Online TOEFL Listening Practice and Strategies

On this web page, you will get the online TOEFL listening practice to help you score higher on the listening section of the TOEFL iBT. Therefore, keep reading to learn more about the listening section of the TOEFL exam. You will also see 7 different question types on the listening section of the exam. Near the end of this web page, you will test your performance by completing an online TOEFL listening practice test.

Online TOEFL Listening Practice

Online TOEFL Listening Practice: What will happen during the listening section

During the listening sections, you will listen to lectures, classroom discussions, and conversations. Moreover, you will answer approximately 34-51 questions.

Online TOEFL Listening Practice:  Understand the Listening Question Types

During the listening section of the TOEFL exam, the test may present up to 7 question types to measure you understanding of what you heard.

TOEFL Listening Question Type 1: Listening Gist-Content and Gist-Purpose Questions

To get the gist of something, you need to understand the main point or key idea. Therefore, gist-content questions ask you to identify the main topic or main point of the lecture, classroom discussion, or conversation.

Example gist-content question:

What is the main idea of this lecture?

a. Formation of the Sun
b. How plants convert sunlight into energy
c. Plant pigmentation
d. Ozone layer of the stratosphere

Gist-purpose questions on the listening section of the TOEFL exam ask you to identify what the primpary purpose of the conversation or lecture is. The TOEFL exam uses phrases like “mainly about”, “mainly discussion”, “why does the student…?”, or “what is the main purpose?”.

Example gist-purpose question:

Why does the student consult an academic advisor?

a. To register early for the next term
b. To see if he can retake on of his classes
c. To talk about a grade greviance
d. To find out why he did not get his grades

Two important tips for the gist-content and gist-purpose questions

1. During the TOEFL listening section, you will NEVER be asked a gist-content and gist-purpose question in the same passage. The listening passage will only list one of these two types of questions.

2. In both types of questions, you may have to choose 2 of the 4 answer choice To improve your understanding of main idea gist and purpose questions, listen to academic lectures as often as you can.

The TOEFL likes to use lectures from many different subject areas. As a result, here are some ideas for your online TOEFL listening practice:

  • Therefore, listen to science, business, arts, math, social science, English lectures.
  • At first, practice listening to short lectures on topics with which you are familiar.
  • Then practice listening to longer lectures on unfamiliar topics. Listen to the lectures as many times as you need to. That way you will have a good understanding of the information.

TOEFL Listening Question Type 2: Inference Question

This type of TOEFL listening question asks you to answer something based on what is indrectly stated or implied in the convesation or lecture. Phrases such as “What are the implications of….?”, What does the speaker imply…?”, “What can be concluded from this conversation?”, and “It can be inferred from this conversation that….”

Example inference question:

What can be inferred from the following statement from the lecture?

Then you will listen to part of the conversation or lecture again: (Professor: First of all, I will let you know more about the behavior of brown bears by first talking about the behavior of grizzly bears.)

a. Brown and grizzly bears share similar behavioral characteristics.
b. Brown bears eat mostly vegetarian diets.
c. Brown bears’ behaviors are different from grizzly bears.
d. Brown bears are primarily meat eaters.

To improve your inference skills for the listening section of the TOEFL iBT, try the following for your Online TOEFL listening practice:

  • Find recordings of speakers who have different viewpoints on the same topic.
  • Pay close attention to the words the speakers use to explain their view points. Are the words negative or positive? How do the speakers imply these negative or positive ideas without saying these viewpoints directly.

TOEFL Listening Question Type 3: Organization Question

In this case, you need to understand how the lecture is organized. “Why does the professor mention…?” and “Why does the professor discuss….?” resemble the organization type question you will see during the listening section of the TOEFL iBT?”

Example organization question:

Why does the professor mention the different phases of the moon?

a. To explain how far Moon is from Earth
b. To show that the moon orbits Earth roughly one time monthly
c. To illustrate why Earth has high and low tides in the ocean daily
d. To explain why Earthquakes have more intensity near the Pacific Rim of Fire

Organization questions often ask about the examples used in an academic lecture.

As a result, pay attention to examples that the professor uses.

Ask yourself, “Why is the professor using these examples?” In addition, speakers typically explain the organization of a passage by using signal words as clues to help you understand the introduction, major ideas, examples, summaries, and conclusions.

For your Online TOEFL listening practice, listen to words such as first, second, third, next, and then can help you pay attention to the order of events mentioned in a lecture. In other cases, speakers may use cause-effect (“therefore”, “hence”, “thus”, “as a result”, and so on) and comparison/contrast (“similarly”, “in the same manner”, “likewise”, “in contrast”, “unlike”, “however”, and so on) to show how the ideas are organized.

TOEFL Listening Question Type 4: Attitude Question

Attitude questions on the listening section of the TOEFL exam often ask you how the speaker feels about something. In other words, you need to understand the speaker’s attitude toward the topic. “What is the speaker’s atttitude…?” “What does the student think about…?” and ‘What can be inferred about….from this conversation?”

To help you answer this type of question, pay attention to the tone of the speaker’s voice and pay attention to the following phrases and their meanings:

“What I think…?

‘It seems to me…”

A TOEFFL attitude question refers to how valid the speaker’s argument is or how sure (or unsure) the speaker is of the facts.

Example attitude question:

What attitude does the professor have when she says this: (You will listen to “Well, you just don’t see other planets or celestial bodies out there like Earth that have all the necessary ingredients for life.”)

a. Life might exist in other parts of our universe.
b. Other planets in our solar system may support life.
c. Earth will not be able to sustain life in the future.
d. It is unlikely that life exists outside of Earth.

  • To help you improve your online TOEFL listening practice, continue to practice listening to news, science, history, and documentary segments.
  • Believe it or not, listening to comedy programs is an effective way to improve your listening comprehension in this area. While you listen, play close attention to each speaker’s tone of voice:

Is the speaker calm or emotional?

Relaxed or nervous?

Certain, uncertain, or confused about something?

Enthusiastic or bored?

What can you learn about the speaker’s tone of voice?

TOEFL Listening Question Type 5: Connecting Content Question

Connecting content questions require you to know how the ideas in a listening passage are connected. For these types of questions, you may have to complete a table or chart. Therefore, you will need to be able to put together information from different sentences or from different parts of the conversations or lectures. To answer connecting content questions correctly, you need to understand be able to do/understand the following:

  • Steps in a process
  • Cause/effect relationships
  • Classification organization
  • Make a predication

Example connecting content question:

Why does the professor act surprised when he discusses the possibility of microbes on Mars? Click on two answers.

a. Because it suggests that Mars might be able to sustain life.
b. Because it means no further discoveries are needed on Mars.
c. Because scientists may make similar discoveries on Mercury and Venus.
d. Because the Red Planet may be able to support a lunar colony.

To make the most of your online TOEFL listening practice,, listen to 4-5 minute news, science, history, and documentary audio segments.

Stop the recording at 30-60 minute intervals and practice summarizing what you just heard.

Then try to predict what will be talked about next.

TOEFL Listening Question Type 6: Function Question

Function questions ask you to identify the meaning of a statement according to the context of a conversation. To illustrate, the real meaning of the statement is different from the surface or literal meaning. For example, if you are talking to someone in a library, and someone nearby says, “You are talking loudly.” What s/he might be saying is, “Please talk more quietly.”

Surface or literal meaning: “You are talking loudly.”

Real Meaning: “Please talk more quietly.”

It is easy to identify this type of question on the listening section of the TOEFL exam:

“What does the professor mean when he says…?”

“Why does the student say….?” You will be able to listen to part of the conversation again

Example function question:

What does the woman mean when she says “Getting a low score is not the end of the world.”
As you look at the answer choices, think about the context of the conversation.

a. She hopes she doesn’t score so low next time.
b. She believes that her exams later on will be easier.
c. She still has time to raise her grade in the course.
d. An impending disaster might occur soon.

As you practice listening to conversations and lectures, which is a great for online TOEFL listening practice, try to understand what the speaker is doing when s/he says certain things: direction, recommendation, complaint, agreement, disagreement, question, and confirmation. In addition, with these types of language functions, the speakers often do and say things below the surface. Your goal is to get practice identifying the function of what is said with less effort. Consequently, it will be easier for you to answer these types of TOEFL listening questions.

TOEFL Listening Question Type 7: Detail Question

The detail TOEFL listening question asks you about facts from the listening passage; therefore, it is a directly stated question. Phrases like “according to” and “what is” are often stated in this type of question. This type of question will usually focus on detail concept and not minor detail information.

Example detail question:

Which marketing strategy does the professor believe is most effective?

a. Facebook advertising
b. Organic social media advertising
c. Content marketing
d. Email marketing

As you heed my advice by listening to news, history, documentary, and science segments, identify the main idea of the talk first. Then pay attention to the details and facts in support of that main point. Lastly, remember not to worry much about the minor detail information.

Online TOEFL Listening Practice: Complete a practice test to measure your comprehension


1. What is the main idea of this talk?

a. The inner solar system
b. Interstellar gas dust
c. The origin of meteorites
d. The formation of the universe

2. What can be inferred from the following statement: Click to Listen

a. Without meteorites, scientists would have a limited understanding of planetary material.
b. Meteorites are not necessary for understanding the formation of our solar system.
c. Our sun would not exist without meteorites.
d. Meteorites do not exist in our solar system

3. Which of the following are important facts related to the formation of our solar system? Choose two answers.

a. The solar system formed after the Big Bang.
b. Old meteorite samples were not part of the solar system that we know.
c. The sun did not become a part of our solar system.
d. The solar system formed when a cloud of interstellar dust and gas collapsed.

4. Why does the professor mention meteorites and nebulas in his lecture? Click on two answers.

a. Because both are part of the planetary material in our solar system
b. Because both materials came from the sun
c. Because meteorites and nebulas help us understand how our solar system formed.
d. To show how the two types of materials only recently came into existence

5. What would sometimes happen when the temperatures in a solar nebula got very high?
a. Particles would freeze.
b. Debris would be scattered throughout the solar system.
c. The dust would evaporate.
d. The matter would turn into rain.

6. What is true about meteorites which are produced in different areas of a solar nebula?

a. They will be forced out of our solar system.
b. They will have a similar make up.
c. They will have the same structural properties.
d. The celestial bodies will have slightly different chemical properties.

This article and practice test are written by Michael Buckhoff–the founder, owner, and materials writer for the Online TOEFL Course “The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT