Phrasal Verbs in TOEFL Listening


TOEFL has audio tracks for listening in three of its four sections (Listening, Speaking, Writing). Phrasal verbs are very common in TOEFL audio tracks. This is because phrasal verbs tend to be informal. And in English, speech is less formal than writing,

Phrasal verbs can be tricky for TOEFL test-takers—these root verb/preposition combinations aren’t used much in other languages. In this post, we’ll look at several phrasal verbs, as they are defined and used on the TOEFL. For each phrasal verb, I’ll also give you some examples of use in TOEFL audio tracks.


Put up – to display or show; to build/erect something

Possible TOEFL Use

A student conversation from TOEFL Speaking Task 2:

    Did you see the announcement? It sounds like the new art gallery will be putting up a lot of really amazing pieces.

Another student conversation from TOEFL Speaking Task 2:

    Did you hear? The school is going to put up a planetarium right next to the physics building.


Get out – to get free of something; to change from being secret to being known openly

Possible TOEFL Uses

A conversation between a student and an adviser from TOEFL Listening:

    When I get out of school, I’m hoping to work for a few years as an engineer before I even think about graduate options.

A student conversation from TOEFL Speaking Task 2:

    Did you read the article? I guess word has finally gotten out that the Dean is retiring.


Turn up – to appear; to intensify or increase

Possible TOEFL Uses

A conversation from TOEFL Listening:

    You’ve lost your student ID? Let me check the lost and found box to see if it turned up.

A student conversation from TOEFL Speaking Task 2:

    If the school has live music in the student union, people will just turn up their headphones so they can hear their own music.


Go up – to increase; to be in the process of construction.

Possible TOEFL Uses

A TOEFL lecture in a biology class:

    When demand goes up or supply goes down, price tends to go up.

A student conversation from TOEFL Speaking Task 2:

    Did you hear about the new science building that’s going up on campus this summer?


Take out – to remove

Possible TOEFL Use

A TOEFL lecture in a biology class:

    When they took the aquatic plants out of the tank, the oxygen levels in the water dropped–very quickly!


Bring in – to yield as profit or income

Possible TOEFL Use

A TOEFL lecture from an economics class:

    Right before the Dot Com crash, websites were bringing in money in huge amounts. I mean, the growth was really unprecedented.


These phrasal verbs have other definitions too but you probably won’t need to know any of the other meanings for the exam. Still, if you’re curious about the full use of the phrasal below, feel free to look them up on your own. You can check out lots of phrasal verbs on’s phrasal verb dictionary, or on websites such as Wordnik and

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  • 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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