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TOEFL Listening Section: Tips, Strategies, Scores and Questions of TOEFL Listening

Yocket Editorial Team
TOEFL Listening Section: Tips, Strategies, Scores and Questions of TOEFL Listening Image

The second section that appears in the TOEFL Exam is the Listening Section. The core purpose of this section is to evaluate how well you can listen and comprehend lectures or conversations on academic-style topics in English. It also tests your ability to connect and synthesize information in a logical manner.

In this article, we will look at different question types covered under TOEFL Listening and strategies to solve them smoothly.   

Overview of TOEFL Listening Section

Total Number of Questions

28-39 questions

Time Duration

41-57 minutes

Score Range

0 - 30 (Scaled Score)

0 - 34 (Raw Score)

How are the questions delivered in TOEFL Listening section?

In the TOEFL Listening Section, the questions are delivered through an audio recording. In addition to the audio, you will see a picture on the screen that indicates the context of the question and the number of speakers. 

You are required to listen to the audio clip and answer the questions that follow. Since you will be allowed to listen to the audio clip only once, you will have to remember the relevant chunks of information. A good way to do this is to focus completely on the audio with an uncluttered mind and write down quick notes.

As somebody attempting the TOEFL listening section, do not worry about understanding the audio and taking notes at the same time. Reason being, the speakers in the listening excerpts talk slowly and you will be easily able to grasp the information.

So, it is possible for you to make notes of the important words or phrases and jot them down simultaneously. You might get a chance to hear snippets repeated in the questions, but you must pay attention to the recording in the first hearing itself. Also, don't panic if you miss something or don't understand the meaning of a word or sentence. Just note down what you hear and stay focused. 

Structure of TOEFL Listening Lecture & Conversation

The TOEFL Listening section consists of two types of listening excerpts, ie. Lecture and Conversation. There will be 3 - 4 lectures of 3 to 5 minutes, whereas 2 - 3 conversations of about 3 minutes in the exam. Each lecture and conversation will consist of its own set of questions of which types are discussed in the next topic. 

Question Types in TOEFL Listening Section

  1. Gist-content and Gist-purpose

The Gist-content question tests your ability to understand the main idea of what you have heard in the audio clip. It basically asks you to identify the main topic of the lecture or conversation. Ask yourself: “What is happening?” to answer correctly.

Whereas, under Gist-purpose questions, you need to identify the main purpose of the lecture or conversation. Here you have to answer: “Why is a particular thing happening?” 

Under both these question types, you will get phrases like - 

  • What is the lecture mainly about?

  • What are the speakers mainly discussing? 

  • Why does the student...?

  • What is the main purpose...?

  1. Detail

As the name suggests, the purpose of Detail questions is to test your attention to detail and your ability to pick out key facts discussed in the audio recording. 

You can recognize this question type through the following phrases:

  • What is...?

  • According to...

  1. Function

The Function question type asks you to identify the real meaning of a statement in the given context. Ever heard of the phrase, “Read between the lines? Well, here you have to listen. 

Further, you can recognize this question type as it includes the following phrases:

  • What does the professor mean when he says...?

  • Why does the student say...?

  1. Attitude

As the name suggests, the attitude question type asks you about the intention and attitude of the speaker. It means you have to tell about the speaker's feelings which are not directly stated, by understanding the given excerpt.   

You can recognize this question type as it includes the following phrases:

  • What is the professor's attitude? 

  • What does the student think about… ? 

  1. Organization

In order to answer this question type, you need to understand the main theme and purpose of the lecture or conversation. Here, you will be asked about the relationship between two or more parts of the excerpt and its overall organization. 

Though it is easy to recognize organization questions as they often include phrases such as:

  • Why does the professor mention…?

  • Why does the professor discuss...?

  1. Connecting Content

Under this question type, you are required to put together information from different parts or sentences of the lecture or conversation. You are generally asked to identify steps in a process, classify items in categories or cause/effect relationships.

Connecting Content question type includes phrases such as:

  • Fill in a table or chart

  • What is the likely outcome...?

  • Make a prediction

  • Steps in a process

  1. Inference 

This question type generally asks you to identify the meaning of a specific phrase or sentence which is not directly stated in the lecture or conversation. 

You can easily identify the Inference question type as it includes the following phrases:

  • What does the professor imply...?

  • What can be inferred...?

  • What are the implications of...?

Next, let’s check out this video that covers the actionable tips and tricks to score well in the TOEFL listening section.

Tips & Strategies for Mastering the TOEFL Listening Section

If you have a good plan of action to approach the different question types, then it becomes relatively easier to solve them. A few strategies are being shared below that can be referred to as you prepare for the TOEFL Listening section.

  • Focus on the important points: Focus only on the information relevant to the question. You do not need to understand everything in order to get a high score. As, understanding the important points will largely help you in answering the questions accurately. 

  • Understand the question type: You should be able to identify the question type. In this way, you will know what information you need to focus on while listening to a particular piece and then answer accordingly.

  • Note down the relevant key phrases: In TOEFL listening, students will get to listen to ample information. It is impossible to remember everything that has been said. Thus, it is very important that you take good notes and write down the points or key phrases you think are relevant to the question. 

  • Plan time management: Effectively manage your time considering the duration to remember the details and taking notes. Try to condense your notes into keywords or shorthand. You will hear the recording only once. Thus, note down the important information and main ideas as much as you can. 

  • Sharpen your Listening Skills: In order to improve your listening skills, deploy more time in listening to a variety of E-books, podcasts and other listening resources. Also, watch English news, films, web series and listen to English music as well, in this way you will happen to listen to English on a daily basis. In addition to the North American accent, chances are you will hear native-speaker accents from the United Kingdom, New Zealand or Australia as well. So, make sure to adjust to their accent by practicing listening to audio in different accents.

  • Expand your Vocabulary: To understand the context of the conversations or lectures, you should get familiar with university-related vocabulary. As this section involves real-life conversations, be sure to learn lots of phrasal verbs and idiomatic expressions as well.

  • Take ample Practice Tests: Taking as many Listening practice tests as possible is a sure way to improve your score in the TOEFL Exam. Also, solving last years’ TOEFL Exam question papers and sample papers is an important part of preparation. A few free TOEFL Practice Tests you can refer provided by the ETS:

As note-taking is an important strategy to solve the TOEFL Listening section, make sure you take neat and clear notes which you can easily refer to while answering. Also, listen to ample English audio in order to develop your listening skills. Moreover, take your practice to the next level by referring to tips & strategies discussed above for mastering TOEFL Listening.  

Frequently Asked Questions by students on TOEFL Listening (FAQs)    

Q1. Is TOEFL listening hard?   

Ans. The TOEFL Listening section is comparatively hard as you can hear the recorded lectures and conversations only once. Therefore, you are required to memorize the details, important information and jot down the main points while you hear them in order to answer the questions. 

Q2. How long is the listening section in TOEFL?

Ans. The listening section in TOEFL is about 41 to 57 minutes long. It is long enough to give you ample time to listen to the lecture or conversation and answer the questions that follow.    

Q3. How can I practice TOEFL listening?

Ans. You can practice TOEFL Listening by taking practice tests provided on the official ETS website:

Q4. How can I improve my listening skills in TOEFL?

Ans. You need to have good listening skills in order to crack the TOEFL Listening section. You can improve your listening skills by following these points:

  • Listen to a variety of E-books

  • Listen to podcasts

  • Watch news in English

  • Watch English movies and web series

  • Also, listen to English music more than your native music. 

Q5. How do I make notes for TOEFL Listening?

Ans. A few tips for making notes for TOEFL Listening are given below:

  • Pinpoint the main idea as you listen to it.

  • Use mostly abbreviations and avoid writing full sentences.

  • Jot down important terms and phrases.

  • Keep track of who makes which points.

  • Keep your notes neat and clear.

  • Keep track of transitional words or phrases.

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