Listening to the English language frequently and reading a wide variety of academic materials is the best way to improve listening skills. Watching movies and television, and listening to the radio provide excellent opportunities to build listening skills. Audiotapes and CDs of lectures and presentations are equally valuable and are available at libraries and bookstores.
¯ Listening for Basic Comprehension
– Increase vocabulary.
– Focus on the content and flow of spoken material. Do not be distracted by the speaker’s style and delivery.
– Anticipate what a person is going to say as a way to stay focused.
– Stay active by asking yourself questions (e.g., What main idea is the professor communicating?).
– Copy the words, “main idea, major points, and important details” on different lines of paper. Listen carefully, and write these down while listening. Continue listening until all important points and details are written down and then review them.
– Listen to a portion of a lecture or talk and create an outline of important points. Use the outline to write a brief summary. Gradually increase the amount of the presentation you use to write the summary.
– On the TOEFL iBT, test takers do not have to create such a chart. Instead, a chart with possible answer choices is provided for them, and they are required to fill in the chart with the correct choices. Practicing this skill will help test takers think about categorizing information more carefully.
¯ Listening for Pragmatic Understanding
– Think about what each speaker hopes to accomplish: What is the purpose of the speech or conversation? Is the speaker apologizing, complaining, or making suggestions?
– Notice each speaker’s style. Is the language formal or casual? How certain does each speaker sound? Is the speaker’s voice calm or emotional? What does the speaker’s tone of voice tell you?
– Notice the speaker’s degree of certainty. How sure is the speaker about the information?
Does the speaker’s tone of voice indicate something about his/her degree of certainty?
– Listen for changes in topic. Watch a recorded TV or movie comedy. Pay careful attention to the way stress and intonation patterns are used to convey meaning.
¯ Listening to Connect and Synthesize Ideas
– Think about how the lecture you’re hearing is organized. Listen for the signal words that indicate the introduction, major steps or ideas, examples, and the conclusion or summary.
– Identify the relationships between ideas. Possible relationships include: cause/effect, compare/contrast, and steps in a process.
– Listen for words that show connections and relationships between ideas.
– Listen to recorded material and stop the recording at various points. Predict what information or idea will be expressed next.
– Create an outline of the information discussed while listening or after listening
– The Listening section does not measure summarizing skills, but practicing summarizing
skills is useful for the integrated tasks in the Toefl iBT Test.