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In this GlobalExam article, we’re guiding you through the TOEFL Listening section and sharing our top TOEFL Listening tips. Keep reading for:

  • An overview of the Listening section;
  • Listening section question types;
  • Our top TOEFL tips and strategies.
  • How GlobalExam can help you improve your Listening skills.

If you’re preparing for the TOEFL and need a few pointers on how best to prepare for the Listening section, this is the article for you!

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Overview and Presentation of the TOEFL Listening Section

The TOEFL exam is made up of four different sections designed to test your English across the four key communication skills: Reading; Writing, Speaking; and the one we’re going to discuss here, Listening.

The Listening section tests your ability to understand conversations and monologues on academic-style topics in English. To succeed in this section, you must be able to glean basic information, as well as assess a speaker’s opinion or point of view.

The section is comprised of between five and seven recordings, each followed by comprehension questions. There are two different types of recordings:

Lectures: recordings of 3-5 minutes with only one speaker

Conversations: recordings of 3 minutes between two speakers

You will only hear each recording once and they include a lot of information, some of it relevant, much of it irrelevant. The trick is to identify which information you need to answer the questions.

If you wish to find out the format and tips for the other sections, we advise you to take a look at the following articles:

What Types of Questions Can You Expect to Find in This Section?

When it comes to preparing for the TOEFL Listening section, it’s difficult to anticipate the subjects that your recordings could deal with. You can, however, be prepared for the different question types that come up in every TOEFL exam.

Let’s break down the most common question types you could expect to find in the TOEFL Listening section.

girl with headset on

Identifying main ideas

Your first question will probably ask you to identify the main idea of the recording, such as why the conversation is taking place or what the central topic is. It is important to distinguish between a main idea and a supporting idea in order to answer this type of question correctly.

Identifying detail

You will often be asked to recall a specific detail from a recording, such as a general fact mentioned by a speaker. The possible answers will often bear a close resemblance to each other, so make your choice wisely.

Recognizing organization

For a lecture recording, you may be asked to answer questions about its organization. This type of question could deal with the overall structure of the recording, the connection between central parts, or more specifically, how one detail is connected to the whole.

Recognizing inference

This type of question asks you to indicate what is indicated by a speaker in the recording, rather than what is explicitly stated. This means you can’t rely solely on the words of the recording to answer but must rather reflect on the implications of what is being said. 

Recognizing a speaker’s tone

This type of question requires you to identify the speaker’s attitude, such as how strongly they feel about an idea. To answer this, you must understand not only what the speaker says, but how they express it through intonation and vocabulary. 

Understanding function

This type of question will probably focus on a specific sentence in the recording, asking you to identify the meaning of the phrase in the context of the wider extract.

Sorting items into categories

One question type will ask you to categorize items from a recording. If the recording was from a scientist explaining the causes of climate change, for example, you may be asked to sort them into two categories, such as “short term” and “long term”.

Top 10 TOEFL Listening Tips to Successfully Ace the Exam

In this next part, we’re going to take you through our 10 top TOEFL Listening tips for passing the Listening section with flying colors.

Tip#1: Know what to expect

One of the most important tips for preparing for any exam, is to know what you’re facing. We’ve run through the basics but take a look at TOEFL Listening papers to familiarize yourself with the format and style.

Tip#2: Take good notes as you listen

You will only hear the recordings once, so you must listen carefully and take notes as you go. Note down the main ideas and as much supporting detail as you can. Learn to condense your notes into keywords and shorthand.

Tip#3: Revise question words

Every question will start with a question word, directing you to identify a certain piece of information or complete a certain task. Who? What? How? To what extent? Review the question words in English and what information they require from you.

Tip#4: Read each answer carefully

You will be presented with multiple choice answers for most of the questions in the Listening section. Read each one carefully, taking note of the subtle difference in wording between similar choices. 

Tip#5: Stick to the timing

You should know how you will divide your time for the Listening section before it begins. Note down your timings on the side of your paper and stick to it, while leaving a couple of minutes at the end to review your answers.

Tip#6: Listen for signal words

You can’t remember every word of each recording, so it’s important to learn to listen out for the most important words that will orientate your understanding of what’s being said. Listen carefully for words like “however” and “on the other hand” when opinions are being expressed.

Tip#7: Active listening

It may seem obvious to say that the Listening section is about listening, but it is! However, in the test you’re not listening for pleasure, but with purpose. Engage your mind as the recordings play and don’t let your mind wander.

Tip#8: Become familiar with different speaking styles

You could encounter different accents and speaking styles across your selection of recordings. When you listen to and watch media in English, try to vary the accents and styles you’re exposed to in preparation.

Tip#9: Get used to spoken English

One of the best preparations for the Listening section is to listen to English as regularly as possible. The good news is that this is easy to do: play the radio in English as you tidy your room; watch the news in English; listen to English music and watch English films.

Tp#10: Practice, practice, practice

Taking TOEFL practice Listening tests is a surefire way to improve your score in the real exam. By running through sample questions, you’ll not only become more accustomed to the format, but hone your listening skills as you go.

girl with earphones on

TOEFL Listening: Tips and Tricks to Be Well-Prepared

Do you think you’re ready for the exam? Before you launch into it, give a moment’s thought to your exam strategy with our final three TOEFL Listening tips:

1. Don’t leave a question blank

You won’t lose marks for an incorrect answer, so you may as well answer every question. Even if you’re not sure of the answer, this is a good strategy for maximizing your score. In the Listening section, the answers are multiple choice, so choose the most likely response and cross your fingers.

2. Practice with a variety of resources

Practicing for the Listening test with practice TOEFL papers and exercises is an excellent form of preparation, but it’s not the only one. Make sure to keep brushing up on your grammar and vocabulary –  because you never know what will come up – and engage with English media in your spare time.

A varied study plan is the best study plan.

3. Keep a cool head

The Listening section of the TOEFL can be the most stressful as the recordings generally only play through once. Although you might hear snippets repeated in the questions, you must pay attention to the recording on the first hearing to stand a chance at answering the questions accurately. This might seem daunting, but it’s essential to keep a cool head.

Don’t worry if you miss a word or don’t understand the meaning of a sentence – scribble down what you do hear and stay engaged.

Improve Your Listening Skills With GlobalExam’s Online Platform

If you want to ace the Listening section of the TOEFL, you’ll have to put in the work. Luckily, we’ve made preparing for the exam easy and even fun on our e-learning platform.

GlobalExam has been carefully designed to help students and test takers to prepare for every aspect of the TOEFL, such as:

  • Study sheets: consult 390 grammar and vocabulary revision sheets with questions.
  • Exercises: complete 14 training sessions focused on different parts of the TOEFL.
  • Mock exams: test yourself with nine full TOEFL mock tests under timed conditions.

Whether you are starting your English learning from scratch or you are only looking to train for your TOEFL test, you can find all the lessons and exercises you need on our platform. Also, our programs are customized to different proficiency levels, and crafted to help you progress from one to another.

Join GlobalExam to get access to a huge bank of grammar and vocabulary resources, as well as many TOEFL-style exercises and mock tests. You can hone your listening skills on GlobalExam by focusing on exercises that target specific recording types:

Room for one final TOEFL Listening tip to wrap up? Start your preparations with GlobalExam today!