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How to Improve TOEFL Listening

This post is part of our TOEFL “How To” Series. You can find the other posts here:


Magoosh has many posts about different aspects of TOEFL Listening. If you are facing a specific Listening challenge, I highly recommend you browse our Listening section. We probably have a post just for you. If you feel like you need to improve every aspect of your TOEFL Listening, then search no further. This post is your one-stop shop for TOEFL Listening tips.

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General Listening Skills

  • Recognize the intonational rhythm of English. You don’t have to study intonation as much as you would for TOEFL Speaking. However, knowing the tones of important words and sentence transitions is key to understanding what you hear.
  • Be able to hear and recognize the sounds in English. Again, you don’t need to study every sound as intensely as you would for spoken pronunciation. But you should make sure you can hear the difference between slightly different but distinct sounds in English, such as “d” and “t,” “b” and “v,” “l” and “r,” etc…
  • Become a good note-taker. Learn to keep pace with what you hear, taking notes attentively but quickly.


Test-Taking Skills


Practice activities:

  • Listen to transcripted English speeches and talks. Read the transcripts as you listen. While you won’t be able to read transcripts or captions on the TOEFL itself, this is still very good listening practice. Reading the transcripts can help you identify and learn new words common in spoken English. Looking at a written version of speech can also help you understand the structure of academic spoken English. You can find good transcripted English speech on websites like TED Talks, Upworthy, Khan Academy, and even right here at Magoosh.
  • Expose yourself to real English lectures and conversations. Talk with others you know who speak English. If you can, attend English lectures and ask the speaker questions. Even if you live in a place with few other English speakers, there are ways to do this by phone or Internet.
  • Practice actual TOEFL Listening Exercises, using the official TOEFL website and other recommended materials.


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