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The Best TOEFL Listening Practice

Finding good TOEFL listening practice online is about as easy as trying to find a bear in New York City. There are a few, but there’s only one reliable place to find them. In the case of the bears, that’s a zoo. There may be lots and lots of imitations of bears—stuffed animals, paintings of bears, statues, costumes, or whatever—but the only place you’ll find real bears (legally!) is in the zoo. In the case of the TOEFL iBT, the only place you’ll find the real thing is on ETS’s official website.

The official sample TOEFL iBT listening exercises there are a great help and are the best examples of what you will hear on the day of your test. Altogether, there are 8 listening exercises, divided into two places.

TOEFL Listening Practice

TOEFL Listening Samples in the Test Sample Software

First, you can find some listening practice in the “TOEFL iBT Test Sample Questions” software. This software is actually the only place you can find a realistic, free sample of the TOEFL. I don’t know of any other free sources that give a test-like experience.

There’s one way that this software is different from the real test, though—it’s too short. There’s only one lecture and one conversation included. On a real TOEFL, you will get 4 or 6 lectures and 2 or 3 conversations.

Unfortunately, ETS are not Apple friendly, though; unlike the GRE Powerprep, which wasn’t available for Mac until very recently, the Test Sample software remains Windows only. But here’s the good news for Mac lovers—only two listenings are in that software. The other six are streamable. That is, you can listen to them online without downloading any software.


TOEFL “Quick Prep”

On the “Quick Prep” page, you can find six more practice listenings. These represent an accurate set of TOEFL listenings—there are two groups of three, with 2 lectures and 1 conversation in each set.

There are also another six “listening” samples without mp3s, but they don’t provide realistic practice at all. Listening is very different from reading.


Unofficial TOEFL Listening Practice

There are plenty of unrealistic, unofficial imitations, of course, but there aren’t many practice listenings that accurately reflect the content, style, and level of English that ETS uses on the test.  Be very wary of unofficial, free materials.  They might be good for general English listening practice, but you probably won’t get realistic questions, and the recordings will almost always be different from what you’ll really get on the day of your test.

But that leads to another point: if you want to practice your English listening skills in general, there’s no reason to limit yourself to amateur recordings and poorly-written questions that just look a little like the TOEFL iBT. Instead, we can practice listening to anything academic. I highly recommend the lectures on for practice. American-born speakers are best. The best feature of TED is that if your listening skills are still very low, there are text transcripts of almost every lecture so you can read while you listen.

The lectures on TED are definitely more difficult than TOEFL recording, too. That’s not a bad thing, though—the best way to train is with difficult material.


TOEFL Listening Practice from Magoosh

Over the years, we’ve written a lot of posts that contain free listening practice materials. Here’s a list of our favorite resources.

TOEFL-specific listening practice:

General English listening practice:


The Main Point

If you’re looking for sample TOEFL listening material, head to the official site first. Unofficial, free samples are only really useful for general listening practice. If you’re practicing that, then don’t limit yourself to suspicious imitations: consume anything you can that’s academic and challenging. And don’t forget to check out Magoosh’s lessons and practice questions as well. 🙂

41 Responses to The Best TOEFL Listening Practice

  1. Lena April 25, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    I have been looking for the sources to practice general listening skills and bumped into your article. Big thank you for recommending website. This is a great listening practice!!!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas April 28, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

      You’re welcome!

  2. Paco May 6, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    HI Lucas!

    Thanks for your advice on finding reliable TOEFL listening practice material on the web. It is quite hard to find authentic TOEFL listening style exercises. Most websites make you believe you can have a real TOEFL test experience since they have plenty of conversations and lectures which are far of being TOEFL based practice. I downloaded the listening tracks from the ETS website and it’s been really useful since they are the makers of such test.

    Thanks again for your help.

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas May 6, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

      You’re more than welcome, Paco!

  3. prakash May 26, 2014 at 11:39 am #

    Hey Lucas!

    Currently I am practicing the NOVA TOEFL 4 test book.

    When I started doing listening section, I won’t able to do the note taking. My listening are good. But when I includes note taking practices, I always missed the points or I found myself far behind in noting the points ( especially in lecture section).

    Can you please give some hints/ tips?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas May 27, 2014 at 10:24 am #

      Hi Prakash,

      This is a common problem. There are a couple of things to work on. First, I want to encourage you to take only some notes. Yes, it is nice to have all of the details written down. But the listening is not very long, and you only have a few minutes to answer questions. For many details, your memory will be enough. Notes should be a memory aid, not the main way of keeping details. That means you should note the big ideas, not the small ones. If you write down just a few words about each major idea, that should be enough. The best notes are often quite short.

      The second thing to improve is your note-taking speed. Realize that only one person needs to understand your notes: you. And even you only need to understand them for a few minutes. Never erase, never write full words, and never think about your penmanship. Get in the habit of only writing a couple letters of each word, just enough to remind yourself later, no more.

      And really, the most important thing is practice. You will learn, with enough practice, what type of notes work best for you. Try different things. Everybody is a little bit different, so you’ll need to learn what’s best by experimentation.


  4. Test Taker October 9, 2014 at 11:05 am #

    Hello. I am planning on taking the test next month. I was wondering if someone could answer my question about the listening section. Can you see/go over the questions before you start listening? Thank you very much!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas October 13, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

      You can’t see the questions before listening, sadly. That means you have to be very careful about listening closely and taking helpful notes. 🙂

  5. nabila November 5, 2014 at 8:51 pm #

    Doing taking notes what are the most important points to take notes?

  6. hania November 10, 2014 at 9:25 am #

    Thank you for recommending, it’s very helpful!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas November 10, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

      I’m glad to hear it! You’re more than welcome, of course.

  7. luv December 11, 2014 at 7:56 am #

    im planning to prepare for a test in a week .
    is that a good decision?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas December 12, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

      That depends on how much improvement you need! In general, though, I recommend taking longer than that to study. The TOEFL is a complicated test, and to become very familiar with it takes most students more than a week. And you score best when you know exactly what to expect. 🙂

      • Jairo Calderon January 22, 2016 at 1:33 pm #

        I do agree if you want to learn more natually you need more much more time that’s right ,ir la tlme what measures everything as much time one dedicates to any matter as much better is going to be the results

  8. Shishuraj December 15, 2014 at 4:52 am #

    Can you read the questions as you listen to the track in the listening section?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas December 16, 2014 at 11:31 am #

      Good question! The answer is no, unfortunately. You must listen to the recording first, then answer the questions one-by-one, and you cannot listen again unless the test gives you a short repeat clip to ask about a specific sentence or phrase.

      • Hilal December 17, 2014 at 11:43 pm #

        It’s really good to read your advices. I would like to get a help with my exam in the US Embassy next February. Unfortunately, The style of the exam is only listening. I therefor wonder if however you can recommend such a good website or anything to do as a preparation for this test. Thanks a lot.

        • Lucas Fink
          Lucas December 30, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

          I’m not familiar with the test you’re referring to, so I’m afraid I can’t give much advice on how to study for it! But in general, the best way to improve listening is to do it as often as possible. Try to find material that you can understand about 70% of. If you have transcripts, too, that’s even better. First listen without the transcripts, then listen again with them for maximum understanding. Good luck on that test!

  9. Christopher January 3, 2015 at 7:48 am #

    Is it crucial that you must take notes doping the listening section of the Toefl test?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas January 6, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

      I definitely recommend taking at least some notes during the listening section, yes! You don’t have to take many, but there are many, many details in a recording, so having a few brief notes can really help you to remember the different parts of the lecture or conversation. Practice listening with different amount of notes to see what works for you. For most students, I recommend short, structural notes, and nothing more.

  10. prati March 17, 2015 at 10:20 am #

    How many Full Tests should I solved to get a high score on Toefl IBT? I can’t find any free full Practice Tests online. Should I buy them from Toefl’s website? I just find them expensive and not sure how many volumes I need to buy.

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas March 19, 2015 at 11:30 am #

      How many full tests you should take depends on how much improvement you need and how much time you have before your test. There are no free, official practice tests, unfortunately, but there is some practice here:

      If you want cheaper, full practice tests, I recommend the Official Guide. That comes with a CD that contains three full tests. The software is a bit different from what you will see on test day, but the material is extremely close, because it is official ETS material. 🙂

  11. Erilda April 5, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

    Hi. I have a question. Are all the lectures and conversations heard at once then you answer all the questions or do you hear a single lecture or conversation and then answer the questions for this particular lecture and so on?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas April 6, 2015 at 11:32 am #

      Good question! You hear one recording at a time. So first you hear recording 1, then you get 5-6 questions on that recording. After you finish those questions, you hear recording 2. After you hear recording 2, you answer 5-6 questions. Hope that clarifies a bit. 🙂

  12. Pavan Kumar Sah April 11, 2015 at 12:19 am #

    Dear Sir,

    I am going to attend the test on 9th May, 2015. I am completely new to the test. I would like to ask you few questions. Would you reply my questions?

    Do i hear the whole text first before writing the note for the listening text? or
    Should i write the answer during the time of listening? Which one is appropriate?

    Is note making important while listening the text?

  13. David Recine
    David Recine April 15, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

    That’s a great question, Pavan! Thanks for sharing it in the comments. 🙂

    It is important to take notes as you listen. You don’t necessarily need to take extremely detailed notes—- you don’t want to be writing so much down that you’re distracted from what you’re hearing. So it’s especially important to balance good note taking with active listening.

    Kate has a good Magoosh TOEFL Blog post on that here:

    And of course, listening to conversations is a little different than listening to lectures. Our TOEFL Blog also has some good posts on specific ways to take notes for conversation vs. lecture.


    I hope this has helped. Good luck on the 9th!

  14. Tushar May 2, 2015 at 6:42 am #

    Hi, I just took toefl and ran out of time before i could click the confirm button on the last question of the listening section. I had selected the bubble for the answer but didn’t click next/confirm. Would that selection still be counted as a response or will that question be recorded as ‘Not Answered’?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas May 7, 2015 at 11:30 am #

      Unfortunately, unless you hit the “confirm” button on a listening question, the answer is not submitted, so it won’t be counted. On the reading section, there is no “confirm”—you only have to choose the answer—but on the listening section you have to confirm. But don’t worry—one question will be a minimal difference. It might actually make no difference to your score!

  15. Inar May 5, 2015 at 12:27 pm #

    Hi Lucas,
    I got IELTS before and we had the chance to look at the questions before and as well as during the listening. In TOEFL, I will hear the conversation or lecture, whatever, and will not be able to see any of the question unless the listening finishes you say, did I get your point right?

    My God, so we have to take really good notess..

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas May 7, 2015 at 11:22 am #

      Yes, that’s right! Notes are very important for the TOEFL. 🙂

  16. ajmal May 18, 2015 at 3:13 am #


    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas Verney-Fink May 18, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

      You’re welcome!

  17. mani April 26, 2016 at 5:11 am #

    I got 70 in my first exam about 3 month ago. Now i want to have another after one month. my scores were: listening 11. reading 19. speaking 19. writing 21. for next exam i want more than 90. can you guide me how i can improve my grade?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 30, 2016 at 10:16 am #

      Sorry to hear your TOEFL score isn’t quite where it needed to be. That’s always a let down. 🙁 For you and other students who need to give their score a big boost, I always recommend carefully looking at exactly why you fell short of your target score the first time. Look at the question types and skills you feel the weakest in…. And also looking at your strengths, abilities you can build on in a retake. Be sure to take note of your own test strategy skills— sometimes simply getting better at strategies related to multiple choice selection, pacing, etc… can add several points to your score.

  18. Emerie May 1, 2016 at 8:42 pm #

    What are the maxmum number of scores that I need to obtain in each section in order to know that I passed and must be offered admission

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 2, 2016 at 4:07 am #

      Hi Emerie,

      There is not a specific score that guarantees admission. Individual schools have set their own TOEFL score thresholds, so you will have to research them one by one to figure out what score you need. There’s a huge range of possibilities here: some schools require a score as low as 70 points, and others as high as 110. From a practical standpoint, the score required by the school you’re interested in should be considered a “good” score.

      Good luck, and I hope your research leads you to some definitive answers. 🙂

      • Siephanh May 13, 2016 at 2:51 am #

        Hi, Dear
        I want to know about TOEFL test, If some body who has already passed the test , What to do next , Does it mean who pass the test the click go to the International University for real study or study only by online and pay the fees ?
        best regards

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 18, 2016 at 6:01 am #

          Hi Siephanh,

          Happy to help! 🙂

          Passing the TOEFL is a great first step, but the TOEFL alone is not enough to get admission into a university for a real study program. If you want to study at the undergraduate level, you will need to send your application (including some essays, your grades and transcripts, etc.) plus any other small details the university wants. For a graduate program, you will have to do all of those things and, in addition, you probably need a GRE or GMAT score for many universities.

          You should focus on the TOEFL first since it is typically a first threshold aspiring applicants must jump, but afterwards there will be more things to check off the list. Be sure to research the requirements at schools you want to attend to find the best answer to what must be done.

          I hope that helps you get started! 🙂

  19. alisha dahal June 6, 2016 at 7:01 pm #

    hello, i am planning to take Toefl test after 20 days. i have been studying Toefl since more than one week. is it the enough time for me to give Toefl test

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 14, 2016 at 7:31 am #

      Hi Alisha,

      Good question! Whether or not it is enough preparation depends largely on your current English level. Have you taken a diagnostic test to see what your score might be? That is a good way to determine if you are in a position to be able to get a good enough score or not. Good luck! 🙂

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