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Five mistakes that you need to avoid on TOEFL listening

What's going on guys? We're here to talk about mistakes in the TOEFL listening section and how to avoid doing them. I've taught a lot of TOEFL students over the years and I've seen these five common mistakes in the listening section, so it's really valuable for you to know this stuff so you don't have to make the same mistakes.

All right, so here are five mistakes that you need to avoid on TOEFL listening.

Mistake #1: You try to understand everything. The first thing you want to avoid is to try to understand everything. The most important thing is for you to understand the most important pieces of information and you do that by following the structure of the conversation / lecture and to anticipate the questions. You want to make sure that you know the question types that you're gonna get asked - get really good at knowing the types of questions that you can expect after the listening. For example, every listening passage is followed by a main idea question also known as a gist question, so you know that you have to listen for the main idea when you're listening.

Mistake #2: You have your eyes open. Usually in everyday conversations, when we're talking to people we focus on hand gestures, facial expressions, and the context of the situation - you focus on a lot of different things besides the sounds coming out of the mouth - but when you get on the phone, it's a very different story. Most people don't like talking on the phone in another language because they find it very hard that they only have their voice to communicate. Now, I don’t mean that you need to close your eyes shut - you have to look at the screen, look at the pictures, and maybe write down some notes - but you don't want to look around the room when you take the test. You'll be in a room with a bunch of other people taking the test at the same time, so refrain from looking around while you listen to the audio passages - don’t let your eyes distract you. Make sure that you focus only on your notes in front of you and the computer.

Mistake #3: You take bad notes. Taking notes can be very helpful or very distracting, depending on how you do it. Never try to write down everything you hear - just write down a couple of things that are important that you think might be in a detail questions later. Basically, for note-taking you should only write down verbs and nouns. You want to skip prepositions, articles, and personal pronouns. For instance, instead of writing down “I went to the store,” write “went store.” Taking notes should help you, not make you lose focus on your listening.

Mistake #4: You miss the main idea. For the most part, the main idea of any listening passage - be it a conversation or a lecture - is contained within the first two or three sentences. Many students tend to be out of focus when the passage begins to play, and only really start listening after a few seconds. This may prove disastrous for your comprehension of the passage, since missing out on the main idea may make it tremendously difficult to catch up later on and understand what is going on. Don’t miss the main idea - listen carefully to the first few sentences.

Mistake #5: You think like a student. Don’t think like a student, but instead think like a teacher - ask questions while you listen: what does this person in the listening want me to know, what are they trying to teach me, why are they telling me this information, why are they telling me this information but not telling me another piece of information, what makes this so special, and so on. When you start thinking like a teacher, you start asking the right questions. When you're thinking like a student, you're always thinking what's the answer what's the answer what's the answer. Unfortunately, that's not going to help you, but rather it's going to frustrate you. What you want to do is think about the structure of the lecture, the way the information is presented to you, the way that the teacher says something, and so on. Listen actively!


Alright! I hope you found this post helpful. If you need some more help, you might want to check out my TOEFL tutoring sessions, which I do both online from wherever you are, or in Tel-Aviv, oh Tel-Aviv. Want more dits? Leave yours or send me a text.

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