Although the TOEFL Listening Section is shorter than the Reading Section, now you have to read, listen, and take notes to guarantee a high score. We present to you: 8 Types of TOEFL Listening Section Questions.

Each audio lecture is around 4 to 5 minutes long, while conversations can be as short as 3 minutes!

Here are some basic facts about the Listening Section:

  • The Listening Section is the 2nd section out of 4 total sections.
  • You’ll be given 40-60 minutes to complete the Listening Section.
  • The section consists of 3-4 audio lectures and 2-3 conversational dialogues.
  • You will hear 2 types of conversations in the TOEFL Listening Section: Office Conversations and Service Encounters.
  • You must answer 6 questions per lecture and 5 questions per conversation.
  • All answers are multiple choice.
  • In total, the TOEFL Listening Section contains 28-39 questions.

Since you’ll be reading a short passage, listening to a conversation or lecture, then taking relevant notes, there’s no time to worry about what kind of questions you’ll run into in the section.

Good news, we’ve got you covered.

Let’s keep those eyes and ears open and prepare for every type of question on the TOEFL Listening Section together!

We’ll go through each question type, group by group.

Group 1: Basic Comprehension

The first group of questions test your basic comprehension skills. Answer choices are often simple and can be found from the lecture and/or conversation.

1. Gist Content

Gist content questions ask you about the major point of the whole lecture or conversation.

Examples include: “What is the lecture mainly about?” or “What does the professor mainly discuss?

Make sure to take notes on the main topic of the lecture and/or conversation. If the entire lecture is about penguins, structure your notes based on penguins!

It can help you decide which information is crucial, and which ones are less important.

2. Gist Purpose

Gist purpose questions ask you about the purpose of the lecture and/or conversation.

Example questions include, “Why does the student visit the professor’s office?” and “Why did the registration clerk explain ___?”

Look for answers that explain why the person in the lecture and/or conversation brought up a piece of information. Focus on the reason, not just the content stated in the lecture and/or conversation!

3. Detail Questions

Detail questions ask you what you remember about the short passage and lecture/conversation. This is where your notes will come in handy!

Examples include: “What are ____?” or “How does ____ affect ___?”

Detail Questions will use specific terms from the short passage, so keep a list of any specific words or ideas related to the main topic.

That’s all of the basic comprehension group of questions on the TOEFL Listening Section. Let’s take a look at the next 2 groups.

Group 2: Pragmatic Understanding

Pragmatic Understanding Questions test your ability to understand context and implied meanings.

Don’t let the word “pragmatic” scare you— it simply means “solving problems in a sensible way that suits the conditions that really exist now, rather than obeying fixed theories, ideas, or rules.”

There are 2 question types in the pragmatic understanding question group:

4. Function Questions

Function questions will often replay a part of the lecture/conversation, and ask you to find the answer that explains what function that replayed portion plays in the lecture/conversation.

The answers will use synonyms instead of exact words used in the replayed audio portion.

Example questions include: “What does the professor imply when she says this? (audio replay)” and “Why does the student mention this? (audio replay)”

5. Attitude Questions

Attitude questions asks you to identify the speaker’s attitude, opinions, or biases on a topic.

Examples include: “What can be inferred about the professor?” or “What is the professor’s attitude toward ___?”

Attitude questions are similar to function questions, except that you should look for answers indicating feelings, preferences (I like / I dislike), opinions, arguments, or positions on an issue.

When someone tells you “I like dogs,” you now know that the person is opinionated about and partial towards dogs. You can identify that person’s attitude about the topic of dogs, and the attitude question works the same way.

Function Questions and Attitude Questions test if you can understand words beyond their literal meanings.

Group 3: Information Connection

Next up is the Information Connection Questions, which cover the last 3 types of TOEFL Listening Section questions.

Information Connection questions, or Connecting Information questions, ask you to connect the pieces and tests your lecture and conversation comprehension skills.

6. Organization Question

Organization Questions ask you to identify the overall organization of the entire thing you’ve just heard.

Examples include: “How does the professor organize the information in the lecture?” or “Why does the professor tell the student not to do ___?”

Organization questions can ask you two things: the order in which things happened, or the relationship between different parts of the whole lecture.

Look for the overall pattern of the lecture as a whole, the order the professor gives information, and the reason why something is told before another piece of information.

7. Connecting Content Question

Connecting Content Questions ask you to identify the relationship between information presented in the lecture. The answer may be given in the lecture, or you may have to infer based on context clues.

Examples include: “What can be inferred about ___ and ___?” or “What does the professor imply about ___?”

These questions ask you to make a connection between separate pieces of information given to you in the lecture. Look for how the information in the question are related.

8. Inference Question

Inference questions ask you to infer about a likely scenario given the information from the lecture. The easiest way to find the correct answer choice is to see which of the answer choices have the most evidence that points to the specific answer choice.

Examples include: “What can be inferred from the Professor’s discussion of X?” or “What will the student probably do next?”

Inference question answers will rarely, if ever, repeat a piece of information from the lecture word-for-word. Answer choices will often use synonyms instead and it’s better to avoid choosing the answer choice that simply restates what’s been said in the lecture. Instead, try to understand why the information’s been emphasized and what purpose the information serves.


That’s all 8 types of the TOEFL Listening Section Questions.

We’ve covered 3 groups of those questions: Basic Comprehension, Pragmatic Understanding, and Connecting Information.

If you’re struggling with the listening section, try grouping your answers into these 3 groups and see which one you have trouble with the most!


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And as always, Good luck with your studies!
Your TestGlider Team