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TOEFL Listening Question Type: Attitude

Attitude questions, like function questions, often deal with information that’s given not just by what the speaker says, but also by how they say it. They will ask you about the speaker’s attitude–that is, what information the speaker’s intonation and word choice give you about the speaker’s feelings and relationship toward the subject s/he’s discussing. Attitude questions may also ask you about feelings that are directly stated or strongly implied, as in the following example. In this conversation, a professor and a student are discussing the student’s difficulties in his class, and what the student should do to succeed in the professor’s class. (NOTE: This question comes from Magoosh TOEFL. If you like what you see, consider subscribing, or check out our free trial to see more. 🙂 )

Professor: Yeah, and I actually did mention that in class. You know, you really should have checked with your classmates before coming to me.

Student: Well, I’ve always studied alone before.

Professor: I don’t think students should be studying solo in any class. It’s always better to study with a partner—or, a group. It can really help avoid confusion.

Student: Yeah, I’ve really had trouble keeping up in class so far. I think I’ll join a class study group in the library tonight.

Professor: Yeah, please do. Your classmates can probably help you more than I could. You know, when it comes to organizing notes, getting together a good study strategy, eh—that sort of thing.

Practice for your TOEFL exam with Magoosh.

What is the professor’s attitude toward study groups?

A. Professors should make an effort to organize their students into study groups.

B. They are a very important resource for exam preparation.

C. Students should create groups at the start of the semester, before exams begin.

D. Students in groups can divide the work of reviewing so that it is faster.

The trick in this question is to keep the context of the conversation in mind. The is visiting the professor because she is having a hard time in the class, and asks the professor for advice on how to succeed. The professor then mentions study groups, and suggests that the student can benefit from studying in a group instead of by herself. So we know that the professor must think that study groups are an important resource for success, and therefore also for exam preparation. So answer choice (B) is the right answer.

As you practice, you will find that some attitude questions deal with more simple attitudes, as approval or disapproval. Others, however, may deal with more complex relationships like degree of certainty, irony, excitement, and confusion. The best way to practice attitude questions is to listen to as much natural speech as you can and pay attention to how intonation and vocal quality change with the speakers’ moods.

For example, in some cases the speaker may imply an attitude of irony or disapproval by exaggerating his or her intonation. If the speaker speaks haltingly (pauses frequently), s/he may be confused or unsure of what s/he is saying. We usually show excitement by becoming very animated, a change that will also be noticeable in the sound of the speaker’s voice. With practice, you will learn to recognize these nonverbal cues and combine them with the words that the speaker uses to understand exactly how the speaker feels.

 

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