How to Improve TOEFL Listening Skills & Scores?

TOEFL listening test is one of the four parts of TOEFL Ibt. Due to its lengthy lectures and complicated parts, it creates a complex structure for students who are used to short and clear listening activities. In this post I will try to suggest some possible ways of studying and some points to consider in order to improve Toefl listening skills and scores.


First of all, you have to remember that Toefl has a unique way of assessing listening when compared to the listening tasks in most coursebooks. There are 6 tasks (4 integrated tasks and 2 independent tasks). The integrated tasks are mostly combined with short reading passages before listening and they are rather short when compared to independent academic lectures which are quite long. You have to remember one important thing; there is never a second chance in Toefl listening test except some meaning-related phrase questions.



Preparation Period

While studying for Toefl listening test, the first thing you have to do is to practice with average-low quality headphones. Because in your test-place, it is likely that you will be given average or low quality headphones rather than good ones. If you prepare for the worst scenario, it will be better for you to adapt for it.

The second most important thing is to practice listening by always taking notes. Taking notes effectively is as important as understanding the audio file in Toefl listening test. Whatever you listen, always try to take notes and listen for a second time to see how much of it you missed. You can create your own note-taking strategies or writing styles to save time. Try not to write everything you hear but the important details.

In terms of materials, the best ones are materials that are specially designed for the Toefl listening test. The more similarity between the questions in your material and the Toefl test the better it is. Especially, you can use the test-maker's own materials. However this doesnt mean that these type of materials are the only ones. You can also use alternative materials to improve your general listening competence. You can use websites such as Elllo to get ready for tasks such as daily conversations in the campus and TED Talks to get ready for long academic lectures. Remember, these types of alternative materials will improve your listening competence, they won't get you ready for the Toefl test.

In your preparation period, you will have lots of things to study for. That's why try to create some extra time to practice listening. For example, if you get to your school or to your workplace by subway or by bus, try practicing listening while you are on your way. Find some Toefl listening files or use your material's listening files and copy them to your smart phone. While you are on your way, listen to them. Also, you can watch videos on websites such as TED Talks to improve your listening.

Finally, never give yourself a second chance while you are testing yourself because you won't have a second chance during the test. Only listen for a listening for a second time to see what you missed. If you get yourself used to answering the important details by listening twice, it won't do good for you during the test.

During the Test

First, check your headphones. If there is a problem, report it and want in changed. A serious problem might ruin your whole test. Remember that your headphones won't be perfect, so try to adapt quickly if there is not a serious problem with it.

Try to be calm and always focus on the current question. If you miss some details let it go. Because if you start thinking about it you can miss the remaining part. You don't have to get every detail to answer all the questions. Try to note down as many important details as possible.

If you are not sure about one of the questions, try guessing. Eliminate the ones that are irrelevant and take your chances for the ones that are possible. You will probably choose the correct one.

Following the test, you will feel like some of your answers weren't correct. It will be because of your exam mood. Just focus on your following part of the test. This is a normal feeling. Hopefully, the result won't be as bad as you expect. I felt the same but in the end my listening score was 29.

Prepare well, trust yourself, focus carefully and believe that the result will be good.

If you have any further questions, you are welcome to contact with me about anything, any time.

Wish you good luck.

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