TOEFL Listening Practice Tips

One important part of your TOEFL listening practice requires that you get the gist, main idea, or purpose of passage.  Sometimes, at the beginning of a passage, the speaker may make a transition from a previous topic to the new topic of a lecture.

TOEFL Listening Practice
TOEFL Listening Practice

TOEFL Listening Practice: Changes in topics, digressions, and corrections

Listen to the beginning of a TOEFL listening practice test to see if you can separate the previous topic from the new topic:

What is the topic of this lecture?

A. Hurricanes

B. Tornadoes

C. Low Pressure Centers

D. Coastal Destruction

Because the speaker uses the word “in addition,” you can guess that he is adding to topic of hurricanes, which is a previous topic discussed in another lecture. Therefore, the topic of this lecture is tornadoes and the destruction they cause. Therefore, answer choice “B” is correct.

In other cases, speakers may digress and bring up interesting topics but return back to the specific topic of a lecture.

What is the topic of this lecture?

A. Tsunamis

B.  The Ocean Floor

C. Earthquakes Occurring over Land

D. Mexico City Customs

The professor indeed mentions tsunamis at the beginning of his lecture. However, he then brings up the topic of earthquakes.  He also explains that the class will be focusing on a type of earthquake that occurred in Mexico City a few years ago. Hence, answer choice “C” is correct.

In other cases, the professor may bring up an incorrect idea. He will then change his mind and correct whatever was said.  As a result, you need to pay attention to whatever the professor corrects:

What is the main idea of this lecture?

A. Inflation

B. Economics

C. Tax incentives

D. Deflation

Even though the professor says he is going to talk about inflation, he corrects himself.  He then says he is going to talk about deflation.  Hence, the correct answer is choice “D.”

A speaker may transition from one topic to a new one.  In other cases, the speaker may digress and then return to the topic begin discussed. Lastly, the speaker may even correct something that was said. In all these cases, you will need to keep up with what is happening.

TOEFL Listening Practice: Integrated Speaking Strategy

During the integrated speaking tasks 3-4, you will need to understand the relationship between the reading and listening passages.  Furthermore, you will need to verbalize that relationship in your speaking response.   For example, suppose you read a passage about adaptations that animals make to survive. Then in the listening passage, you listen to a lecture about a snail which can spread slime over itself during periods of dry weather so that it doesn’t dehydrate. You will need to create an introduction that shows the relationship between the reading and the listening passage:

Did you notice in my introduction that I

Stated the main idea of the reading AND the listening passage?

Used simple present tense reporting verbs?

Included voice markers to acknowledge the author and the speaker of the two passages?

Explicitly stated what the relationship was between the listening and the reading passage?

TOEFL Listening Practice: Integrated Writing Strategy

Similarly, you will also need to understand the relationship between the listening and reading passages during the integrated writing task.   For instance, you could read a passage about three advantages of higher corporate taxation in the United States. After the reading passage, you could listen to a lecture explaining the problems with each advantage of corporate taxation discussed.  Then in the introduction, you will need to show how the listening passage is related to the reading:

Example TOEFL integrated writing task introduction:  The author in the reading passage explains three advantages of taxing businesses in the United States, and, in the listening passage, the speaker casts doubts on each advantage discussed.

Did you notice that my integrated writing strategy for the introduction is similar to the introduction that you just listened to: main idea for reading and listening passage, simple present tense reporting verbs,  voice markers, and directly mentioning connections of the two passages.

TOEFL Listening Practice: Final Tips

Now you know that TOEFL listening practice involves more than just understanding the main idea or purpose. You know have some ideas on how you can frame your introductions for your TOEFL integrated speaking and writing tasks.

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Good luck!

Michael Buckhoff,