Toefl listening

Toefl Listening Test Format : All you need to know about TOEFL Listening

The Listening section on the TOEFL usually contains both informal and formal conversations. It is common to expect classroom lectures, seminars or informal conversation between two classmates on the TOEFL listening test. Depending on your luck you may encounter 4 to 6 such lectures along with their related questions and paragraphs. If you have the experimental section questions, your listening session may last upto 90 minutes.

The listening section on the toefl is one of the most demanding sections in my personal opinion. It is the section that requires utmost concentration and also needs to apply your reading skills. The TOEFL Listening test is usually 2nd or 3rd on the test day but this can change as ETS tends to always take the user feedback and experiment with different test day scenarios. Honestly, the order of the Toefl listening section doesn’t matter as long as you can keep your focus. What is more important is that there should be no disturbance around you which ETS tries its best.

The content of the sections on the TOEFL listening test can vary in terms of the subject under discussion. This means you can expect lectures on any topic ranging from politics to philosophy or physics to computer science. Most of the questions will be easy to answer as the format tends to differentiate the speakers in terms of Professor/student or Male/Female classmate in the conversation. However it is advisable not to take this for granted and have  a lot of practice with various conversational styles to avoid getting surprised on your TOEFL listening test.


The questions for the Listening section will not be available while the conversation is going on and you cannot listen the recording again. Hence it is necessary to pay good attention to the audio and take notes. A good memory also helps a long way to crack TOEFL listening.

TOEFL Listening Question Types:

1. What is the Main topic / summary / decision / conclusion of the lecture/ conversation?

This question deals with Paraphrasing. If you are able to paraphrase well, you can answer this multiple choice question easily.

2. According to the Speaking, what does the word “XYZ” mean?

The key to answering this TOEFL listening question type is to have good knowledge of vocabulary with context. You can get two or more similar meaning words in the choice list of this question but only one of them will fit the context of the situation.

3. What is the speaker’s tone/attitude towards “subject of discussion”?

Again this is more of how much you can comprehend quickly by listening. Pay attention to pauses, stop words and negating statements.

4. The speaker describes various “attributes” about the subject. Choose whether a particular attribute falls in Category “A” or “B” according to the lecture?

This is a detail oriented question. The more efficient your memory and note-taking skills, the more easily you can answer this question.

5. Listen to part of the passage again and Answer the Question.

Same as 4 but this allows you a second listen because the question type is more analytical than just plain note-taking test.


So the above are the most common types of questions, the structure of which may vary depending on the lecture type and speakers. These should be enough to get you started preparing for TOEFL Listening test.

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