How do I Score Well on TOEFL&Reg; Listening?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2019
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Doing well on the TOEFL® Listening portion of the Test of English as a Foreign Language means understanding how audio or verbal language transmission works, and building the listening skills that all of us need in order to decipher what we hear on a daily basis. For the TOEFL®, students combine an intuitive general listening skill with specific strategies targeted to the kinds of questions and activities that will be on the test. Mastering TOEFL® listening is a major part of doing well on the entire exam.

The TOEFL® exam is a common test for non-native English speakers to determine their level of competence in using the English language. The TOEFL® scores can influence academic goals, job placement, or in some cases, immigration. This test includes three or four components, depending on the exact version or format of the test.

One of the biggest tools in doing well on TOEFL® Listening is looking at the specific format of the listening section of the test. Most of the TOEFL® listening modules consist of multiple choice questions that the student is asked after having listened to an audio recording. In most cases, these multiple choice questions address details of a longer and more general audio passage or recorded discussion.


Beyond anticipating the kinds of questions that are on the TOEFL® Listening test, the student should be able to generally work on deciphering English sentences as he or she hears them. Some strategies for building these skills include listening to English dialect in film, music, television, radio, or any other audio broadcast, as well as listening to video broadcasts while viewing subtitles. Experts recommend “immersion” in a language to help listeners catch the nuances that distinguish particular words and phrases.

In an overall evaluation of skills that will prepare students for TOEFL® Listening, it’s useful to get guidance on how to develop advanced listening skills. Much of the words that are missed by the listener, are missed because of what some experts call a “broken chain of context”; the context of the word has a huge influence on whether the listener understands it. Students who realize this, can work on "filling in the blanks" by using what they did understand in order to find clues, and deduce the meaning of words or phrases that they are uncertain of. This kind of skill is so important for hearing audio transmissions, simply because so much of the message can get garbled, overcome by additional noise, or muffled by the way that the speaker is talking. Working with these challenges can help students get much higher scores on the TOEFL® Listening portion of this test.


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