All about the Toefl – The Listening Section – Part I

In Exam Prep, Inglés, inglés con Propósitos Específicos, MCERL, Toefl by viteng

The Listening Section – Part I

Welcome back. I know its been a while, but I always deliver on what I promise. And as promised, here we continue working with the second section of the TOEFL… the Speaking section.

Firstly, if you´re new to this blog series, I´d recommend you start from the beginning by clicking the link ( If you wish to read the last post we did that finished covering the Reading section, then you can click the link ( and refresh yourself before continuing to this section.

Now, let us continue into the section.

The Listening section


You can infer by the name of the section that you will have to listen. In this section of the TOEFL, your ability to comprehend academic talks and dialogues along with conversations will be tested. you will be asked about the main idea, to infer meanings and to find supporting details, amongst other things. During this section you will be wearing headphones that are provided by the ETS folks.

This section usually lasts 60 minutes and you get to listen to 6 audios (2 conversations, 2 classes and 2 lectures). I say usually, because as in the Reading Section you might get a longer version that gives you some extra material for an experiment. And as in the previous section, these listenings won’t be graded. However, you don’t know which ones will or won’t be graded. Therefore you must always aim in doing your best in all the listenings. If you are “lucky” enough to get the long version, then the section will last 90 minutes, and you will listen to 9 listenings. (3 conversations, 3 classes and 3 lectures). This won’t be the best scenario, but you should be aware of it, and, prepared for it.

Now let’s go slightly over the characteristics of listenings you´ll get. As I mentioned, you´ll get some conversations, classes and lectures, and these will range in length from about 3 up to 7 minutes (rare to get 7 minutes) and will usually be followed by 5 to 7 questions. However, it is important to note that some of these listenings, especially the classes and lectures, will have a few visual aids that can make things a lot clearer. Keep in mind that they will also be the same type of academic topics as in the Reading Section, so it is unlikely that you will be familiar with all topics.

You might think for a moment, “I have to listen to a 3-7 minute lecture and then I´m supposed to remember what they said?”. The simple answer is yes and no. Yes, because you must pay attention to the whole listening and grasp the core and details of it, and no, because as I mentioned before, you will be allowed to take notes.

Note taking is an important skill in this section. Before you begin the section, you will be given a number 2 pencil and a few sheets of paper. Most of the information you hear must be jotted down on your paper and it is important for you to know what to pay attention to, how to write, where to write it, and what to draw… yes, what to draw… remember that during some of the listenings that refer to classes and lectures, you might get a few visual aids. These visual aids will not be moving or animated, but rather still photos or drawings that better explain what the speaker is talking about. For example, if they speak of Tectonic plates, then we may get a few images that follow the explanation, maybe some plates overlapping each other or types of tectonic plates. Generally, these images are designed in a way that makes them very easy to sketch, which we must use to our advantage and incorporate them into our notes.  These images will be cued very slightly, as in they wont say when they will show them, they will just appear there. So, you have to multitask a bit in paying attention, taking notes and looking at the screen. These images are imperative to us as we will be able to boost our notes through the process. Hence, it is important to improve your notetaking skills. Like a lot! No kidding.

You should always pay attention to the main idea of the listening, what is spoken, what is concluded, how the lecture was organized, any strange expressions, visual cues that help define a category of something and so much more. A good trick to write a lot of information is to practice with shorthand. Maybe not full shorthand but some basic form of it. Don’t write complete sentences, don’t even write the complete words. The idea of your notes would be to be able to repeat the whole listening with over a 70% accuracy. To put it simply without your notes, you´ll only work from memory.

In our next post, I’ll go more in depth of what to pay attention to in each type of listening and we´ll continue with the types of questions and how to solve them more easily. I hope you enjoyed this brief intro to the Listening Section.