TOEIC Listening Test – Everything You Need to Know

toeic listening test

TOEIC Listening Test – Listen up!

The TOEIC Test consists of four sections divided over two separate exams; Listening and Reading, and Speaking and Writing. Today we are going to focus on the listening section of the Listening and Reading exam, and we’ve tackled the reading section in a previous article. This article will cover everything you need to know about the TOEIC listening section, and how to understand and answer the questions.


Understanding TOEIC Listening Structure

It is important to understand what exactly is covered in the TOEIC listening section of the Listening and Reading exam. Listening might sound like a simple task; but it is actually one of the most complicated sections of the exam. When taking the reading section of the TOEIC exam, you are free to read any part of the text again as many times as you like, until you understand what is being said in the text. However, during the TOEIC listening section, you will only hear each audio recording once, so be sure to pay attention! In order to be able to take the listening section as smoothly as possible, familiarize yourself with the rules and structure of this section of the exam.

The total duration of the listening section is 45 minutes. The complete Listening and Reading exam takes two hours. The audio recordings will be played automatically for all of the test takers in the room, at the same time. Audio recordings will only be played once, so minimize the distractions around you. Find a way in which you are most comfortable listening to audio recordings, and try not to be distracted by audible or visual distractions.

When taking the Listening and Reading exam, you will receive a multiple choice answer sheet. This sheet is printed on paper and will have a grid of answers for each question that is asked. Along with the answer sheet, you will receive an exercise sheet containing the information you will need to use in order to answer the listening and reading questions.


Part One: Image Recognition (10 questions)

The first part of the listening section is about recognizing images. This part will consist of 10 questions. During this part, you will hear an audio recording describing what can be seen on the images printed on your paper. The recording will make four statements, one of which is most accurate to the image printed on your exercise sheet. The statements and possible answers will not be written on the exercise sheet, and will only be played once each during the audio recording.

Example: an image shows two people sitting on chairs at a table. They are in an office room. The audio recording will announce the following:

a. They are cleaning the room
b. They are listening to music
c. They are sitting at a table

In this case, the third answer, C., is the most accurate.

The best way to prepare for this part of the exam, is to practice describing pictures. When looking at pictures, for example online or in a book, describe to yourself what you see on the image. Make factual statements that are clear and true. For example, in a picture of a city street, you can make observations like “There are cars”, or “It is a city street”. Making these observations will help you to understand and recognize factual statements in images, and will help you choose the right option during the exam.


Part Two: Question-Response (30 questions)

The second part will consist of 30 questions where your task is to match the best answer, or response, to the given question. The audio recording will ask a question. You will then hear three answers to this question, only one of which is correct. Mark the letter (A, B, or C) that corresponds with the best matching answer to the question, on your answer sheet. The questions and responses will not be written down on your exercise sheet, so pay close attention to the audio recording. Each recording will be played only once, and cannot be repeated. There are roughly five seconds between each question’s audio recordings.

Example: The audio recording asks the following question; “Why did John leave work early today?”.   The following responses are presented:

a. The presentation was great yesterday
b. Because he has a dentist appointment
c. The lunch at work was really good

In this example, the second answer, B., is the best response to this question. The other two responses don’t work in this example.

In order to prepare for this part of the Listening section, familiarize yourself with the structure of questions. In English, questions frequently follow a specific structure. For example, a ‘Why’ question is always followed by a reason. ‘Why …’, ‘Because …’. In the previous example, option B. is the only response that describes a reason for doing something, the other two are statements that don’t relate to the question. Familiarize yourself with the six most common types of questions in English; ‘Who’, ‘What’, ‘Why’, ‘Where’, and ‘How (much/many)’. Understanding what information these questions are asking for will help you pick the correct answer from the options.


Part Three: Conversation (30 questions)

In the third part of the listening section you will hear a short conversation among two or more people. After this, you will be asked three questions related to the conversation you just heard. These will be answered on your answer sheet as three different questions. For each question, there are four possible answers, only one of which is correct. The conversation will not be written down on your exercise sheet, however the questions and possible answers are written down. There are roughly 45 seconds between each conversation.

Example: The audio recording presents a small dialogue between two people in a store. They will make multiple statements in that conversation that will answer your questions. For example; a        customer and store owner are talking to each other. The customer wants to buy a lamp. The questions are written down and four possible options are given in response. Examples of such questions are:

Where are the two people in this conversation?

a. In a store
b. In a hospital
c. At home
d. In the park

In this example, the correct answer is A.

What does the customer want?

a. To buy a car
b. To check out the store
c. To schedule a meeting
d. To buy a lamp

In this example, the correct answer is D.

The best way to tackle this exercise in the exam, is to read the questions during or before the conversation in the audio clip starts. The questions and possible answer are written on your exercise sheet, which will allow you to see the questions before they are asked during the audio clip. By reading the questions before the conversation starts, you will be able to understand what answers you need to look for during the conversation, and recognize any answers straight away. Make sure to confirm your choices after the conversation has completed, to see if they are still true.


Part Four: Directions/Talks (30 questions)

This part of the listening section is similar to part three. Only instead of hearing a conversation, you will hear a monologue; only one person will be speaking, uninterrupted. Like in part three, each short talk will relate to three questions, each with four possible answers, only one of which is correct. The talk is not written down on your exercise sheet, but the questions and answers are.

Example: You will hear a short talk from a manager making an announcement to her employees. She will make multiple statements. This could be related to the company, an event, a situation, a task, or an action. For example; the manager says the sales figures have gone up in the last month. The company needs to hire more staff to manage the accounts.

What is the meeting about?

a. Sales figures
b. Buying new supplies
c. There are not enough computers
d. There are new available office spaces

In this example, the correct answer is A.

What needs to happen?

a. They need to buy more desks
b. They need to recruit new staff
c. They need to do research
d. They need to organize a competition

In this example, the correct answer is B.

The best way to approach the questions in part four is similar to that of part three. Familiarize yourself with the questions before the recording starts, or during the short talk. Look at the questions that are being asked, and recognize what answers you need to look for in the monologue. The questions are about factual statements, try to match the best factual statement to the conversation. Sometimes, the correct answer is not given in the recording literally, but is made clear from context. For example, some questions may involve certain workspace, such as an office, garage, movie theater, or restaurant, without it being literally stated in the audio recording. You will have to answer these types of questions based on context.


Practice makes perfect

I am sure you have heard it many times before, but practice makes perfect. Use this guide to practice these exercises as often as possible, wherever you can. For example, if you see a picture on social media, describe in your head what is on the picture, and familiarize yourself with factual statements. There are also many sources for practice exams online, which are particularly helpful for the listening section. Good luck!



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