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TOEFL Listening Questions Answering Tips, Strategies and Practice Test

Listening Questions Answering Tips, Strategies and Practice Test

TOEFL Listening Question Types

 Basic Comprehension questions

  1. Gist-content
  2. Gist-purpose
  3. Detail

Pragmatic Understanding questions

  1. Understanding the Function of What Is Said
  2. Understanding the Speaker’s Attitude

Connecting Information questions

  1. Understanding Organization
  2. Connecting Content
  3. Making Inferences

 

Basic Comprehension Questions

Basic comprehension of the lecture or conversation is tested in three ways: with Gist-content, Gist-purpose, and Detail questions.

Type 1: Gist-content Questions

Understanding the gist of a lecture or conversation means understanding the general topic or main idea. The gist of the lecture or conversation may be expressed explicitly or implicitly. Questions that test understanding the gist of a lecture or conversation may require you to generalize or synthesize information from what you hear.

How to Recognize Gist-content Questions

Gist-content questions are typically phrased as follows:

  • What problem does the man have?
  • What are the speakers mainly discussing?
  • What is the main topic of the lecture?
  • What is the lecture mainly about?
  • What aspect of X does the professor mainly discuss?

Tips for Gist-content Questions

  • Gist-content questions ask about the overall content of the lecture or conversation. Eliminate choices that refer to only small portions of what you just listened to.
  • Use your notes. Decide what overall theme ties the details in your notes together. Choose the answer that comes closest to describing this overall theme.

Type 2: Gist-purpose Questions

Some gist questions focus on the purpose of the conversation or lecture rather than on the content. This type of question will more likely occur with conversations, but Gist-purpose questions may also occasionally be asked about lectures.

How to Recognize Gist-purpose Questions

Gist-purpose questions are typically phrased as follows:

  • Why does the student visit the professor?
  • Why does the student visit the registrar’s office?
  • Why did the professor ask to see the student?
  • Why does the professor explain X?

Tips for Gist-purpose Questions

  • Students visit professors during office hours for various reasons, including cases in which a professor invites a student in to discuss the student’s performance on an assignment. To answer a Gist-purpose question, look in your notes for information that identifies the reason that the student visited the professor in the first place.
  • The purpose of a conversation is not always related to the conversation’s main topic. For example, a student might visit her professor for the purpose of asking a question about the professor’s grading policy. After answering her question, the professor might spontaneously ask how the student is progressing on a research project, and the rest of the conversation is about that project.
  • In service encounter conversations, the student is often trying to solve a problem. Understanding what the student’s problem is and how it will be solved will help you answer the Gist-purpose question.

 

Type 3: Detail Questions

Detail questions require you to understand and remember explicit details or facts from a lecture or conversation. These details are typically related, directly or indirectly, to the gist of the conversation or lecture, by providing elaboration, examples, or other support. In some cases where there is a long digression that is not clearly related to the main idea, you may be asked about some details of the digression.

How to Recognize Detail Questions

 Detail questions are typically phrased as follows:

  • According to the professor, what is one way that X can affect Y?
  • What is X?
  • What resulted from the invention of the X?
  • According to the professor, what is the main problem with the X theory?

 

Tips for Detail Questions

  • Refer to your notes as you answer. You will not be asked about minor points. Your notes should contain the major details from the conversation or lecture.
  • Do not choose an answer only because it contains some of the words that were used in the conversation or lecture. Incorrect responses will often contain words and phrases from the lecture or conversation.
  • If you are unsure of the correct response, decide which one of the choices is most consistent with the main idea of the conversation or lecture.

 

Pragmatic Understanding Questions

Pragmatic Understanding questions test understanding of certain features of spoken English that go beyond basic comprehension. In general, these types of questions test how well you understand the function of an utterance or the stance, or attitude, that the speaker expresses. In most instances, Pragmatic Understanding questions will test parts of the conversation or lecture where a speaker’s purpose or attitude is not expressed directly. In these cases, what is directly stated—the surface expression—will not be an exact match of the statement’s function or purpose.

What people say is often intended to be understood on a level that lies beyond or beneath the surface expression. To use an often-cited example, the sentence “It sure is cold in here” can be understood literally as a statement of fact about the temperature of a room. But suppose the speaker is, say, a guest in your home, who is also shivering and glancing at an open window. In that case, what your guest may really mean is that he wants you to close the open window. In this example, the function of the speaker’s statement—getting you to close the window—lies beneath the surface expression. Functions that often lie beneath the surface expression include directing, recommending, complaining, accepting, agreeing, narrating, questioning, and others.

Understanding meaning within the context of an entire lecture or conversation is critical in instances where the speaker’s stance is involved. Is a given statement intended to be taken as fact or opinion? How certain is the speaker of the information she is reporting? Is the speaker conveying certain feelings or attitudes about some person or thing or event? As above, these feelings or attitudes may lie beneath the surface expression. Thus they can easily go unrecognized or be misunderstood by nonnative speakers. Some Pragmatic Understanding questions involve a replay of part of the lecture or conversation in order to focus your attention on the relevant portion. There are two types of Pragmatic Understanding questions: Understanding the Function of What Is Said questions and Understanding the Speaker’s Attitude questions.

Type 4: Understanding the Function of What Is Said Questions

The first type of Pragmatic Understanding question tests whether you can understand the function of what is said. This question type often involves listening again to a portion of the lecture or conversation.

How to Recognize Understanding the Function of What Is Said Questions

Understanding the Function of What Is Said questions are typically phrased as follows:

  • What does the professor imply when he says this? (replay)
  • Why does the student say this? (replay)
  • What does the professor mean when she says this? (replay)

Tip for Understanding the Function of What Is Said Questions

  • Remember that the function of what is said may not match what the speaker directly states. In the example, an administrative assistant asks a student if he knows where the housing office is. She is not, however, doing this to get information about the housing office’s location.

Type 5: Understanding the Speaker’s Attitude Questions

The second type of Pragmatic Understanding question tests whether you understand a speaker’s attitude or opinion. You may be asked a question about the speaker’s feelings, likes and dislikes, or reason for anxiety or amusement. Also included in this category are questions about a speaker’s degree of certainty: Is the speaker referencing a source or giving a personal opinion? Are the facts presented generally accepted or are they disputed? Occasionally, a question will test your ability to detect and understand irony. A speaker is being ironic when the intended meaning is the opposite of what he or she is actually saying. For example, the utterance “That’s just great” can be delivered with an intonation that gives the utterance the meaning “That’s not good at all.” Speakers use irony for a variety of purposes, including emphasizing a point being made, bringing humor to a situation in order to win audience sympathy, or expressing disapproval in an indirect way. Listeners must infer the ironic statement’s real meaning both from clues provided in the context and from the speaker’s intonation.

How to Recognize Understanding the Speaker’s Attitude Questions

Understanding the Speaker’s Attitude questions are typically phrased as follows:

  • What can be inferred about the student?
  • What is the professor’s attitude toward X?
  • What is the professor’s opinion of X?
  • What can be inferred about the student when she says this? (replay)
  • What does the woman mean when she says this? (replay)

Tip for Understanding the Speaker’s Attitude Questions

  • Learn to pay attention to the speaker’s tone of voice. Does the speaker sound apologetic? Confused? Enthusiastic? The speaker’s tone can help you answer this kind of question.

Connecting Information Questions

Connecting Information questions require you to make connections between or among pieces of information in the lecture or conversation. Your ability to integrate information from different parts of the lecture or conversation, to make inferences, to draw conclusions, to form generalizations, and to make predictions is tested. To choose the right answer, you will need to be able to identify and explain relationships among ideas and details in a lecture or conversation. These relationships may be explicit or implicit.

There are three types of Connecting Information questions.

Type 6: Understanding Organization Questions

In Understanding Organization questions you may be asked about the overall organization of the lecture, or you may be asked about the relationship between two portions of what you heard. Here are two examples:

  1. How does the professor organize the information that she presents to the class?
  • In the order in which the events occurred
  1. How does the professor clarify the points he makes about Mexico?
  • By comparing Mexico to a neighboring country

The first of these questions asks about the overall organization of information, testing understanding of connections throughout the whole lecture. The second asks about a portion of the lecture, testing understanding of the relationship between two different ideas.

 Some Understanding Organization questions may ask you to identify or recognize how one statement functions with respect to surrounding statements. Functions may include indicating or signaling a topic shift, connecting a main topic to a subtopic, providing an introduction or a conclusion, giving an example, starting a digression, or even making a joke.

How to Recognize Understanding Organization Questions

Understanding Organization questions are typically phrased as follows:

  • How does the professor organize the information about X?
  • How is the discussion organized?
  • Why does the professor discuss X?
  • Why does the professor mention X?

Tips for Understanding Organization Questions

  • Questions that ask about overall organization are more likely to be found after lectures than after conversations. Refer to your notes to answer these questions. It may not have been apparent from the start that the professor organized the information (for example) chronologically, or from least to most complexes, or in some other way.
  • Pay attention to comparisons made by the professor. In the following example the professor is discussing the structure of plants. He uses steel and the steel girders in a new building to make a point. When the professor mentions something that is seemingly off-topic, you should ask yourself what point the professor is making.

Type 7: Connecting Content Questions

Connecting Content questions measure your understanding of the relationships among ideas in a lecture. These relationships may be explicitly stated, or you may have to infer them from the words you hear.

The questions may ask you to organize information in a different way from the way it was presented in the lecture. You might be asked to identify comparisons, cause and effect, or contradiction and agreement. You may also be asked to classify items in categories, identify a sequence of events or steps in a process, or specify relationships among objects along some dimension.

How to Recognize Connecting Content Questions

Connecting Content questions are typically phrased as follows:

  • What is the likely outcome of doing procedure X before procedure Y?
  • What can be inferred about X?
  • What does the professor imply about X?

Tip for Connecting Content Questions

Questions that require you to fill in a chart or table or put events in order fall into this category. As you listen to the lectures accompanying this study guide, pay attention to the way you format your notes. Clearly identifying terms and their definitions as well as steps in a process will help you answer questions of this type.

Type 8: Making Inferences Questions

The final type of Connecting Information question is Making Inferences questions. In this kind of question you usually have to reach a conclusion based on facts presented in the lecture or conversation.

How to Recognize Making Inferences Questions

Making Inferences questions are typically phrased as follows:

  • What does the professor imply about X?
  • What will the student probably do next?
  • What can be inferred about X?
  • What does the professor imply when he says this? (replay)

Tip for Making Inferences Questions

In some cases, answering this kind of question correctly means adding up details from the lecture or conversation to reach a conclusion. In other cases, the professor may imply something without directly stating it. In most cases the answer you choose will use vocabulary not found in the lecture or conversation.

Strategies for Preparing for the Listening Section

  • Take notes while you listen. Only the major points will be tested, so do not try to write down every detail.
  • When listening to a lecture, pay attention to the new words or concepts introduced by the professor. These words may be written on a chalkboard and will often be tested.
  • When listening to a lecture, pay attention to the way the lecture is organized and the way the ideas in the lecture are connected.
  • Choose the best answer.
  • Listening questions must be answered in order. Once you click on OK, you cannot go back to a previous question.

 

How to Sharpen Your Listening Skills

Listening is one of the most important skills necessary for success on the TOEFL test and in academics in general. The ability to listen and understand is tested in three out of four sections of the TOEFL iBT test.

The best way to improve your listening skills is to listen frequently to many different types of material in various subject areas (sciences, social sciences, arts, business, and others).

  1. Listening for basic comprehension
  • Increase your vocabulary knowledge.
  • Focus on the content and flow of material. Do not be distracted by the speaker’s style and delivery.
  • Anticipate what the speaker is going to say as a way to stay focused, and adjust your predictions when you receive additional information.
  • Stay active by asking yourself questions (for example, What main idea is the professor communicating?).
  • Copy the words “main idea,” “major points,” and “important details” on different lines of paper. Listen carefully and write these things down while listening. Listen again until all important points and details are written down.
  • Listen to a portion of a lecture or talk and write a brief summary of important points. Gradually increase the amount you listen to and summarize.
  1. Listening for pragmatic understanding
  • Think about what each speaker hopes to accomplish; that is, what is the purpose of the speech or conversation? Is the speaker apologizing, complaining, making suggestions?
  • Notice the way each speaker talks. Is the language formal or casual? How certain does each speaker sound? Is the speaker’s voice calm or emotional? What does the speaker’s tone of voice tell you?
  • Notice the degree of certainty of the speaker. How sure is the speaker about the information? Does the speaker’s tone of voice indicate something about his or her degree of certainty?
  • Listen for changes in topic or side comments in which the speaker briefly moves away from the main topic and then returns (digressions).
  • Watch television or movie comedies and pay attention to stress and into[1]nation patterns used to convey meaning.
  1. Listening to connect ideas
  • Think about how the lecture is organized. Listen for the signal words that indicate the introduction, major steps or ideas, examples, and the conclusion or summary.
  • Identify the relationships between ideas in the information being discussed. Possible relationships include cause/effect, compare/contrast, and steps in a process.
  • Listen for words that show connections and relationships between ideas.
  • When you listen to recorded material, stop the recording at various points and try to predict what information or idea will be expressed next.
  • Create an outline of the information discussed while listening or after listening.

 

Toefl Listening

The TOEFL iBT ® Listening section is designed to measure your ability to understand conversations and lectures in English. It includes listening for: basic comprehension. pragmatic understanding (speaker’s attitude and degree of certainty) and connecting and synthesizing information.

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