Practice the TOEFL with Movies and TV

Guest Poster ABA English has already given you a great overview on learning English from movies. Both movies and television shows are a fun and interesting way to learn English in everyday use.

But movies and TV can also help you learn English for TOEFL use. The trick is to find movies and TV shows that have TOEFL-like features.

In TOEFL Listening, Speaking, and Writing, you need to listen to academic lectures. The trick to TOEFL audio passages is that in a lecture, a single speaker talks for a long time. So you’ll want to look for movies and TV where a single character talks for a long time. This kind of speech is called a monologue.

Finding a movie that is mostly monologue is difficult. However, there are a few. One of my personal favorite movies, The Man From Earth has lots and lots of monologue speeches. As an added bonus, the main characters are all university professors, so the speech is very academic. You can watch this entire movie for free on YouTube.

man from earth on deadly ground

Photo by Wikipedia                        Photo by Wikipedia

More often, a movie will have one or two scenes where a character gives a speech to a group of people. Some of the best TV and movie speeches can be found online, in short clips that are useful for TOEFL practice. The end speech from the action movie On Deadly Ground (transcript here) has been especially good practice for my students.

forrest gump button

Photo by Wikipedia                        Photo by Cinemorgue Wiki

The most common type of long movie/TV speech is narration. Narration is a voice you hear in a movie or TV show, explaining the story. Forrest Gump and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button are two popular narrated movies. Television shows like Scrubs and Gossip Girl are narrated too. Paying special attention to the narrator’s voice can help you build your TOEFL skills.

scrubs gossip

Photo by Wikipedia                        Photo by

Documentaries (already recommended to you by Magoosh TOEFL blogger Rita) usually have monologue, speeches, and narration! These three things are found together on TV too, especially on late-night talk shows and news shows.

community   big bang theory

Photo by Community Wiki

In the TOEFL Listening and Speaking Sections, you listen to conversations in addition to lectures. These conversations focus on academic life, so movies and TV shows about college and university are especially good TOEFL practice. On TV, I recommend the Big Bang Theory, a comedy about university researchers, and Community, a funny show about college students. On the movie screen, I recommend Good Will Hunting and The Social Network. These award-winning dramas have a lot of good character conversations about university life.

good will   social network

Photo by TVTropes                       Photo by Films Wiki

I’ve given you a few examples of things you can watch to build your TOEFL skills. But you should also look for movies and TV on your own. I recommend looking through the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) website. IMDB has lists of TV shows and movies with narration, movie speeches, and movies about colleges/universities.

YouTube channels like these ones actually let you watch clips of movies and TV. This is another way to discover new things to watch and practice English listening. You can even find full TV episodes and movies are on YouTube. Some of them are free. Others can be watched for a small fee.

Preparing for the TOEFL is hard work. But with all of the movies and TV available on and offline, it can also be fun and convenient.
All images from IMDb.

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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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