David Recine

Good Sources for TOEFL Listening Practice: Lectures

In my last post, we looked at places on the web where you can find TOEFL-like conversations for TOEFL Listening practice. Today, we’ll start looking at some good websites for TOEFL-like lectures. As you listen to them, apply best practices by using these TOEFL Listening tips and tricks!

TOEFL Listening practice on TED, TED-Ed, and TEDxESL

The “TED” family of websites is a great source of English listening practice. Be careful though. Not all of the talks you’ll see in TED videos are TOEFL-like. Some of them feature foreign accents that you won’t hear on the TOEFL. And above all, TED Talks can be long, much longer than the 3-5 minute academic lectures featured on the TOEFL exam.

Fortunately, there are ways to seek out educational TED Talks that have a manageable, TOEFL-like length. The main TED website includes playlists of shorter lectures, such as the “TED in 3 Minutes” playlist and a similar list of five minute TED Talks. Then there’s TED-Ed, which has shorter talks about academic subjects like the ones on the TOEFL. The site even includes some extra lesson materials for each video, to help you really boost your listening comprehension skills. Last but not least is TEDxESL, which also focuses on shorter lectures and includes lessons and activities specifically for non-native English listeners.

TOEFL Listening practice with Khan Academy

Khan Academy is one of the most TOEFL-like video lesson libraries on the Web. You can listen to lectures in just about any academic subject, either through the Khan Academy homepage or the Khan Academy YouTube channel. The speaking style in these videos is TOEFL-like in terms of vocabulary and accent. You’ll hear American lecturers introducing students to academic concepts. The lectures are longer than the average TOEFL talk, but only a little longer; many Khan Academy videos run for less than 10 minutes.

The pace of the speech in Khan lessons is a little faster than most TOEFL lectures. But there are a lot of visual aids to help you comprehend what you’re hearing. And of course, you can pause and replay parts of the lecture that you have trouble understanding. (While you don’t get visual aids or replays on the TOEFL itself, visuals and repeats can help you boost your comprehension skills during TOEFL prep.)

TOEFL Listening practice through YouTube

toefl listening practice

YouTube is the most popular video website in the world and a huge source of lectures for TOEFL listening practice. One of the things that makes it so popular is that anyone can upload a video and create their own YouTube channel. This means that many different teachers, schools, and companies put academic lectures and video lessons onto the site. As you can see, TED and Khan Academy have a YouTube channel where you can view their videos and so many other education providers also use YouTube. (In fact, Magoosh itself has several different YouTube channels, for Magoosh TOEFL, Magoosh GRE, Magoosh GMAT, and so on.)

Google Talks for TOEFL Listening Practice

This YouTube Channel is sponsored by Google, the parent company of YouTube. The channel features informational lectures by experts in many different areas. Google Talks are designed to be similar to TED Talks. There are some differences, however.

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The biggest difference is that Google Talks are much longer on average, compared to TED Talks. While it’s possible to find short TED Talks that are the same length as a 3 to 5 minute TOEFL lecture, Google Talks are usually at least 40 minutes long. And many Google Talks are over an hour in length. Still, these talks all have a very academic tone, and they tend to feature North American speakers. If you have the patience for longer lectures or don’t mind just listening to part of a long talk, this channel can be a good source of TOEFL Listening practice.

TOEFL Listening Practice with the RSA

The YouTube Channel for the British Royal Society of the Arts (the RSA) also features many TED-like educational lectures. Although the RSA is based in the UK, their YouTube channel features many speakers with North American accents. The RSA is most famous for its “RSA Animate” videos, which feature clever animated visual aids to go with the lecture audio.


TOEFL-Like Lectures on Life Noggin

“Noggin” is a playful slang word for someone’s head or brain. And Life Noggin is a very playful YouTube channel.  It covers academic topics by answering fun, interesting questions. The Life Noggin videos have titles like “What if Jupiter Never Existed?“, “How Many People Can the Earth Hold?“, “This is Your Brain on Music“, and “Five Crazy Ideas that Turned Out to Be True.”

The pace of speech is a little on the fast side compared to the TOEFL. But the length of each talk lines up well with TOEFL lecture tracks—each video is just a few minutes long. And the subject matter is TOEFL-like too, covering basic undergraduate-level content.

TOEFL Listening Practice: University-Sponsored Lectures

There are plenty of YouTube channels where you can listen to real university professors. These channels are good practice for the academic lecture tracks you’ll hear in the TOEFL Listening, Speaking, and Writing sections.

TOEFL Listening Practice with UC Berkeley

The University of California Berkeley is one of the top universities in the world. It’s especially known for its courses in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). And on the UC Berkeley YouTube channel, you can watch real lectures given by Berkeley professors.

Most (but not all) of these lectures are given by professors who speak standard North American English, using the same accent you’d hear in TOEFL lectures. Some professors even have a slow, clear, TOEFL-like speaking style. But most speakers talk a little bit faster than a TOEFL professor would.

A lot of the lectures here make for great TOEFL Listening practice, but Berkeley’s YouTube channel does have one drawback. Because of Berkeley’s emphasis on STEM studies, a lot of the lectures are heavy on math and technical science. TOEFL lectures do not cover these two academic subjects. Fortunately, this YouTube Channel divides its lectures into playlists by topic. You can go to the channel’s playlist tab to find lectures in topics that are more common on the TOEFL.

TOEFL-like Lectures from UNC Chapel Hill

TOEFL Listening Practice

The University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill’s YouTube Channel is not as obviously TOEFL-like as Yale or Berkeley’s channels. In fact, most of the videos on UNC Chapel Hill’s YouTube page aren’t very useful at all for TOEFL prep. For the most part, UNC’s YouTube clips are just commercials for the university–highlights of life on campus and interesting projects that are being done in different departments.

However, I still strongly recommend the UNC YouTube Channel to TOEFL preppers for one reason: Its Economics 125 playlist. This video collection features 20 lectures from UNC Chapel Hill’s introductory course on economics. A 100-level (first year) economics lecture is exactly the kind of thing you’ll hear on the TOEFL itself. And in general, the TOEFL loves to include lectures related to business and the economy.

Not only that, but most of the speakers on the ECON 125 playlist have a TOEFL-like speaking style. The professors speak slowly and clearly, with neutral North American accents. So this section of UNC Chapel Hill’s YouTube channel can definitely help you prepare for lectures on the TOEFL.

TOEFL Listening practice through OpenYale

This is a really enjoyable and fascinating website. Sponsored by the world famous Yale University, OpenYale archives real classroom lectures from Yale professors. And it’s also a good source of TOEFL prep. Many of the professors have a very TOEFL-like speaking style, because they need to speak slowly and clearly to large audiences. And of course, some of these lectures are also available on their YaleCourses YouTube Page.

Like the other resources I’ve listed here, OpenYale does not match up to the TOEFL in every way. Needless to say, real Yale lectures are longer than TOEFL lectures. And not all professors speak in the careful, slow style you’ll hear on the TOEFL. Moreover, OpenYale features some professors who do not have typical North American accents–the purpose of the site is to archive speeches from brilliant professors, regardless of their dialect or accent.

The takeaway

As you can see, YouTube has a wealth of English listening practice. Still, I realize this article may be a little frustrating for certain Magooshers. YouTube is unavailable or partly blocked in a number of countries (China, Germany, and Iran, to name just a few).

But YouTube-less Magooshers can take heart. In my next post, I’ll show you some alternatives to YouTube for TOEFL Listening practice.


  • 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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