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How to deal with the TOEFL listening challenges [Part 2]

How to deal with the TOEFL listening challenges [Part 2]


CHALLENGE 2: "l get lost as I listen to lecture portions of the listening test"



SOLUTION 1: The lectures in the listening section of the TOEFL test are regularly between five and seven minutes long. Sometimes it's difficult to be consistently well-concentrated throughout the test. One way to avoid problems with this is to learn the organizational structure of TOEFL listening passages. By understanding how each passage is generally structured, you will have the capability to better predict what type of information will be used in the lecture and where this information will appear in the lecture. If you lose concentration while listening, you just have to think about how the passage is structured in order to get back on track.



Note that nearly all of the academic lectures in the TOEFL listening section follow one of the following


common organizational structures:


  • definition
  • compare and contrast
  • process
  • classification
  • theory / support
  • pros and cons (advantages and disadvantages)
  • cause and effect


To practice, try listening to several lectures and see if you can identify what types of structures they are.




SOLUTION 2: Listen for signposts. A signpost is a word or phrase that is used to signal a specific type of

information in a listening passage. For example, some signposts signal the introduction of a new topic (e.g., On another note.. .), while others signal the definition of a key term (e.g., By that, I mean.. .). By listening for signposts, you can get a better sense of what is happening in the lecture, which will help you become focused again. To practice, listen to a recording of a lecture and write down all the signpost words you hear. Then, check your notes against the script. How many did you notice? Do this practice again and again to make it easy to get the signposts while listening.




SOLUTION 3: Recognize what information is important and what is not. During a listening passage,  speakers often digress, or talk about information that is not directly related to the main topic of the  lecture or conversation. If you get lost while you are listening, recognizing digressions will help you refocus on the important information. See the table below for words and expressions that are often used to introduce digressions.



Expressions that Signal Digressions:


  • Now, this won't be on the test, but it's interesting to think about.
  • You don't have to write this down, but consider that…
  • Just as an aside, I want you all to know that…
  • This is only somewhat related, but...
  • It doesn't really make a difference to what we're discussing today, but don't you think that...?
  • Don't let this confuse you, because it doesn't really apply to what we're talking about today.
  • This may be oversimplified, but for the purposes of today's lecture, it's really all you need to know about X.