Note any final points or summaries

Conversation Analysis

In this section, you will usually listen to conversations between two students. When listening to a conversation, pay attention to the following:

  1. Purpose – What do the people in the conversation hope to achieve? Why are they having this conversation?
  2. Details – What specific information is offered? How do these examples and details relate back to the purpose?
  3. Conclusion – Is there any resolution? Do the people achieve their purpose?

Use these tips when practicing with sample drills in TOEFL listening books or by listening to American news reports.

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3 Responses to Put Your Ear to the Test

  1. Kiko

    Comment posted on January 17, 2008. Bookmark the permalink.

    When they “um”, that makes me feel better ’bout my English.

  2. Francisco

    Comment posted on January 18, 2008. Bookmark the permalink.

    These sections are the worst! I mean I can understand English and not understand this stuff. There are too many details and no structure. At least no structure, I can make out and the lectures especially always screw me up.

  3. Zhenya

    Comment posted on January 21, 2008. Bookmark the permalink.

    I like to relax and listen. I mean, in my native lang. Russian, I love to sit and listen, to TV, teachers, to parents!:) but on the TOEFL I cant follow the stories. They want to confuse me.