David Recine

Improve Your TOEFL Listening With Medical Dramas

I’ve already shown you some ways to increase your TOEFL Listening speed with movie one-liners, as well as ways to keep focused with TOEFL Listening tips and tricks.

Next we’ll look at another unique type of film: medical dramas. The U.S. is a source of many very enjoyable television dramas set in hospitals. These shows are not just entertaining; they are also relevant to TOEFL Listening. How, you might ask? Well, first off, medical dramas are fast paced and exciting. Because they capture the urgency of life-and-death hospital work, the characters often move and speak quickly. This means that, like movie one-liners, medical dramas can help you improve your listening speed.

Medical dramas are also similar to TOEFL Listening in another very important way. They are full of detailed technical information that you are not expected to understand or remember. Just as you should ignore most of the technical details in TOEFL Listening, you don’t want to get distracted by the technical words in medical dramas. The specialized medical terms in these shows help make the events seem more “real.” However, what the writers really want you to understand is the human emotion, the personal interactions, and the storyline.

Watch and listen to the medical drama clip below (taken from the television show ER). Then answer the comprehension questions. Remember, you don’t need to understand the medical terms to answer the questions. If you feel you need it, you can read a transcript of the scene: ER Transcript.

Practice for your TOEFL exam with Magoosh.


1) Who does Sydney, the little girl, ask about at the beginning of the clip?

2) Abby Lockhart (the nurse in the light blue-green scrubs) picks up the phone. When she begins to talk on the phone, who does she talk to, and what does she say she is doing?

3) How did Sydney get injured?

4) Who does Sydney talk to on the phone? How does she feel about the person she’s talking to?

5) Who disagrees with Dr. Clemente’s medical opinion? Who agrees with him?

6) What are some things Dr. Clemente says to Sydney to make her feel better?

Check your answers here: Medical Drama Answer Key.

Shows like this provide an enjoyable way to build your English skills. The clip above is a preview of the ER episode “The Human Shield.” For a small fee, you can watch the whole episode. You can also read a free online episode guide.



  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he’s helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master’s Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he’s presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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