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TOEFL Tip #122: Develop Your Skills by Listening to Public Radio

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on September 30, 2011

We’ve recently discussed some research conducted by Strictly English this summer which suggests that students need to have sharp listening skills for the TOEFL. We discovered that there seems to be two “paths” of connected answers for each listening passage. Each “path” is a series of related answers that follow from the first question. Whichever answer you give for the first question will lead you to select the related choices in subsequent questions. If you’ve answered the first question correctly, you’ll more likely pick the correct answers all the way through that section. If, however, you’ve chosen the incorrect answer for the first question, the “path” of answers will make it more likely that you will miss most of the answers for that passage.

How can you sharpen your listening skills?

Listen to National Public Radio (NPR) programs on your local public radio station.

The TOEFL focuses relentlessly on American-accented English, so listening to NPR will expose you to a wide range of accents. The hosts and reporters who work for NPR generally have slight accents, so they are easy to understand. They also interview people from around the United States and the world, giving you a chance to listen to English spoken with a variety of accents.

In addition to the live broadcasts of NPR programs, many of the shows also have podcasts. You can download them through NPR’s webpage. Consider listening to interviews first, as the flow of conversation might be easier to follow. As your listening skills increase, listen to longer reports on news and other topics.
Another suggestion for sharpening your language skills overall and your listening in particular, is to read about a major world event in a newspaper written in your first language, then read about that same event in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Next, listen to NPR reports about that event. Finally, read about that event in the New Yorker and The Economist. This sequence will help you to compare the ways in which different sources report on the same story, and the types of language each source uses. In addition, you will understand a lot more from the NPR reports because you are already familiar with the story they are discussing.


Categories: Listening,TOEFL Preparation

4 comments so far. Leave a comment.

  1. StrictlyEnglish | Blog » TOEFL Tip #135: The Year In Review

    wrote on February 3, 2012 at 9:39 am

    [...] to Speaking Task One. The Listening section also featured posts about using metaphoric idioms, and listening to public radio. In the Writing section, we discussed how less is more, touch typing, and why it’s important [...]

  2. StrictlyEnglish | Blog » TOEFL Tip #153: Improving Your Comprehension

    wrote on April 20, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    [...] comprehension is integral for success in those sections of the exam. Perhaps you’re already listening to public radio and limiting your use of your native language in your daily routine. Doing this will improve your [...]

  3. StrictlyEnglish | Blog » TOEFL Tip #209: Compare A News Story In English AND In Your Language

    wrote on June 22, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    [...] English is a strong proponent of using news sources to improve your English. You can improve your listening and reading skills by reading the news. The more you immerse yourself in English, the more [...]

  4. StrictlyEnglish | Blog » TOEFL Tip #203: More Ways to Immerse Yourself In English

    wrote on November 29, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    [...] do to prepare for the TOEFL exam is to immerse yourself in English. As we’ve noted before (here, here, and here), seeing and hearing English as part of your daily life will improve your skill in the [...]

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