As you prepare for your TOEFL Listening test, you’ll want to seek out the best TOEFL listening practice possible. Unfortunately, finding good TOEFL listening practice online is about as easy as trying to find a bear in New York City. There are a few out there, but there’s only one reliable place to find them: a zoo. There may be lots and lots of imitation bears—stuffed animals, paintings of bears, statues, costumes—but the only place you’ll find real bears (legally!) is in the zoo. In the case of the TOEFL iBT, the only place you’ll find the real, high-quality TOEFL listening practice is on ETS’s official website.
The official sample TOEFL iBT listening exercises from ETS’s free full-length TOEFL test are a great help and are the best examples of what you will hear on the day of your test. Altogether, there are 5 listening exercises, just as you’d find on the real exam.
TOEFL Listening Samples in the Test Sample Software
First, you can find some listening practice in the Listening section of The free full-length TOEFL practice test from ETS. This browser-based test is actually the only place you can find a realistic, free sample of the TOEFL. I don’t know of any other free sources that give a test-like experience.
There’s one way that this test is different from the real test, though—it has no timer. On a real TOEFL, you’ll see an onscreen timer that tells you how much time you have for each section or task. In this practice test, the real timer is described int he instructions but is not present onscreen.
TOEFL “Quick Prep”
TOEFL Quick Prep is actually no longer hosted on the ETS website, because it does not perfectly match the new format of the TOEFL that was rolled out in August of 2019. However, Quick Prep is still very useful, as long as you follow Magoosh’s advice on using older TOEFL prep materials.
The good news is that QUick Prep is still available outside of ETS.org, through the Web Archive website. On the archived “Quick Prep” page, you can find six more practice listenings: 4 lectures and 2 conversations.
There are also another six “listening” samples without mp3s, but they don’t provide realistic practice at all. Listening is very different from reading. (You can also get similar transcript-only Listening practice through ETS’s newer Listening practice sets.)
Unofficial TOEFL Listening Practice
There are plenty of unrealistic, unofficial imitations, of course, but there aren’t many practice listenings that accurately reflect the content, style, and level of English that ETS uses on the test. Be very wary of unofficial, free materials. They might be good for general English listening practice, but you probably won’t get realistic questions, and the recordings will almost always be different from what you’ll really get on the day of your test.
But that leads to another point: if you want to practice your English listening skills in general, there’s no reason to limit yourself to amateur recordings and poorly-written questions that just look a little like the TOEFL iBT. Instead, we can practice listening to anything academic. I highly recommend the lectures on www.TED.com for practice. American-born speakers are best. The best feature of TED is that if your listening skills are still very low, there are text transcripts of almost every lecture so you can read while you listen.
The lectures on TED are definitely more difficult than TOEFL recording, too. That’s not a bad thing, though—the best way to train is with difficult material.
TOEFL Listening Practice from Magoosh
Over the years, we’ve written a lot of posts that contain free listening practice materials. Here’s a list of our favorite resources.
First of all, check out our free TOEFL listening practice test video for exam-like questions in an easy-to-use format!
(NOTE: This video was created to reflect the older format of the TOEFL. Each individual task on the video does match something you’d see on the current exam, but the current exam will have five tasks, not 6.)
TOEFL-specific listening practice:
General English listening practice:
- Educational Videos to Practice Academic Listening
- Videos and Podcasts to Practice Listening
- Documentaries to Practice Listening
- Practice with Online Comedy Videos
The Main Point
If you’re looking for sample TOEFL listening material, head to the official site first. Unofficial, free samples are only really useful for general listening practice. If you’re practicing that, then don’t limit yourself to suspicious imitations: consume anything you can that’s academic and challenging. And don’t forget to check out Magoosh’s lessons and practice questions as well. 🙂