TOEFL Listening Test: Everything You Need to Know

The TOEFL Listening Test is one of the portions of the TOEFL. 

In this article, we are here to guide and assist you when it comes to everything there is to know about the TOEFL Listening Test to achieve the score you are aiming for and eventually get closer to your dreams of studying abroad. Continue reading. 

What is TOEFL?

Students applying to colleges and universities in English-speaking countries such as the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), a standardized academic English test. 

The TOEFL is primarily a set of tests, the most well-known of which are the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essentials. The TOEFL ITP (Institutional Testing Program), TOEFL Junior, and TOEFL Primary exams are part of the TOEFL series. 

Other TOEFL forms are only available at students’ schools. In April 2021, the TOEFL PBT (Paper-Based Test or Paper-Delivered Test) will be phased out.

The TOEFL iBT is a three-hour test that determines whether candidates are ready to enroll in an educational institution in an English-speaking country

Before taking the TOEFL, many students study for 3 to 6 months. In comparison to the other tests, the TOEFL Essentials exam was created to be a less academically oriented, less challenging English test.

The TOEFL consists of four parts: 

What Should You Know About the TOEFL Listening Test? 

In the TOEFL listening part, you must answer questions based on two types of listening activities: lectures and conversations. There are two or three different sets of listening materials. 

Each set includes dialogue and two lectures (long set) or a dialogue and a lecture (short set). If you are presented with three sets, the third one will be a short one. It is also important to note that one of your lectures and one of your dialogues will not be evaluated in case you are given three sets. 

Any of the sets could have these experimental passages.

  • Long Set: You have 10 minutes to answer 17 questions.
  • Short Set: You have 6.5 minutes to answer 11 questions.
  • This segment has more than 40 questions and takes roughly 40 minutes to finish.

The TOEFL Listening Test measures your ability to:

  • Get a fundamental knowledge of the primary idea, major points, structure, purpose, conclusion, important facts, and pertinent information.
  • Learn via hearing, such as tracing the evolution of ideas or events across the recordings and recognizing various linkages between ideas 
  • Draw conclusions about the author’s point of view and what is suggested in a recording

How is the TOEFL Listening Section Calculated?

The TOEFL Listening score is simple to calculate. For each question you answer properly, you will receive one point, and the total of those points is your raw score. To achieve your final TOEFL Listening score, your raw score will be transformed to a scale of 0-30.

Below are the proficiency levels and their corresponding scores in the TOEFL Listening:

  • High – 22-30 
  • Intermediate – 15-21 
  • Low – 0-14 

Types of TOEFL Listening Questions

The TOEFL Listening Test consists of four to six academic lecture specialists who speak for three to five minutes each, as well as two to three three-minute dialogues. 

  • Detail Questions
  • Gist Content Questions
  • Gist Purpose Questions
  • Inference Questions
  • Organization Questions
  • Attitude Questions
  • Function Questions
  • Connecting Content Questions

Because each part can only be heard once, it is critical that students pay attention. Knowing what questions the TOEFL writers expect you to be able to answer after listening to the test will help you prepare more effectively.

Detail Questions

The factual questions from the TOEFL Reading section are generally identical to the detailed questions. They deal with specific information from the TOEFL Listening segment, but they are not always as detailed as the TOEFL Reading section’s detail questions. 

Because you will not be able to listen to the audio again, you have to rely on the information you wrote in your notes. 

Example Question:

Why does the professor say that coral reefs support over 4,000 different fish species?

  1. To compare and contrast two different sorts of water ecosystems
  2. To find out how much knowledge students have regarding tropical fish
  3. To imply that coral reefs may have existed in the past in the Southern Ocean
  4. To suggest that there are creatures in the Southern Ocean that have yet to be discovered

Gist Content Questions

When given this type of question, keep in mind that you should only be concerned with the passage’s main idea. 

Correct answers will not include supporting ideas, examples, or counter-examples. Just because an answer option is correct does not mean it is the best option. It has to be the most crucial of all the possible answers.

Example Questions:

What is the main point that the lecturer mentions when it comes to the Nightcap Oak? 

  1. What can be done to secure its continued existence?
  2. Why hasn’t it changed much in the last 100 million years?
  3. Factors relating to the size of the growing area.
  4. Its population has fluctuated throughout the last few centuries.

Gist Purpose Questions

When given this type of question, keep in mind that you should only be concerned with the passage’s main idea. 

Correct answers will not include supporting ideas, examples, or counter-examples. Just because an answer option is correct does not mean it is the best option. It has to be the most crucial of all the possible answers.

Example Question:

What was the purpose of the student’s visit to the librarian?

  1. To enquire about how to obtain a copy of a journal article
  2. To receive assistance in finding resources for a class paper
  3. To alert her to the fact that a journal is missing from the reference section
  4. To register for a lecture on using electronic sources for research, click here

Inference Questions

You must determine the indirect meaning of something mentioned during a lecture to answer these questions. They are simple to spot because they frequently begin with “What does the professor imply…” or “What may be concluded…”

They can be more challenging to respond to because the content does not provide a direct answer to the question. 

Example Question:

What does the professor say about the experience of simulating zooplankton migration?

  1. The laboratory experiment has little validity; hence the results are flawed.
  2. The zooplankton migration is obviously influenced by the tides of a vast body of water such as an ocean.
  3. If whirls formed in a tiny tank with a slight number of organisms, it’s safe to assume that the same would happen in an ocean with billions of them.
  4. It was impossible to discern any movement caused by the organisms in the tank, thus it is expected that comparable organisms would create little movement in the ocean.

Organization Questions

There are three types of organization questions that appear nearly entirely in lectures. The first type will ask you about the lecture’s general structure. The second will inquire about the relationship between two (or more) elements of the presentation. The third is similar to a function inquiry, but it will focus on a single line.

Example Question:

How does the professor plan his blue jeans lecture?

  1. Using a question-and-answer style to engage pupils in the topic of blue jeans
  2. Creating the faded and worn look of jeans in order to describe the numerous methods for
  3. Connecting an abstract concept like stone-washing to a specific example of how it is done
  4. Explaining the evolution of several types of pants and their impact on the current popularity of blue jeans

Attitude Questions

Like function questions, attitude questions frequently deal with information conveyed through what the speaker says and how they say it. They will inquire about the speaker’s attitude or what information the speaker’s intonation and word choice reveal about the speaker’s feelings and relationship to the subject being discussed. 

Example Question:

What is the student’s opinion of the jazz band?

  1. She feels that they may have misled her.
  2. She wants them to collaborate on a project.
  3. She worries that they haven’t rehearsed enough.
  4. She admires how they addressed their acoustical and sound problems.

Function Questions

Function questions assess your grasp of pragmatics or the inferred meaning we derive from our surroundings. They frequently inquire about a specific section of the passage, sometimes even a single word.

The question will play a part of the audio that contains the question’s topic, and subsequently, only the topic will be played. No transcriptions will be provided for any of these questions. All information will be obtained from listening.

Example Question:

Why does the speaker say this?

  1. To set the stage for the topic she’s describing.
  2. To explain why Emerson’s article has lost part of its significance.
  3. To encourage pupils to understand more about this period of history.
  4. To imply that the citizens of the United States have remained mostly unchanged over time.

Connecting Content Questions

Connecting content questions need you to prove that you comprehend the relationships between topics in a lecture by filling out a chart or table. This is one of the few listening questions with numerous options. 

If there are three columns, the question is worth two points instead of just one. The question may require you to sort answer alternatives into categories or arrange them in a specified order.

Example Question:

An animal drinks water after preening itself.
An animal abruptly leaves or flies away during its mating rite.
An animal attacks another thing instead of attacking the enemy.
When confronted by a predator, an animal falls asleep rather than devouring its food.

TOEFL Listening Practice Test Tips

Some applicants who have taken the TOEFL Listening test claim that it is more difficult than it appears. The anxiety of listening to the materials only once is too much to bear, even though the topics presented are not particularly complex and focus primarily on day-to-day tasks.

We strongly advise you to use all available approaches and strategies to ace this section of the test. 

Here are some helpful and tried-and-true suggestions for getting the score you want in the TOEFL Listening Test.

  • Learn how to do signposting.

The practice of guiding a reader through the gist of a document or a recording by employing phrases and words. It is an audio recording in the case of the TOEFL Listening Test. 

Using these words and phrases, you can predict what will happen next and eventually figure out the answer.

PurposeSignposting Language 
Start of the lecture
  • The theme of this lecture is…
  • This lecture will concentrate on…
Format of the lecture/lesson 
  • This lesson has _____ parts…
  • First, let us have…Then we will proceed to…
Introduction of the first part
  • To begin with…
  • Let’s kick off by…
Beginning of an idea
  • Now it is time for us to have…
  • This time I’d like to share with you about…
Summing up
  • To conclude…
  • From everything that I have discussed, it is apparent that…
  • Practice how to take notes.

First and foremost, in the TOEFL Listening Test, concentrate primarily on the most relevant information: the major topic and the key points or points made by the speakers.

If you take too many detailed notes, you will be so preoccupied with writing everything down that you will not have time to consider what it all means. 

  • Make use of the different practice tests available.

When studying for the TOEFL Listening Test, you usually have a target score in mind. You can only tell if you are getting close to your TOEFL goal by taking practice tests during your TOEFL preparation session. 

Practice exams will also help you understand the test set, question kinds, and time limits that you will encounter on test day. 

  • Practice writing and typing while listening simultaneously.

Listening and writing abilities are not challenging to master, but if you try to accomplish both simultaneously, one of them may suffer. As a result, you should practice this before taking the TOEFL Listening Test. 

You may accomplish this by taking practice tests, but you can also listen to the audio while taking notes. This will help you improve your ability to perform two jobs simultaneously.

How to Improve Your General Listening Skills?

The TOEFL Listening Test is one of the most demanding of the four TOEFL components. This test component has no space for mistakes, and once you miss a piece of information, it is gone forever.

The best and most effective techniques to improve your listening abilities for the TOEFL Listening Test are listed below.

  • Enjoy English and use it as much as possible.

Why are professional singers so accomplished at what they do? It is because they genuinely appreciate what they do and do it regularly. 

If you appreciate English, you will seek opportunities to be exposed to it regularly, such as through songs, movies, and even people. Allow your brain and, most likely, your ears to adjust to listening to English.

  • Put in some practice time by doing something fun.

Listening in pleasurable situations will make you feel less obligated to do so. This is when the ‘fun’ part of learning enters the picture: movies and music. Pick your favorite movie. 

Then watch it again, paying close attention to the dialogues this time. You will have a few dialogues stuck in your head without even realizing it.

  • Listen to podcasts. 

Whether you prefer the BBC or NPR, humor or news, plenty of English-language talk radio is available online. 

You can expand your listening comprehension by listening to native English speakers speak English at their natural speed. Listening to parts of the podcast and imitating the speaker’s pronunciation is also beneficial. 

As a result, English-language podcasts are a better way to practice listening comprehension than watching English-language movies or television shows.

  • Attend or listen to lectures.

Remember that the TOEFL Listening Test includes a lecture, so become used to listening to and taking notes during lectures. There are common patterns in lectures, such as an introduction that informs you of the topic and key topics, as well as signposts. 

There are several lectures available online, with transcriptions available to double-check your answers.

TOEFL Listening Tips for Preparation (What to Expect on Test Day)

Taking the TOEFL Listening Test can be stressful and anxiety-inducing, especially if you are unprepared and have no idea what to expect. 

Here are some pieces of advice we can offer you to assist you in performing at your best on the day of the test.


  • Eat healthy and get plenty of rest.

To give your best performance on the TOEFL Listening test, make sure you eat the right foods and not sleep too little. 

Remember that if your stomach is empty and you are hungry, you will not answer the questions correctly. 

  • Prepare everything you will need ahead of time.

Make sure you have everything you need for the TOEFL Listening Test, whether you are taking it at home or at a testing facility. 

Make sure you have all of the relevant identifications with you. Because the TOEFL is a computer-based test, no paper and pencil are required. You may, however, bring a clear bottle of drinking water with you if you are thirsty.


  • Watch out for sentences that have been paraphrased.

Bear in mind that what you hear will almost definitely differ from what is printed on the test paper because then, that would be extremely simple and easy. 

Synonyms are used in both the question and the stems, so be aware of them.

  • Do not get too overwhelmed with the figures you hear.

Number words are peculiar. They are usually the first thing you learn in your native language, but they are shockingly difficult to recall in a second. This is particularly true in the English language. 

Compared to most other languages, English has a peculiar manner of dealing with numbers. The good news is that precise figures are rarely evaluated in the TOEFL Listening Test. 

  • Move on if you do not hear something completely; it’s gone!

It is possible that you will not be able to listen properly 100 percent of the time on the TOEFL Listening section, and that is fine! Do not let it distract you. Instead, keep moving forward and concentrating on the next thing that is spoken. 

Often, indications from the rest of the tape can help you understand the audio clip’s overall meaning, allowing you to answer the questions that follow.

  • Use context clues.

Whether you just did not hear something or you heard but did not comprehend, you can check for context clues. 

Context cues are hints contained inside a sentence, paragraph, or passage that might help you figure out what new or unfamiliar words imply. Again, do not get distracted by what you do not know. Instead, concentrate on what you do know.


  • Relax.

You have done everything you can at this point, and the best thing you can do now maintains a positive attitude and take a break. 

Relax to take your mind off the many hours of work and preparation you have put in.

Additional FAQs – TOEFL Listening 

How Can I Practice TOEFL Listening?

There are several ways how you can practice for the TOEFL Listening Test. One of the most effective ways is to enhance your listening skills. 
Listen to podcasts and master the skill of taking notes— practice utilizing signposts too. 

Using the different practice tests available online will give you the advantage you need as well. These are the key factors that will help you achieve a high score in the TOEFL Listening Test. 

What is a Good TOEFL Listening Score?

There are three proficiency levels in the TOEFL Listening Test. They are ‘High,’ ‘Intermediate,’ and ‘Low.’

To be in the ‘High’ level, you need to score at least 22 (out of 30). 

However, any TOEFL Listening score that matches all of your school’s TOEFL scoring requirements is a solid score for you.

How Do I Pass the TOEFL Listening Section?

Getting the score that you desire for the TOEFL Listening Test can be challenging. However, it is not impossible. A lot of test-takers have aced it, and you also can. 

The key is to practice. Weeks (or months) before taking the test, immerse yourself in the English language. 

Listen to English materials and converse with the people around you in English. Take a lot of practice tests, and by the time you have to take the test, you are more than ready. 

Additional Reading – TOEFL Listening Resources

These days, there are many TOEFL Listening materials available to assist you with whatever preparation you may require before taking the test. Take advantage of these opportunities. Make sure, however, that you only use those that come from reputable sources.

Here are several examples: