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For many people, the Listening Section is the hardest part of the TOEFL test.

If you're like most people, you think the Listening Section is the hardest part of the TOEFL. According to our survey results, about 60% of all people think the hardest part of the TOEFL is the Listening Section. Part of the reason for this is that the current format of the TOEFL, the CBT, has started to put lots of really, really hard listening stuff on it, much harder than the listening on the paper test.

Almost all of the students at TestMagic say the same thing: The long talks on the listening part are the hardest part of the TOEFL.

We will learn about the Listening Section, why it is so hard, and how we can raise our scores quickly on this part of the test. We will even learn about why this part of the test is not fair, and what TOEFL should do in the future.

How can I raise my Listening score quickly?

The best way to improve one's listening is to live in a country in which English is spoken.

Ah!! This is by far the most common question we hear at TestMagic.

The truth is that for many people, the Listening Section is the hardest part of the test to improve on quickly. We all like to study grammar because there are rules that we can memorize, reading, especially on the TOEFL, is often a matter of learning more vocabulary, but listening is a different story.

Of course, the best way to improve one's listening is to practice over time. Most people find that watching television shows or movies in English or listening to songs in English are great ways to improve. If you are fortunate enough to have friends who are native speakers of English, or if you live in a country in which the predominant language is English, then you also have a great advantage.

Use TOEFL listening books or listen to American news reports

Yes, I know. You want to know what else you can do, right? For example, if you cannot live in Australia or Canada, or even come to TestMagic in San Francisco to study. There are many listening books available. I have seen some pretty good ones from Japan and Deborah Phillips (the author of the Longman series) always does a good job with her TOEFL material. However, all of the books that I have seen are a little bit easier than the real TOEFL. My students notice it and tell me. If you want something that's harder than the real TOEFL, you should watch American documentaries or news programs, such as CNN and 60 Minutes. If you are in the United States, you could listen to NPR, or National Public Radio. NPR is my favorite--I listen to it every day! You can listen to its reports at its web site. Many of its reports are about the same length as those on the TOEFL, and, at least to me, these reports are very interesting.

Transcribe real TOEFL tests

Finally, a method that some of my hardest working and most successful students have used is this: They listen to a TOEFL tape and transcribe (write down everything said on the tape) it. Then, they compare what they wrote with the script in the back of the book (most official TOEFL books come with scripts). This takes a long, long time, it could take several hours just for one test, but it is a great method because when you compare, you can see the kinds of mistakes that you are making. For example, you might not hear words that are run together, you might miss some important words, or you might misunderstand some very important words. One of my long-term students, for example, thought one of the speakers in the talk was going to a "coffee shop," but when she read the script, she realized it was actually a "copy shop."

It's tough to do all these things, but it's possible to improve! Just like everything else in life, anything good or worthwhile will take a lot of effort!!

Why is the listening on the computer TOEFL so difficult?

It is very long and uses hard vocabulary and difficult vocabulary.

On the paper TOEFL, we could raise our scores quickly by learning lots of idioms or certain types of questions that appeared frequently on the test. However, most people now know that the CBT TOEFL is not so easy. The short conversations, the ones that had a lot of idioms and other kinds of questions, appear less frequently on the computer TOEFL than they do on the paper test. On the computer TOEFL, we will have a lot more long talks, the "lectures," which are supposed to simulate what we would hear during a lecture in a class in an American university. These are several minutes long and are very hard for many people to understand. Worse, we are not allowed to take notes while we are listening. Almost everybody agrees: The lectures are the hardest part of the computer TOEFL.

Is it a listening test or a memory test??

Furthermore, since the talks are very long, it's sometimes hard to remember what was said in the beginning. Hey, even I have a hard time remembering, and I'm a native speaker! If you read enough teaching journals, you will realize that many teachers criticize the TOEFL, saying that it's more of a memory test than it is a listening test. TOEFL is aware of this, of course, and claims that a person with an average memory will do well on the test. I disagree. I think too much information is presented in a short time, and most people cannot remember all of the information that might be tested.

No notetaking allowed.

The worst part is that we cannot take notes while we are listening. I think this is ridiculous. The TOEFL is supposed to measure our ability to do well with English in American colleges, and, as we all know, in all American colleges, we are allowed to take notes. Therefore, the test is not really measuring how well we will do in school, it's measuring how well we'll do without a pencil.

How many questions are there on the real test? How many long talks?

There are different formats of the TOEFL right now. For the latest info, check out our TOEFL updates page. In general, as I've already said, there are fewer short conversations than there were on the paper test, and more long talks.

Your input

Tell us how you succeeded!!

How about you? Have you found any really good way to improve your listening?? Let us know! Post your message in our TOEFL Forum and share your insight with others.

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