TOEFL Listening and Speaking with Video Games

TOEFL Listening and Speaking practice

As I’ve recently mentioned, movie reviews are a wonderful way to build TOEFL vocabulary. The same goes for reviews of video games. In fact, just about any kind of review on an entertainment website will be full of useful vocabulary for the TOEFL.

But to prepare well for the TOEFL, it helps to not only read advanced vocabulary, but also hear these kinds of academic words. That way you’ll know how TOEFL vocabulary is pronounced. This knowledge can help you in TOEFL Listening. It can also help you in TOEFL speaking. If you hear a wide variety of words in their spoken form, you’ll have a deeper understanding of English pronunciation. And you’ll actually be able to say those academic words yourself, pronouncing them correctly in TOEFL speaking. You’ll be able to really expand your spoken English vocabulary and boost your TOEFL score.

The problem is, many academic vocabulary words are common in reading but aren’t spoken out loud nearly as often. For a solution to this problem, look no further than this blog post. I’ve selected a video game review of “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End,” which I’ll read out loud. The review is full of TOEFL-like vocabulary words, and you’ll get to hear what these academic words actually sound like. As the review is pretty long–you need to click through two pages on CNET to read the whole thing–I organized the recordings by page in this article for your convenience.

Here’s how this article can help you build many TOEFL skills:

  • TOEFL Speaking: Read the review on your own before you listen to the audio. You will probably see words you don’t normally say out loud. Try to read those words out loud and guess their pronunciation. Then check your guesses by re-reading the text while listening to audio version of the text.
  • TOEFL Listening: Read through Magoosh’s top TOEFL Listening tips, then listen carefully to my audio reading of the text. You’ll hear a lot of academic words that you would normally only see in written form. How many words did you know how to pronounce? And what new pronunciations did you learn from listening? Becoming more familiar with the sounds of these academic words will boost your TOEFL listening skills.
  • TOEFL Vocabulary: I recorded each paragraph of the review as a separate audio track. Underneath every audio link, you’ll see a “featured academic vocabulary word” from the paragraph. The featured word will be followed by a brief definition. You’ll get to hear and read the word in context, as you also see its meaning. This vocabulary exposure will help you really remember this set of academic words.

Link to the text of the review

(Small warning: There is mildly crude language in the review, similar to what you might hear on an evening network TV show or PG rated movie.)

And below is my audio reading of this video game review. I’ve put each paragraph in a separate audio file, so that you can listen to the different paragraphs slowly and carefully, one by one.

TOEFL Listening and Speaking: Audio Reading of CNET’s “Uncharted 4; A Thief’s End” game review, page 1

Paragraph 1

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    inevitably (adverb)– in a way that cannot be stopped or prevented

Paragraph 2

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    exclusive (adjective)– not including certain things, restricted to just one place

Paragraph 3

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    commodity (noun)– a type of item that is bought, sold, or traded

Paragraph 4

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    adrenaline (noun)– a hormone chemical found in mammals that causes excitement and increased heartbeat; this word is also used informally to refer to excitement and fast action

Paragraph 5

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    cliche (noun)– an element in a story or sequence of events that is common, unsurprising, and uninteresting

Paragraph 6

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    ancient (adjective)– very old, from another time in the far past

Paragraph 7

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    engagements (plural noun)– a meeting and interaction between two or more people, or between two or more groups of people

Paragraph 8

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    refined (adjective, or verb in the past tense or passive voice)– improved, changed in a good way, made purer

Paragraph 9

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    stealthy (adjective)– deliberately done in a way that cannot be seen or detected by other people; sneaky

Paragraph 10

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    cue (noun)– a sign, signal, or something that sends a message without using words or direct speech

Paragraph 11

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    campaign (noun)– a series of planned actions designed to meet a goal, often used to refer to activities in politics or war

TOEFL Listening and Speaking: Audio Reading of CNET’s “Uncharted 4; A Thief’s End” game review, page 2

Paragraph 12

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    grappling hook (noun)– a metal hook at the end of a rope, used to secure a climber to a surface so that the climber can go up to a higher place

Paragraph 13

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    nuance (noun)– a thing that is complicated and not easy to see or understand at first

Paragraph 14

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    gist (noun)– the simplest, most basic explanation of something

Paragraph 15

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    exposition (noun)– information that explains a situation, especially a situation in a fictional story

Paragraph 16

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    surreal (adjective)– strange in a way that is interesting but not realistic; presenting a situation that is very unusual and surprising

Paragraph 17

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    locale (noun)– a specific geographic location that someone can visit, such as a town, a forest, a mountain, and so on

Paragraph 18

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    observatory (noun)– a scientific building that is designed to help scientists look at and study a large area, such as outer space, the ocean, a mountaintop, or a valley

Paragraph 19

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    painstaking (adjective)– created or performed with hard work and careful attention to detail

Paragraph 20

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    highlight (verb)– to draw special attention to something; to make sure something is easy to notice or see

Paragraph 21

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    by design (phrasal adverb)– done or formed in a planned way

Paragraph 22

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    loyalist (noun)– someone who always follows, admires, or obeys a person or thing

Paragraph 23

  • Featured academic vocabulary word:
    supremely (noun)– done in the very best way; done in a way that is superior to other ways


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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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