Toefl listening

TOEFL Section 1: Listening

Try the following Listening examples. Remember that in the real test you will hear these parts. You will not see them, but you will be allowed to take down any notes while you listen. You will hear each section once only.

In the following examples, the parts you would hear in the actual test are shown in red. The parts you would read in the actual test are shown in blue.

M = man W = woman

Conversations, Academic discussions, Lectures

There are three different types of listening passages you will hear. Some use formal language while others are more casual. Language is natural sounding, in that pauses, errors, and false starts occur. The first style are called conversations. These take place between a student and a university employee. The employee is often a professor, but can also be another worker on campus such as an advisor or housing officer. The topics are usually about life on campus. You will also hear Academic discussions, which take place in a classroom setting. In these passages there are more than two speakers. Usually the professor does most of the talking, and a few students ask and answer questions and make comments. They are usually longer in length than the conversations. Lectures involve only one speaker. These lectures test your ability to comprehend academic subject material spoken by a professor. You will hear topics on just about every type of subject, from Biology, to Art, to Geology. It is not necessary for you to learn any background material for this section. Everything you need to know to answer the questions will be stated in the lecture. There are many types of questions in this section. The questions are generally in the same order as the information presented.

Question types:

Understanding Gist

  • What is the main topic of the lecture
  • What are the speakers mainly discussing
  • What is the lecture mainly about…
  • Why does the professor ask…
  • Why is the student talking to…
  • Why does the professor discuss…

Understanding the Gist questions test your ability to understand the main idea and purpose of what you have heard. These questions are not about specific details. Some Gist questions focus on the purpose while others focus on the content.


  • According to the professor, what is the problem with…
  • What does the student say about…
  • What caused…

You will likely need your notes to help you answer the detail questions. Remember to take down important facts as you listen. Examples and support for the main idea are often the subject of detail questions. You will not be asked questions about minor details. Make sure not to pick an answer choice just because you heard a word from the lecture. It is common to find these words in the incorrect choices.

Understanding Attitude

  • What is the student’s impression of…
  • How does the professor feel about…
  • What does the professor mean when she says…(listen again)

Listen to the sound of the speakers’ voices for hints about their attitudes and opinions about the topic.

Understanding Function

  • What does the student imply when she says this…(listen again)
  • What is the purpose of the professor’s response…(listen again)

Part of the listening passage will often be replayed in these questions. Make sure that you are listening for function of what is being said.


  • How is the lecture organized?
  • Why does the speaker mention/discuss…

These questions are most commonly paired with lectures. As you listen, take note of how each lecture is organized (chronologically/compare and contrast) in case you get one of these questions.

Making Connections

  • What does the speaker imply about…
  • What does the professor imply when he says…(listen again)
  • Organize…in a chart…
  • Place the following sequence of events in order

These questions require you to draw conclusions, understand relationships, and make inferences. You may have to fill out a chart or match terms with definitions.

Example 1: Casual conversation

Now listen to a conversation.


Now get ready to answer the questions.</<br>
1. What are the speakers mainly discussing?

A) Their plans for next semester
B) Why the woman can’t go to the concert
C) Their favorite band
D) Finding a tutor


  • Choice A is incorrect because they are discussing the woman’s plans, not the man’s.
  • Choice C is incorrect because the man suggests it is supposed to be “the best show,” but does not say it is his favorite band.
  • Choice D repeats the word tutor, which is related to tutorial leader, but neither of the speakers are looking for one. Again, it is not the main idea.

The correct answer is B. This is an understanding the gist question.

2. What will the woman do on Saturday?

A) Teach a class.
B) Mark tests.
C) Visit her cousin.
D) Go to a concert.


  • Choice A is what the woman does, but not on the weekend.
  • Choice C repeats the word “cousin” but is not the correct answer.
  • Choice D is what she wants to do but can’t.

The correct answer is B. This is a detail question.

Listen again to part of the conversation. Then answer the question.


3. What does the woman mean when she says this?


A) She thinks he should treat her with more respect.
B) She plans to teach university.
C) She thinks Professor Mathers is not kind.
D) She thinks she’ll be as good a teacher as Professor Mathers.


  • Choice A is incorrect because the woman is only a tutorial leader right now.
  • Choice C confuses the homonyms “mean” (unkind) and the verb “to mean” (to indend to say or do).
  • Choice D is incorrect because they are not speaking about Professor Mathers in this part of the conversation.

The correct answer is B. She plans to do her PHD and become a professor. This is an understanding function question.

4. What can be inferred from the conversation?

A) The woman never works on weekends.
B) The man and woman take the same courses.
C) The speakers live in the same dorm.
D) The man stayed after class for help.


  • Choice A is incorrect because the woman has to work this weekend.
  • Choice B is incorrect because the man thanks the woman for the study tips.
  • Choice C is not inferred. The woman mentions being in her dorm all weekend, but there is nothing to suggest that the man lives there too.

The correct answer is D. (They are having a private conversation and the woman gave him study tips.) This is a making connections question.

5. How does the male student feel about the woman’s weekend plans?

A) He feels sorry for her.
B) He is excited for her.
C) He is worried about her.
D) He is jealous of her.


  • Choice B is incorrect because the woman is going to be at home working.
  • Choice C is not mentioned.
  • Choice D is incorrect, because it is the woman who says she is jealous of the man’s plans.

The correct answer is A. This is an understanding attitude question.

Transcript for listening conversation 1:

M: You mentioned at the start of last class that you are a fan of live music. I guess I don’t have to tell you about the concert at the campus pub on Saturday. It’s supposed to be the best show of the year.
W: I know. I wish I could be there but I already promised professor Mathers that I’d have all of the quizzes graded by Monday. I’m afraid I’m going to be stuck in my dorm all weekend because I look after three tutorial classes including yours.
M: Why did you offer to do that? Did you forget about the concert, or do you really need the money?
W: Actually, I really need to concentrate on academics this year. If I want to get into the education program I have to prove that I am serious about being a tutorial leader. It’s not about the money. We don’t get paid much considering all of the hours we put in.
M: Have you applied at other schools besides this one. I’ve heard it’s really hard to get into the Education program here, but my cousin got accepted at one in a different state, and her grades aren’t that good.
W: That was my original plan, but Professor Mathers asked me to help her out this year and she also promised to write me a reference letter. I didn’t think I could get into the program here, but now I do. My marks are higher than they have ever been and once I’m done my masters I hope to do my PHD.
M: Well, I can see that you are really dedicated. You’re going to make an excellent teacher.
W: Professor you mean.
M: Right. Well, I’m sorry you’re going to miss the band.
W: Me too. I can’t help feeling a bit jealous. Sometimes I wish I was still in my first year of studies.
M: Well, I’ll tell you all about it on Monday. Oh, and thanks for the homework tips.
W: Sure, anytime.

Transcript for question 3:

M: Well, I can see that you are really dedicated. You’re going to make an excellent teacher.
W: Professor you mean.
M: Right.

W: Professor you mean.

Example 2: Academic discussion

Now listen to part of a lecture from a environmental science class.


Now get ready to answer the questions.

1. What is the main topic of the discussion?

A) Harmful televisions
B) A landfill concern
C) Computer equipment
D) Recycling films


  • Choice A is incorrect because it is not the televisions that are harmful. It is the CRT’s inside them that are harmful. In the discussion, the word “harmful” is used to describe the X-rays that the CRT’s shield people from.
  • Choice C is mentioned but is not the main topic. You will often find a choice that is too broad or too detailed to be the main topic.
  • Choice D combines two things that are mentioned, making the choice illogical.

The correct answer is B. This is an understanding gist question.

2. What makes monitors hazardous to the environment?

A) SRT’s
B) X-rays
C) Cathode ray tubes
D) Landfills


  • Choice A contains a similar sound distractor. C and S sound similar.
  • Choice B is what makes monitors harmful to humans. The CRT’s protect people from this hazard.
  • Choice D confuses the “wh” question. If the question was reworded using “where” then the answer might be correct.

The correct answer is C. This is a detail question.

3. According to Lisa, why can’t monitors be recycled?

A) They are too expensive to reuse.
B) There are no companies that provide this service.
C) People are too lazy to take them to recycling plants.
D) Companies prefer to store them for future use.


  • Choice A is not mentioned.
  • Choice C could be true, but is not something Lisa says. In the “according to” question, you cannot choose an answer just because it makes sense. It has to be mentioned by the speaker (in this case Lisa).
  • Choice D(storage) is mentioned, but not for the reason of “future use”.

The correct answer is B. This is a detail question.

Listen again to part of the discussion. Then answer the question.


4. What does Lisa mean when she says this:


A) Her family has thrown monitors in the garbage.
B) Her family owns a lot of television sets.
C) Her family feels bad about how much TV they watch.
D) Her family doesn’t care about the environment.


  • Choice A is incorrect because Lisa hasn’t admitted that they threw the sets out, only that they own a lot of sets.
  • Choice C is incorrect because there is no mention of how much time Lisa’s family spends watching TV.
  • Choice D related to throwing out large items, but is not Lisa’s point.

The correct answer is B. This is an understanding function question.

5. What will the class do next?

A) Visit a landfill site.
B) Dissect a computer monitor.
C) Watch another film.
D) Review the film about monitors.


  • Choice A, B, and D are all contradicted by the last sentence in the discussion. The professor talks about what the new film will be about. It is not one that they have seen before. The answer to this type of common question is always in the last line or two of the listening passage.

The correct answer is C. This is a making connections question.

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