CISL’s TOEFL listening tips for ESL students

Each month, CISL teaches many students how to master the TOEFL test. Today we are focusing on some tips for improving your score on the Listening section.


Basic information about the TOEFL iBT Listening section

– The listening test is given after the Reading test.

– It is 2 sections consisting of a long conversation and two professor lectures. These sections are 3-5 minutes long. You have 10 minutes (after the listening stops) to answer 17 questions, which amounts to roughly 35 seconds to answer each question.

– This section is testing the following things:

  1. How well your basic comprehension skills are
  2. How well you understand the practical purpose of the listening clip you hear
  3. How you can connect concepts together

– Each part of the Listening section consists of 1 long conversation and two lectures. The test takers hear each lecture or conversation only once. Lectures and conversations are 3-5 minutes long. During the listening the time is not running: the allotted time of 10 minutes for each part is used only for answering the questions.


TOEFL Listening Test Tips

1. Listen for the main idea

Typically, this comes at the beginning of the listening. It is like the topic sentence that we use when writing. Listening for the main idea will help you understand the overall passage; in addition, it will aid you in picking out the supporting details and how they work together with the main idea to form a message.

2. Recognize the way the ideas are being presented.

What kind of listening is this? It is a compare/contrast? A cause and effect? A sequence of events? Understanding how the ideas are presented will help you understand the overall meaning of the listening.

3. Listen for signpost words

Signpost words do exactly what signs do: point you in the right direction. Signpost words tell us when the following information is going to be an addition (words like “in addition” or “moreover”) or a contrast (words like “however” and “although”) or a cause and effect (words like “consequently” and “therefore”) or examples (words like “for instance” and “for example”). These key words tell us what will follow and help us understand relationships within the passage.

4. Take notes

You can’t remember everything . . . and that’s OK, because you can take notes! Note-taking is a skill that can be improved with practice. Taking notes while listening to lectures will help you learn to write and listen at the same time. Practice makes perfect!

Additional TOEFL Listening Practice

Would you like some TOEFL Listening practice? Radio and television will always help. We also suggest the following websites, which typically focus on more academic listening and use academic vocabulary.

If you are interested in studying for TOEFL in San Diego or San Francisco, click here for the CISL TOEFL class schedules. Click here for some tips on the TOEFL Speaking section, or here to learn more about TOEFL academic vocabulary. Good luck to our CISL students!