The Listening Section – Questions – TOEFL-iBT® (3/4)

The Listening Section – Questions Part I- TOEFL-iBT® (3/4)

This post continues the overview of the TOEFL Listening section. If you are new here, then I would recommend starting from the beginning of this series by clicking here, or to go to the beginning of the Listening section overview by clicking here.

If you have already read the previous articles, then feel free to continue here.

 

 

Last time we reviewed some sample audios from this section. We saw the difference between the conversations and lectures and got a good feel as to what we must try to pay attention to in each type of audio.

 

Following this gap of distinction between the types of audios, we will also find that the questions we are asked will be segmented depending on the audio. Some of them do overlap and we can expect to get them in every audio, which tells us that we must comprehend them well.

 

With this in mind, I will break down this post according to the types of questions, as follows.

 

  • Main Idea
  • Detail
  • Purpose
  • Organization
  • Inference 

 

It is important to remember that at the beginning of every audio, the narrator will inform you of the main topic of the audio, whether it is a dialogue between two students, or a student and a teacher, or an academic topic. This way we can jot it on our notes, and be mentally ready for the audio.

 

Now before we continue, I will place the transcripts of the conversation and lecture we worked with last post and reference to it as we continue with the questions.

Conversation 1 – Class problem

 

Student: Hi Professor Jenkins, you wanted to see me?

Professor: Hi Gaby, yes, please take a seat. Um, I wanted to talk to you about your grades.

Student: oh, I see.

Professor: I’ve noticed that there has been a significant drop in your last exam`s marks. Taking into account that you are one of my best students, I was a bit concerned. Is everything alright?

Student: yes! Absolutely… well, sort of. You see, it’s a combination of things.

Professor: ok, if there is anything I can do to help, you are free to ask.

Student: Well, a few weeks ago, I was absent for a whole week due to a very important family trip I had to do. You see, my dad`s family had a plan to visit us and we hadn’t seen each other in over 5 years. So, my hands were tied in that situation.

Professor: I see, and I imagine that when you got back to classes you were a bit overwhelmed with tasks, papers, and other chores?

Student: I wouldn’t say a bit overwhelmed. You see this is my last year before graduation, I`ve taken some extra credits in order to graduate faster, but with this surprise trip I had, I`m starting to regret it.

Professor: I can imagine. How many credits are you taking this semester?

Student: I`m taking 21.

Professor: That`s the maximum allowed!

Student: I know, I`ve been doing that since my 4th semester to finish a whole year ahead.

Professor: you may be putting too much pressure on yourself. Though if you`ve taken the maximum credits allowed for some time, you should be adapted to it by now.

Student: yes, indeed. Though I`ve found that as semesters pass by, the classes just keep demanding more of my time. I`m really careful of not getting sick to avoid a situation like the one I`m in now where I am trying to catch up with all my classes.

Professor: Well, that is one of the consequences of taking too much.

Student: I know…

Professor: how`s your schedule like right now? I mean, when do you have fewer classes?

Student: Well, normally I am pretty full from morning till evening… from Tuesday through Friday. I also have a few classes on Monday mornings and evenings, though the better part of the afternoon I just have it as a time to study.

Professor: How about Saturday mornings?

Students: um… I don’t have any classes on Saturday mornings. I usually take the weekend to get up a bit later and recover some energy. I still study in the afternoons most weekends. Why?

Professor: Well, there are classes on campus on Saturday mornings, and as it turns out, I teach 2 classes then and there. One of them is the same class in which you are in.

Student: huh, I didn’t know you taught on Saturdays.

Professor: yes, and just so you know, this is a Saturday only class, and is about 2 weeks behind the content you are receiving at the moment in our class.

Student: You mean I can attend this class on Saturday morning?

Professor: you can, though it will be completely up to you.

Student: wow! Thank you, professor Jenkins!

Professor: now just one thing. I don’t have an issue with my students attending other of my classes to catch up, as long as they don’t participate during the debates or activities that we have. It would be unfair to the students of such class as they are seeing the content for the first time. I wouldn’t want to spoil the answers before I make them think.

Student: Oh sure, no worries, I can sit in the back of the auditorium during the class. I`ll be quiet as a mouse.

Professor: great. It is important that you take advantage of this for your future leaves of absences.

Students: yes, I`ll definitely take notes of it. And see if my other teachers don’t mind me doing a similar thing with their other classes. That way I could catch up.

Professor: Well, you`d have to ask all your teachers to see the schedule with them.

Student: yes, I will. Thanks a lot professor Jenkins.

Class or Lecture 1 -Biology class: Virus Crosspieces.


Professor: Alright everyone, I hope you remember from our last class that it is improbable for a virus to jump from one species to another one. Though there have been precedents of such events happening. I`m sure we all remember the swine virus we spoke about a few classes ago.

Let’s remember that a virus is a type of parasite, infecting nearly all forms of life. They depend on a host to use its body for nutrients and to replicate itself in.

In order to survive and reproduce they need to pass through 3 stages. Contact, replication, and transmission.

All successful viruses follow these stages.

I`m going to put the example of the influenza virus. Keep in mind that this virus has an incredible rapid mutation that has allowed it to outsmart our immune system in many cases.

Now, the virus enters the respiratory tract. Once there, it seeks out the specific cells that it can control. It has evolved proteins in its exterior that allow it to interact with matching receptors on human respiratory cells.

Once found, the virus uses other adaptations to trick the cell in order to get in and take control over it and then begins the replication process.

Now at this stage, it is easier to avoid the immune system disguising itself as a regular human cell. This way it doesn’t sound the alarms.

The spreading continues and the virus successfully replicates itself a few million times, until the infection gets transmitted to others, through sneezing, in this case.

But this virus, when sneezed, goes out in all directions through the air, eventually landing almost everywhere in plants, animals and if lucky, other humans.

If it manages to find its way to the respiratory tract of someone else, then it has a chance of continuing to the stages.

This is in broad terms how most viruses work.

Most of the times the virus is unable to survive as it is not compatible with other species. So, it needs to find an adequate host in order to replicate itself.

But we must keep in mind that there are millions of different viruses in nature, plus, if they manage to reproduce successfully, they do so by the millions, and every reproduction gives chance to a random mutation, that, in most cases is useless, but every once in a while it gives the virus a boost that may allow it to infect a species that is… Uhm…. slightly different from its traditional host.

For example, a chimpanzee, our closest genetical pair.

As a matter of fact, a very debated topic amongst anthropologists who do field research on chimpanzees is whether they should boost their immune system before the trip to avoid getting any virus from the chimpanzees. But that`s something we will discuss in a future class.

ahm…Some viruses can jump to other species, but the challenges they find are astonishing. As the mutations they now have may be worthless in pursuing their path to the next stage. Reproduction.

Though if the virus is lucky enough over many generations, chance can make a new mutation that allows it to enter successfully in a new species.

If they manage to do this, then the next challenge is finding a way to replicate itself in the new host. They could eventually evolve a replication method that is different than with their previous host, which could work better but normally does nothing.

If they manage to do this as well, then the next barrier is the transmission. If they use a different transmission route, for example, instead of being transmitted by air, it is now transmitted by bodily fluids, it may yet face a larger problem of finding a new host.

The challenges a virus finds are endless, and as I said before, it is very improbable for a virus to jump from one species to another one. But every so often, one virus, over millions if not billions of generations, finds a way to pass all of these barriers.

Now we are ready to begin with the first and most common type of question.

Main Idea

As you may have guessed, this question will be asking for the principal topic discussed in the audio. This question is very likely to appear and you must be able to respond this with your own words before the audio is complete.

The best way to work and understand how to respond this question faster, is by understanding the audio as a whole. We can add to this the title of the audio that gives us plenty of help.

For instance, if the narrator tells us that we will listen to a class about the origin of color pictures, then we have a clear idea of what the topic is about.

Furthermore, we must pay attention to the situation as a whole. When we are listening to a Class or Lecture we should be able to identify with relative ease the main message of it. 

Here is an example question to demonstrate it better.

Question 1. What is this lecture mainly about?

a) An explanation of how evolution works

b) An overview of how viruses can infect new species

c) A description of how humans and chimpanzees are closely related

d) A hypothesis that explains why viruses reproduce in great numbers 1. 

Now, we will go through the options one by one in order to figure out how we can discard the three incorrect choices.

Starting with Letter A, which reads:

a) An explanation of how evolution works

Though evolution is mentioned in the Class as a factor that allows viruses to reproduce in the millions, which allows them to have a chance to enter another species, this is one of the minor details of the audio. This is more of a supporting factor to a larger view. So we must discard this option.

Letter B reads:

b) An overview of how viruses can infect new species

This one has a strong ring of truth to it. In general, the lecture talks about how a virus is able to infect other species through the randomness of evolution. It is very likely that this will be the correct one, depending on the remaining options.

Letter C reads:

c) A description of how humans and chimpanzees are closely related

Though in the Lecture, we can find some information that places humans and chimpanzees as closely related, this is part of an anecdote the speaker was referencing to. So this serves as a minor example to prove a point. We are forced to discard this option.

Finally, letter D that reads:

d) A hypothesis that explains why viruses reproduce in great numbers

Many times in the Lecture it is said that viruses multiply by the millions and even billions. We can be lured into selecting this option because we can find it in so many places. However, this argument serves to exemplify how every time a virus reproduces itself, there is a chance for a mutation that can give it a special ability to infect another species. 

It is the greatest cause that creates the effect. But not the real main topic of the lecture. We are obliged to discard this option as well.

From discarding the 3 options that had a lack of support, we are able to find the correct answer; letter B.

 

Tip: This question will be present in Lectures & Classes. Additionally, it will tend to be the first question you get.

Detail

Again, just from the name of this type of question, we get a good sense of what it wants to ask.

In order to respond this question with a higher level of accuracy, it is important to have taken a good amount of notes during the whole audio.

Let´s go through a sample question to explain things better.

Question 1. According to the professor, what do field researchers debate on:

a) Improving their immune system due to harsh weather.

 

b) Investigate on transmittable diseases before starting the fieldwork.

 

c) Better their immune system for fear of a virus crossing species.

 

d) Worrying about receiving a disease from a chimpanzee. 

 

These options all ring a bit of truth, but at the same time, some have small issues that we should pay close attention to, as it distorts the real message transmitted. 

If we go back through our notes, we will find some mention of anthropologists doing fieldwork.

in this opportunity, we can go to the text, but in the real test, we will only have our notes.

The section reads like this:

As a matter of fact, a very debated topic amongst anthropologists who do field research on chimpanzees is whether they should boost their immune system before the trip to avoid getting any virus from the chimpanzees. 

We can refresh our minds a lot by reading this section. But we still have to discard 3 options to be sure to have a correct one.

And so we go one by one to tackle them.

Option A reads:

a) Improving their immune system due to harsh weather.

Now, if we re-read the section where they talk about these anthropologists, we will find that part of option A is real. But the other part is unfounded.

They indeed mention a debate about enhancing their immune system but never do they talk about the weather.

This last part forces us to discard this option and continue with the next one.

So, we do exactly that and continue with option B, that reads: 

b) Investigate on transmittable diseases before starting the fieldwork.

From afar, we can drop this question down. It does not mention this at any point in the section where they refer to this detail nor in the passage as a whole.

Though it may seem common sense to get a vaccine of a specific disease if you will travel to a place where this disease is common, it was not mentioned, nor implied here.

Once again we must eliminate this option and continue with option C, that reads:

c) Better their immune system for fear of a virus crossing species.

Okay, for many, the word “better” as used here, will seem a tad odd. We will normally find this when comparing.

However, it is very much correct. In this precise case, it means to make better or to improve.

If we read it again, we will see that this appears to be the correct answer.

The fieldworkers debate whether to improve their immune system for fear of new forms of viruses evolving and being capable of harming humans.

All seems fine for the moment. But we must continue with our rule of having to discard 3 options in order to be sure we have the correct option.

We proceed to the final option that reads:

d) Worrying about receiving a disease from a chimpanzee. 

Now this follows the last option. But it is not all good.

Anthropologists do seem to fear the transmission of a disease that could harm them. 

But we must pay attention to the specific question, that asks “what do field researchers debate on”.

And these field researchers debate if they must improve their immune system.

This is a tricky option, but we must be able to eliminate it if we pay attention to the details.

This leaves only one option that is Option C.

This type of questions can be presented to us in a few different ways, such as:

  • According to the lecture, what is ________?
  • What is one way that _______?
  • According to the speaker, how does ________ ?

Purpose

This type of question will be oriented towards determining the main reason as to why something occurred, to seek the purpose of an action or comment.

We will most likely find this in the Conversations rather than in the Lectures, and this is one of those clear ones where we have to be able to identify the “Whys”.

The best way to visualize this question is to see an example as we will do here:

Question 3. Why does the student go to see the professor?

 

a) To evaluate options on how to raise her grade.

 

b) To mention why she had to go on a family trip.

 

c) Because she was summoned by the professor.

 

d) Because she is interested in raising her grades.

 

As usual, these options may sound familiar, and we may need to take another look at the text to better see the answer.

We will go through the options one by one to discard them. 

Option reads: 

a) To evaluate options on how to raise her grade.

Now, this may be slightly tempting at first, however, we have to distinguish the real purpose. There was some talk about concerns of her grades dropping:

“Professor: I’ve noticed that there has been a significant drop in your last exam`s marks.”

But after this, there is nothing mentioned of options to evaluate her grades. In the end, some help is provided to allow her to take Saturday classes. But this was not the reason why the student went to see the professor.

So, we have to discard this option.

Option B reads:

b) To mention why she had to go on a family trip.

It is clear in the audio that she had to go on a family trip, she even declares that she had no choice there as she hadn’t seen these family members in a few years, and it was unlikely to have another meeting such as this one for some time.

However, the primary purpose of this conversation is not for her to mention details about her family trip. This is just a piece of information that was developed as the conversation took place.

In consequence, we have to discard this option as well.

So we continue with the next option.

Option C reads:

c) Because she was summoned by the professor.

This has a good ring to it. Especially because when we hear the first sentence of the audio we can hear the student say “Hi Professor Jenkins, you wanted to see me?”. With this initial sentence, we can imply that the professor called upon her.

The whole conversation is about the professor wanting to know why her grades had dropped, so he summoned her to have a conversation about it.

This is the best candidate so far as the correct option. However, as we know we must be able to discard 3 options to accurately select the right option.

Option reads:

d) Because she is interested in raising her grades.

Although they mention in the conversation that her grades lowered in the final evaluation, this is not the main reason why this conversation is taking place. 

We know from the previous option that the professor called her to speak. 

Hence we discard this option as well.

This leaves the correct option as option C.

Organization

This type of question will be directed towards the lectures, and at this stage we have to make sure that we paid attention to the organization of the lecture as a whole.

They can be organized in many forms, such as, in level of importance, chronologically, in steps or stages, and many more. They can be directed at the passage as a whole or an area of the passage.

At times we can also be asked as to why the passage is organized in a specific manner.

To see this question better, we will continue with an example.

Question 4. How does the professor organize the Virus’s reproductive cycle?

a) By allowing the students to understand the perspective of researchers.

b) Explaining the stages the virus needs to complete to reproduce succesfully.

c) By demonstrating the vulnerabilities that our inmune system has.

d) Showing the challenges a virus must face to succesfully reproduce.

Here we will check out the options one by one.

Option reads:

a) By allowing the students to understand the perspective of researchers.

There is a section of the passage that talks about some researchers doing an investigation on some chimpanzees, where they discuss whether to boost their inmune system to try and prevent a pontential contagion from the chimps, but this does not answer the question directly.

This option seems to have been placed here to manipulate us into selecting it as what is said is explicitly stated in the passage.

However, it deviates the question completely, and explains nothing as to how the professor organizes the reproductive cycle of the virus. Due to this, we discard.

We continue with the other option.

Option reads:

b) Explaining the stages the virus needs to complete to reproduce succesfully.

In the lecture, they explain in detail how the reproductive cycle works, they talk about the three stages; contact, replication, and transmission. This is very much directly responding the question. 

It succesfully responds how the virus´s reproductive cycle is organized in stages which need to be completed one by one in order to be succesfull.

This has the best credits for the moment, but we need to drop the remaining options to be certain. So, we continue with the next option.

Option reads:

c) By demonstrating the vulnerabilities that our inmune system has.

Though they mention how our inmune system can be fooled by some adaptations a virus may have, and this does play a central role in the reproductive cycle of a virus, this does not talk about the complete cycle.

Furthermore, it does not talk about how the cycle is organized. This may be tricky as we will be lead to select it because it is such a central role in the example given in the lecture.

But, we must discard it as well. And we continue with the final option. 

Option reads:

d) Showing the challenges a virus must face to succesfully reproduce.

This sound like a possible candidate, because through every stage the virus must face a series of challenges, such as the inmune syste, spreading succesfully, or mutating a new feature that gives it acces to new uncharted territorry.

However, wehn we compare this to option B, although there are many similitudes, we can see how this option is too specific, focusing only on the challenges, and not the general explanation of the processes the virus must go to, such as replication once inside.

So, although this sounds correct in many ways, it is focusing too much in an area. We are forced to eliminate this option as well.

This leaves option B as the correct choice, as it succesfully responds the question by describing the whole process.

Inference

This question asks us to infer or impy something that is not stated directly in the passage. There will usually be a few areas where this can be suggested and we must pay close attention to the idea that is being transmitted.

This question can be presented in both the conversations and the lectures.

Here is an example to better illustrate:

Question 5. What can be implied about the professor´s style of teaching?

a) The classes are very book oriented.

b) The prefferences are focused on debates rather than on guides.

c) The professor enjoys making the students think.

d) The professor pays attention to all students.

Make sure you read this question well and comprehend it. Here we continue with the choices, explaining how to drop down the three incorrect ones.

Option reads:

a) The classes are very book oriented.

It is uncertain what subject the teacher is teaching, and during the entire conversation, we do not get a refference or mentions of a book, guides or other resources that can imply a text.

Because of this we can easily eliminate this option and continue with the next one.

Option reads:

b) The prefferences are focused on debates rather than on guides.

The professor does mention that he doesnt want the student to participate in the other class she will participate in to not reveal any information to the students in such class and keep them in suspense.

However, similarly to the previous option, there is no comparison to guides, or other forms of texts. 

This option is partially true, as it mentions that the professor likes to make the students think, though we are also uncertain of the debates in the classes. 

So, we must eliminate this option as well and proceed to the next one.

Option reads:

c) The professor enjoys making the students think.

This is stated in the passage when the professor says “It would be unfair to the students of such class as they are seeing the content for the first time. I wouldn’t want to spoil the answers before I make them think“.

From this quote, we can determine that this information is explicitly stated in the passage. However, we can also make the asusmption that this is a frequent methodology of the professor, and in consequence renders the option true.

So, this appears to be the correct option, yet, we know that we have to read them all before continuing. And we proceed with the final option.

Option reads:

d) The professor pays attention to all students.

This can be tricky, as it is clear that the professor is paying attention to this student in particular.

But if we pay a bit more attention, we will be able to see that this particular student is one of the best of the class. This means that this student and a few other stand out.

It is easier to keep track of the performance of the students that stand out, than the group.

Furthermore, in this option they mention “all students”. This can be difficult to verify, though we could imply that he pays attention to some students.

It is harder to discard this option, but we can see that the attention is focused on a few students and not all of them.

This renders the correct option to be Option C.

...

Now this will conlcude this post, as it will be too long to read. In our next post we will be talking about the final question types that you will encounter in The Listening Section of the TOEFL-iBT®.

Make sure to stay posted to check it out.

%d bloggers like this: