The Listening Section – Audios – TOEFL-iBT® (2/4)

The Reading Section – Audios – TOEFL-iBT® (2/4)

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

This post is the continuation of the first installment of the series, The Reading Section – Audios – TOEFL-iBT® (2/4). If you are new here, I would recommend starting from there in order to understand this better by clicking here (LINK TO The Listening Section Overview – TOEFL-iBT® (1/4)).

If you already read that post, then feel free to continue here.

In this post, we will be focusing on the audios we will find in the Listening section. As I have mentioned in the previous post, there are two types of audios we get.

They are: Conversations and Lectures. They are distinctively different, and here we will compare them.

This post will be divided into 2 main sections corresponding to the 2 types of audios we will get in the TOEFL-iBT.


Firstly, we must keep in mind that these audios will range anywhere between 2 and 3 minutes. They are short but intense. So we must take notes at all times.

Depending on whether we receive the short or the long format of the test, we will get either 2 or 3 conversation audios. Each one of them being followed by 5 questions, leaving a total amount of Conversation related questions to be 10 or 15.

The conversations tend to be the first audios we get and we normally don’t get 2 consecutive conversation audios.

These conversations are strictly between 2 persons, no more and no less. They will usually be between two students, but they may also be between a student and a professor or university worker.

They focus on university life problems and situations that are fairly common to any student enrolled within a university or college.

The university life issues talk about can be very varied. For example, a student may be speaking to another student about many topics such as:

·        Help understanding a class topic

·        Help with a report that is due soon

·        Questions about an assignment

·        Overall rules of a class or university

·        Their opinion about a new rule in university

·        Campus meeting

And so on.

Conversations between a student and a professor or university worker can be of any of the following topics:

·        Issues finding a class

·        Scheduling issues

·        Library enrollment/general questions

·        New university policy

·        Problems understanding a topic in class

·        Personal problem or emergency

And many more.

The information in these conversations can represent a smaller challenge compared to the Lectures, as in here the information will swap from one person to the next, which allows you to infer a piece of information you may have missed from one of the speakers.

Tip: It is important to determine the “Whys” when listening and taking notes. You MUST know, why the conversation began, what the issue was, what the resolution is and what will the student do next.

Here is a small script of what we can find in these audios.

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: hu, 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.

Student: 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.

Here we see how the conversation flows into many stages.

We are introduced to a problem, we understand why the problem is there, we have one or two solutions, we make a decision for the future.

This will be a general draft for the Conversation.

Now the key thing here is to be able to understand all those stages to take adequate notes. This will enhance your chances of getting the information that may be asked in a question.


Lectures or Classes are composed of a single speaker addressing an audience. Normally there is no audience participation, though exceptions do exist.

However, these participations are very short, normally just including a single sentence from the audience member and then the lecturer continues.

Just like the conversations, these audios will range in length anywhere from 2 to 3 minutes, though at times, they could go up to 4 minutes, though this is infrequent.

We will receive 3 or 4 lectures in the listening section depending on whether we get the short or the long format.

Each lecture will be followed by 6 questions, leaving us with a total amount of 18 to 24 lecture related questions in the Listening section of TOEFL-iBT.

Lecture topics are all academic-related. As mentioned in many other posts, these topics will usually be science-related. Science-related topics may be:

·        Biology

·        Psychology

·        Physics

·        Anthropology

·        Chemistry

And many others.

The remaining 30% of the lectures we will get here will be non-science related topics. Leaning more towards the humanistic aspect. For example:

·        Art

·        Business

·        Psychology

·        Literature

·        Architecture

And many more.

Though you do not need any previous background study in these topics. It is very important to increase your general knowledge in them in order to avoid a surprise when listening to them and increase your understanding quicker as the topic is familiar to you.

Tip: When taking notes on these lectures, it is very important to keep an eye out for the screen. In about half of these lectures, we will be shown a few slides that serve as a visual aid for the content being talked about.

These slides can help us better understand the content and provide better support, as well as ease when we have a tricky question, as they may help fill the gap from our notes.

Here is a sample script from a lecture.

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 adaptation 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 thousands if not millions of generations, finds a way to pass all of these barriers.

So here it is important to take notes of a few things. Whenever we hear a lecture in the TOEFL-iBT, it is important to jot down what the lecture is about.

But we must make sure to understand if it is separated into segments and how it’s split up, chronologically, by importance, order or others.

In this case, we see that it is organized into segments, but after explaining these segments, the professor continues on with the topic giving further examples and opinions.

It is very important to be able to understand the concepts that the teacher is speaking about here. If you are having troubles understanding, then you should probably increase your academic English level, if not your general English.

This brief introduction to the audios we will find in the TOEFL-iBT will definitely help you get a better insight into this topic.

We are going to wrap it up at this point and continue with the next post that will focus on the questions.

If you wish to continue reading thr third part of this series just click here to head over there.

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