Improve Your Listening Skills

What are you listening for?

Black headphones on a bright yellow background
Practice your Listening Skills –Photo by Malte Wingen on Unsplash

Listening for basic comprehension is the first kind of listening we learn as a child. This means we are just listening to understand the definition of the word or phrase and how to use it in a sentence. 

When listening to prepare for the TOEFL exam, we do it to:

1. increase vocabulary

You need to start this step first. Take the time to increase your vocabulary daily.
    
2. focus on content and flow, and not the speaker’s way of talking

Listen for the flow of the sentences, or for the rising and falling sounds in the sentence.

3. anticipate what a person is going to say next

Play a game to see if you can guess what they might say next. This will prove that you are comprehending the conversation and following the general tone of the conversation.
 
4. ask yourself, “What is this person trying to say?”

Why are they speaking to the other person? What do they want to tell them? Or are they just talking together to share what they did yesterday?

5. create headings called “main idea”, “major points”, and “important details” and then take notes during the lecture and place the information under the correct heading

This will definitely help you when listening to lectures on the TOEFL exam. Learning to determine what is important to remember, and what is not, makes it more clear when you must answer the integrated exercises.

6. create an outline of the talk or lecture while listening and then write a brief summary

Learning how to summarize properly is a skill important to the TOEFL. This question is asked during all parts of the exam; reading, listening, speaking, and writing. 

Plan for your study and you will plan for your success. Many of these tips will also help on the other parts of the exam.

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Improve Your TOEFL Listening Skills Part 1

Tips for the TOEFL Exam

Beats headphones on a bright blue background with a white pencil.
Always be ready to listen.

Listening is one of the four parts of the TOEFL exam and is considered an integrated skill. This means that after you listen to a passage on the exam, you must then read and answer questions, write an answer, or speak an answer or opinion out loud. The skill to improving your listening abilities is to practice often and to use the integrated actions.

The listening section tests your understanding of spoken English in an academic setting, which includes university lectures and conversations. The TOEFL Guide Book states that listening is done for basic comprehension, for practical understanding, and for connecting and synthesizing information. That means you listen to see how all the information is related and understanding the meaning.

The test provides academic lectures and longer conversations in which the speech is at a natural speed. The exam usually offers 4-6 lectures, each about 3-5 minutes long, and 2-3 short conversations. The academic lectures usually include a professor speaking, a lecture and then a professor and student speaking, and then conversations between people in a college setting. These conversations deal with a typical student issue, such as course requirements, grades, registering for a class, or dealing with campus life. Notes can be taken during the lectures or conversations, but they are collected at the end of the exam and destroyed.

Four Question Formats

There are four question types in the Listening section.
 
1. multiple choice (there is only 1 correct answer)
2. multiple choice with more than one answer (1 and 2, or 1, 2, and 4)
3. place events or steps in order
4. matching objects or text with categories in a chart

The multiple choice questions require you to listen for tone of voice and other cues to try and determine how the speaker feels about the specific topic. Some questions replay a portion of the discussion, and then you answer the question after hearing it repeated.

Listening to English frequently, especially academic materials, is the best way to improve your listening skills for the TOEFL exam. Remember, the speech is at a normal speed. 

Some ways to improve your listening ability is to:
–watch movies or television, both with and then without subtitles
–listen to the radio or other English music you have downloaded
–download a podcast on your phone to listen while commuting 
–just listen to English conversations around you
These simple tips will all help you get better at this important skill of listening for comprehension.

Visit a bookstore or your library to find CDs and other audio of lectures and college level presentations. You can also search the internet for listening materials. Some good resources are:
1. www.npr.org
2. www.bbc.co.uk/radio
3. www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish
4. www.ets.org/toeflpractice (from the TOEFL creators)

More information and tips coming in a future post. Stay tuned!