Reading passages in a new language is difficult enough, but your comprehension of that language is really tested when you have to listen to a native speaker and answer questions based on what they say. This skill is at the heart of the TOEFL listening section. If you want to do well on the test as a whole, you must know how to get a good score in this section.

Like anything else, listening comprehension is a skill – something you can practice in the time before you take the test. These powerful techniques can help you ace it.

Technique #1: Watch documentaries and university lectures

Watching beneficial documentaries and academic television programs in English can help familiarize you with a wide variety of words to improve your vocabulary. You can expect to encounter speakers with different accents while watching these programs, but that is an important way to learn more about the English Language.

When you watch documentaries, watch them without subtitles. Do your best to understand every word being spoken. If you find that a particular accent is difficult for you, seek out additional examples of it so you will be ready on test day. This will help you with the conversations that make up the exam.

You can find a good selection of documentaries on topdocumentaryfilms and youtube.

The best two websites that you can find university lectures are and You can access lectures from the top universities around the world such as Harvard, MIT, Standford etc.

If you have any particular interests in any field of specialization, then this is the place to access lectures ranging from all subjects. This will be beneficial for you later on in your career as well as improving your listening skills for the TOEFL exam.

Technique #2: Listen to books on tape

Many of the passages you will hear during the TOEFL will be academic in nature. For that reason, it’s a good idea to listen to academic books and lectures as you prepare for the test.

You may be able to find lectures online, and audio books are usually available at the library. Make sure to listen to a wide variety of things in addition to taking TOEFL practice exams.

Technique #3: Take notes

It is essential that you take notes about what you hear if you want to do well on the listening section of the exam. Don’t bother trying to transcribe a conversation or lecture word for word. If you do, you’re likely to miss important nuances of what is being said.

Instead, practice taking notes that capture the essence of what you are hearing. Note taking is a skill like any other. The key is to make sure that you can listen and write at the same time, and that your notes are useful to you.

Technique #4: Listen for non-verbal cues

You may have heard it said that a large percentage of communication is non-verbal. When you are taking the listening section of the TOEFL, it’s important to pay attention to non-verbal cues as well as listening to the words that are said.

For example, when you are listening to a conversation you may notice that the speakers sound happy, excited, or anxious. The moods of the speakers can give you important clues about what they are saying. Include emotional cues in your notes to get a better understanding of what is being discussed.

Technique #5: Pay attention to the choices provided as potential answers

The TOEFL is a multiple choice exam. That means for each passage you hear, you will have to answer a series of questions. There is an art to taking multiple choice exams. If you’re not sure of the answer, do the following:

  1. Read all of the answers and eliminate any that you’re sure are wrong.
  2. Study the remaining answers for clues – often answers are worded in a way that may help you figure out the correct choice.
  3. If you really don’t know the answer, make your best guess and move on. Don’t waste too much time on any one question.

In addition to using these five techniques, you should also take as many practice tests as you can to familiarize yourself with the types of questions that will be asked. If you do that, you’ll be well prepared when test day arrives.

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