TOEFL Listening

Listening Section of TOEFL – A Brief Overview

The Listening test of TOEFL is designed to assess the basic English listening skills of the candidate. How well the candidate can understand what his instructors, employers or colleagues are speaking to him is tested in this section. This section requires that the candidate is able to understand the main idea of the topic which the audio clip contains.

Listening Section of TOEFL – A Brief Overview

The PBT Listening section contains three parts: short conversation, long conversations and several talks. Each part is followed by multiple-choices based questions which need to be answered after listening to the audio clip. You have to listen carefully to the tape as the audio clip and the questions will not be repeated again. Note taking is not allowed in the PBT format.

The iBT Listening section requires that the candidate listens carefully to the audio provided and understands the main idea and is able to connect and synthesize information. The Listening section includes listening to lectures, conversations, classroom discussions etc. The candidate can make notes which are collected and destroyed before leaving the examination room. You can see as well as hear the question before answering it.

This section includes 4-6 lectures which are 3-5 minutes long, followed by 6 questions per lecture. It also contains 2-3 conversations which are about 3 minutes long, followed by 5 questions per conversation. The entire Listening section is to be completed in a time limit of 60-90 minutes.


The conversations usually follow a casual format, where the talk can be between a student and a professor or between a student and an employee of the university. The conversations are usually based on topics related to the campus. It can highlight topics related to the everyday life on the campus or can include problems that occur on the campus.

Academic Discussions

Academic discussions are also based on a campus or classroom environment, where the participants are more in number. The main speaker will be the instructor or teacher and the students participating will contribute to the discussion in the form of asking questions or doubts and also by providing answers to the questions asked.


Lectures are made by a single speaker, usually by a professor or a teacher and include topics related to academics like history, geography, science, art etc.

Whatever be the form of the listening questions, you don’t need to have specific subject knowledge for answering the questions. All the answers are available by carefully listening to the audio provided in this section.

Purpose of the TOEFL Listening Section

The candidate should be able to understand

  • what the speaker wants to communicate
  • how the speaker has organized his ideas
  • the various relations between the different ideas presented in the topic
  • how to form a conclusion from the material provided
  • how to synthesize the information provided

Question Format of TOEFL Listening Section

The listening session of the Listening section is followed by questions which the candidate can see and hear. This helps the candidate in selecting the correct answer.

The different types of questions asked in this section includes:

  • multiple-choice questions with four options and one correct answer
  • multiple-choice questions with more than one correct answer
  • arranging or ordering a process
  • matching the different options

For some questions, the candidate can replay a part of the conversation or the lecture while answering that particular question; so, they don’t have to depend on their memory.

Tips for Improving TOEFL Listening Skills

The listening skills needed for the Listening section can be improved by reading different materials, watching movies and news, listening to speeches and conversations. The facility of listening to CDs containing speeches which are accompanied by transcripts is available at libraries and bookstores. The internet offers different sources which provide excellent listening material.

Some Useful Links for Listening Material

To become a good listener, you need to increase your knowledge about the English language and your vocabulary needs to be built up. Get familiar with different accents so that on the day of the test you can concentrate on what the speaker wants to communicate rather than get distracted by his accent. On the test day keep your ears sharp and don’t let any information slip out; this will surely help in getting a good score.