TOEFL iBT® Reading and Listening Webinar

On-screen: [ETS® TOEFL. Resource Series for Teachers. The key to success for teaching English.

Hello and welcome to the "TOEFL® Resource Series for Teachers" webinar. This webinar will be about the Reading and Listening Sections of the TOEFL iBT® test.

Your Facilitator and Schedule. Joanna Wrzesińska – ETS Approved Propell® Facilitator for the TOEFL iBT® test, ETS Global. What we will cover today: Overview of the Reading Section, Background and Question Types; Overview of the Listening Section, Background and Question Types; Suggested Test Prep Resources.]

Speaker: Joanna Wrzesińska, ETS® Approved Propell® Facilitator for the TOEFL iBT® test.

Speaker: Joanna Wrzesińska - My name is Joanna Wrzesińska and I'm an ETS Approved Propell® Facilitator for the TOEFL iBT® test. This is what we are going to cover today: I will start with presenting the overview of the Reading section of the TOEFL iBT® Test and I will discuss the background and question types included in this section. Then, I will pass on to the Listening section. I will present its overview and discuss the Background and question types used in this section of the test. Eventually, I will suggest some useful resources you might want to use in your classrooms. Let's get started …

On-screen: [ETS® TOEFL®. Resource Series for Teachers. The key to success for teaching English. Reading Section.]

The TOEFL iBT® Reading Section consists of 3 to 4 passages that were all selected from authentic academic sources. Each passage is approximately 700 words long and is follow by 12 to 14 questions. Most questions are worth 1 point, but a few are worth more than 1 point. Directions for each question indicate when this is the case. The reading questions measure the ability to comprehend basic facts and vocabulary; the ability to make inference on the sentence level or across multiple parts of the text; and the questions also measure the ability to read to learn, so for example, the ability to distinguish essential points of information from nonessential information. The raw score a test taker receives is then converted to a scaled score of from 0 to 30.

There are different ways of categorizing genres but typically, for academic settings, they are classified as expository, narrative and argumentative. Academic texts usually provide new information readers need to learn and this is why they are also perceived as more difficult. The information in the passage is presented following certain abstract patterns, such as: description, definition, sequence, procedure, cause and effect, classification, comparison and contrast, problem and solution. It's important for students to become familiar with the different genres and patterns of information organization as they are common for academic sources. As far as passage topics are concerned, they will predominantly come from four general fields: Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Physical Sciences and Arts.

One way of understanding how reading comprehension operates is through what is called "reading purposes," that is, why people read texts. In the academic context, students read for various reasons, but generally the most prevalent are: to understand basic information, for example the gist or specific details, and to learn from texts, for example, to understand a text as a whole, so it can be summarized, or to understand which points in the text are essential and which ones are not. Students also have to make inferences about what they read. For example, form generalizations or draw conclusions from what they have read. Identifying the purposes for reading was important for developing the question types, but there may be more than one purpose behind a single reading question. And the differences may not be immediately clear at times.

For each reading purpose there are a number of question types that have been developed for the TOEFL iBT® test. Vocabulary questions check the understanding of vocabulary in context. Sentence simplification questions may ask the test taker to choose a sentence that best expresses the essential information in a highlighted sentence from the passage. Factual questions measure reading for understanding important details within a passage. Negative fact questions ask test takers to identify which information from the options given was NOT presented in the passage. Prose summary questions ask test takers to select sentences from a given pool and put them in order so that they can create the best summary of the passage. Other questions may require test takers to classify, categorize or organize information. Inference questions ask about what is implied by the author or what can be inferred from certain information from the passage. Rhetorical purpose questions ask for reasons for presenting information in a certain way or for mentioning certain facts. And there are questions that require the test takers to insert a sentence in the appropriate place in the text.

On-screen: [Sample Question Types. Look at several sample questions that follow a passage titled: Agriculture, iron, and the Bantu people. What item type is each of the questions? TOEFL® Quick Prep Volume 3; pages 4-8.]

I would like to suggest an activity now that will help you understand how the reading question types that I presented a moment ago work in practice. We will be looking at example questions that followed a sample TOEFL iBT® Reading passage. The passage was taken from a free resource which you can see a direct link for on the screen. You may want to pause the recording now and visit the indicated website to have a look at the passage.

On-screen: [What kind of item type is each of the questions? Basic Comprehension: Vocabulary; Sentence simplification; Factual; Negative Fact. Reading to Learn: Prose Summary; Classify, categorize, organize. Inference: Inference, Rhetorical Purpose, Insert text.]

In a moment you will see 5 questions to the passage you just had a look at. Look at the question types on the screen again and then, for each of the 5 questions in the next slides decide which type they represent. For each question you may pause the recording and think of an answer. Otherwise, it will be displayed on the screen after several seconds. Let's get started.

On-screen: [Sample Question 1. 1.The word "diffused" in the passage is closest in meaning to: A) emerged, B) was understood, C) spread, D) developed. Vocabulary question.]

On-screen: [Sample Question 2. According to paragraph 1, why do researchers doubt that agriculture developed independently in Africa? A) African lakes and rivers already provided enough food for people to survive without agriculture, B) The earliest examples of cultivated plants discovered in Africa are native to Asia, C) Africa's native plants are very difficult to domesticate, D) African communities were not large enough to support agriculture. Factual information question.]

On-screen: [Sample Question 3. In paragraph 1, what does the author imply about changes in the African environment during this time period? A) The climate was becoming milder, allowing for a greater variety of crops to be grown. B) Although periods of drying forced people south, they returned once their food supply was secure. C) Population growth along rivers and lakes was dramatically decreasing the availability of fish. D) A region that had once supported many people was becoming a desert where few could survive. Inference question.]

On-screen: [Sample Question 4. What function does paragraph 3 serve in the organization of the passage as a whole? A) It contrasts the development of iron technology in West Asia and West Africa. B) It discusses a non-agricultural contribution to Africa from Asia. C) It introduces evidence that a knowledge of copper working reached Africa and Europe at the same time. D) It compares the rates at which iron technology developed in different parts of Africa. Rhetorical Purpose question.]

On-screen: [Sample Question 5. Directions: An introductory sentence for a brief summary of the passage is provided below. Complete the summary by selecting the THREE answer choices that express the most important ideas in the passage. Some sentences do not belong in the summary because they express ideas that are not presented in the passage or are minor ideas in the passage. This question is worth 2 points. Write your answer choices in the spaces where they belong. You can either write the letter of your answer choice or you can copy the sentence.]

On-screen: [Sample Question 5 (continued). Agriculture and iron working probably spread to Africa from neighboring regions. Answer Choices: A) Once Africans developed their own native crops, they no longer borrowed from other regions. B) The harshness of the African climate meant that agriculture could not develop until after the introduction of iron tools. C) The use of livestock improved transportation and trade and allowed for new forms of political control. D) As the Sahara expanded, the camel gained in importance, eventually coming to have religious significance. E) The spread of iron working had far-reaching effects on social, economic, and political organization in Africa. F) Today's Bantu-speaking peoples are descended from a technologically advanced people who spread throughout Africa. Prose summary question.]

I hope this part of the webinar provided you with a better understanding of how the reading skills are measured on the TOEFL iBT® test.

On-screen: [ETS® TOEFL®. Resource Series for Teachers. The key to success for teaching English. Listening Section.]

Let's now move on to the Listening Section.

On-screen: [Background. Listening Purposes in Academic Settings: Basic comprehension, Pragmatic understanding, Connect and synthesize information.]

First, let me describe some of the question types that are included in the test that refer to the three purposes you see on the screen. The basic comprehension questions a test taker sees in the test might ask something like: what the speakers are mainly discussing or what the talk is mainly about. They may also ask about important details in the passage. The pragmatic understanding questions might ask the test taker why a professor mentions a particular detail in a lecture or what a speaker's attitude or purpose is. The connecting information questions might ask the test taker to make an inference about something that is not directly stated in a conversation. These are included in the test because they are relevant to what university students would be asked to do either in a classroom or on campus. Questions are based on real-life academic listening and the situations that a university student would encounter.

On-screen: [Types of Listening Stimuli. Conversations: Discussions with professors, Service encounters (e.g. librarian giving information). Lectures: Monologue, Interactive.]

So the Listening test items were designed to draw on types of listening activities that actually occur in real life. They are designed to be relevant across disciplines and levels of education. A lecture given might be representative of a science class, a history class, an arts class, or a class in one of several other disciplines. There are also two types of lectures included on the test: monologic and interactive as both types are observed in real life settings.

On-screen: [ETS® TOEFL®. Resource Series for Teachers. The key to success for teaching English. TOEFL iBT® Listening Section. Academic lectures: 4 to 6 lectures some with classroom discussion; 3 to 5 minutes long; each lecture followed by 6 questions. Informal campus conversations: 2-3 conversations; 3 minutes long; Each conversation followed by 5 questions. All questions are worth 1 point.]

The total time for this section of the test is 60 to 90 minutes, and you can see within that block of time what the test taker will be doing. Each listening passage is played only one time, although for some questions a very short part of the recording will be played again. The raw score a test taker receives from the listening section is then converted to a scaled score of 0 to 30 points.

For each listening purpose there are a number of question types that have been developed for the TOEFL iBT® test. The main idea or gist-content questions require test takers to identify the main idea of a passage. The gist-purpose questions check if test takers recognize a speaker's overall purpose. For Detail questions test takers need to identify important details in a passage. The Function questions measure if test takers are able to recognize the purpose behind the speaker's statement and how words stress and intonation help convey this purpose. The Attitude (or stance) questions require test takers to recognize the speaker's degree of certainty and how word stress and intonation help convey meaning. In Organization questions the test takers need to recognize when a speaker is shifting from the general to the specific. In Connecting content questions test takers need to connect pieces of information and to use implied information to draw conclusions. And, last but not least, in Making inference questions test takers use language, stress and intonation of the speakers to determine their attitude and degree of certainty. And based on this assessment the test takers need to make an inference. To better understand how the question types I have just presented work in the actual test I would like you to listen to part of a passage and then look at the questions that followed it. It will be a similar activity to the one we had for the Reading section.

On-screen: [ETS® TOEFL®. Resource Series for Teachers. The key to success for teaching English. Sample Listening Questions. Listen to part of a lecture in a history class.]

First, let's listen to a sample passage. Afterwards, I will start displaying the questions.

For each question you may pause this recording and think of a listening question type that it represents. If you decide not to pause, the answers will be displayed on the screen after several seconds. I hope you will find this activity useful to understand what kind of skills the listening section measures.

Narrator: Listen to part of a lecture in a history class.

Professor: So we've been talking about the printing press, how it changed people's lives, making books more accessible to everyone. More books meant more reading, right? But as you know, not everyone has perfect vision. This increase in literacy, in reading, led to an increase in demand for eyeglasses. And here's something you probably haven't thought of: This increased demand impacted societal attitudes towards eyeglasses. But, um, first let me back up a bit and talk about vision correction before the printing press. And what did people with poor vision do — I mean especially those few people who were actually literate — what did they do before glasses were invented? Well, they had different ways of dealing with not seeing well. If you think about it, poor vision wasn't their only problem. I mean, think about the conditions they lived in: Houses were dark, sometimes there weren't any windows, candles were the only source of light … So in some places, umm … like ancient Greece, for example, the wealthiest people with poor vision could have someone else read to them. Easy solution if you could afford it. Another solution was something called a reading stone. Around 1000 c.e.

European monks would take a piece of clear rock, often quartz, and place it on top of the reading material. The clear rock magnified the letters, making them appear larger. Umm, it's like what happens when a drop of water falls on something. Whatever's below the drop of water appears larger, right? Well, the reading stone works in a similar way. But rocks like quartz, quartz of optical quality, weren't cheap.

Late in the thirteenth century, glassmakers in Italy came up with a less expensive alternative — they made reading stones out of clear glass. And these clear-glass reading stones evolved into the eyeglasses we know today. So we're pretty sure that glasses were invented in about the late 1200s, well over a hundred years before the printing press. But, it's not clear who exactly invented them first or exactly what year but records show that they were invented in both Europe and China at about the same time. By the way, we call this independent discovery. Independent discovery means when something is invented in different parts of the world at the same time. And it's not as unusual as it sounds. You can look at the timeline charts in the back of your textbook to see when things were invented in different cultures at about the same time to see what I'm talking about. So, now let's tie this to what I said before about societal attitudes towards glasses. Initially in parts of Europe and China glasses were a symbol of wisdom and intelligence. This is evident in the artwork from the period. European paintings often portrayed doctors or judges wearing glasses. In China, glasses were very expensive so in addition to intelligence they also symbolize affluence, wealth. In 14th century Chinese portraits, the bigger the glasses, the smarter and wealthier the subject was. So glasses were a status symbol in some parts of the world.

Now let's get back to the invention of the printing press in 1440. What happened? Suddenly books became readily available and more people wanted to read so the need, the demand for more affordable glasses rose drastically. Eventually inexpensive glasses were produced and then glasses were available to everyone. People could purchase them easily from a traveling peddler.

On-screen: [Sample Question 1. What is the lecture mainly about? A) Political events that led to the invention of eyeglasses. B) A comparison of attitudes toward vision correction in Europe and China. C) The relationship between the printing press and literacy. D) An overview of vision correction over time. Main idea / gist-content question.]

On-screen: [Sample Question 2. According to the professor, what was an advantage of using clear glass instead of quartz to make reading stones? A) Clear glass was easier to find than quartz. B) Clear glass was easier to cut to the appropriate size. C) Clear glass magnified the letters more than quartz did. D) Clear glass was less expensive than quartz. Detail question.]

On-screen: [Sample Question 3. What does the professor imply about the invention of eyeglasses? A) Its historical records are more detailed than those of other inventions. B) It had little impact on social attitudes toward vision correction. C) Its occurrence in different places at approximately the same time is not unusual. D) It contributed to a substantial increase in the number of literate people. Making inference question.]

On-screen: [Sample Question 4. Which sentence best describes eyeglasses before the invention of the printing press? A) They were available to everyone. B) They were a symbol of wealth and wisdom. C) They could not correct vision accurately. D) They could be bought only from traveling peddlers. Connecting content question.]

On-screen: [Sample Question 5. Put the events in the order that they happened. A) Inexpensive eyeglasses became available. B) The first eyeglasses were made. C) The number of people interested in reading increased. D) The printing press was invented. Connecting content question.]

On-screen: [Sample Question 6. Listen to Track 6. A) She is impressed by the solution. B) The solution she describes is obvious. C) The solution was not a common practice D) The solution was not particularly expensive.]

Narrator: Listen again to part of the lecture. Then answer the question.

Professor: So in some places, umm … like ancient Greece, for example, the wealthiest people with poor vision could have someone else read to them. Easy solution if you could afford it.

Narrator: What does the professor imply when she says this?

Professor: Easy solution if you could afford it.

Attitude (stance) question.

On screen: [Additional Resources for Reading and Listening Sections.]

Now, before we finish, let's look at some useful resources.

On-screen: [For You. Teachers and Advisors Section: One location for all your resource needs. Videos Available: TOEFL® Resource Series for Teachers; Research Behind the TOEFL® Program; How ETS Scores the TOEFL iBT® Test.]

First, please remember to visit TOEFL® Teachers and Advisors website which contains many useful resources including the advisor toolkit, research information, and a series of informative videos for teachers. Another reason to visit the website is to sign up for receiving quarterly updates from the TOEFL® Program and stay informed about the latest news.

On-screen: [More Information on TGA Site. Website contents include TOEFL® Destination Search, registration information, test preparation tips and more …]

In case of questions from your students, please refer them to the official website for test takers:, which includes TOEFL® Destination Search, registration information, test preparation tips and much more …

On-screen: [Inside the TOEFL® Test. Video series gives an in-depth look at the Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing questions, including: Question structure, Scoring criteria, Skill-building tips, Sample responses (Speaking and Writing).]

"Inside the TOEFL® Test" is a fantastic video series that offers an in-depth look at all the four sections of the TOEFL iBT® test. You and your students can learn more about the Question types and structure, Scoring criteria, Skill-building tips and you can also view some sample responses.

On-screen: [TOEFL® TV Channel on YouTube®. Includes video tips from teachers and students; Learn about TOEFL® destinations; Features ETS-produced videos about the test: Inside the TOEFL® Test and Meet the Study Group; 81,000+ subscribers; Over 4.1 million views (as of September 2016).]

There is also a TOEFL® TV channel on YouTube® that includes the "Inside the TOEFL® test" series that I have just mentioned, but there are also many other valuable videos available there. For example, you can find videos by other teachers like yourself in which they share their test preparation tips.

On-screen: [Free TOEFL iBT® Test Prep. TOEFL iBT® Interactive Sampler: Free unlimited access to interactive Reading and Listening questions, and sample responses to Writing and Speaking questions. TOEFL iBT® Test Questions: Previous questions to help become familiar with the types of questions and content on the actual test and understand how test is structured and formatted. TOEFL® Test Prep Planner: An 8-week preparation plan that contains tips and activities to build each of the four skills. TOEFL iBT® Quick Prep: Free practice tool with real TOEFL iBT® test questions from past tests with downloadable audio files.]

Another set of useful resources is the sample test questions that you can download for free from the website. The questions either have interactive format like the TOEFL iBT® Interactive Sampler, or you can use the TOEFL iBT® Test questions or TOEFL iBT® Quick Prep, which can be easily printed out and used in the classroom. In fact, TOEFL iBT® Quick Prep includes all the sample passages and questions that we were looking at today. Why not trying them out in your classroom? Another idea is to familiarize your students with the TOEFL® Test Prep Planner which has not only sample questions but also contains a detailed description of the test format, plus an 8-week preparation plan. Make sure to check all of these great resources.

On-screen: [TOEFL® Test Preparation: The Insider's Guide. The TOEFL® MOOC is a free 6-week test preparation course designed by the experts who create the TOEFL test. Week 1: Introduction; Week 2: Reading; Week 3: Listening; Week 4: Speaking; Week 5: Writing; Week 6: Test Day and Beyond. Mix of text, short video lectures, sample questions from past tests and quizzes. Please check website for next enrollment date:]

Another fantastic resource is titled: TOEFL® Test Preparation: The Insider's guide, which is a 6 –week free internet course led by ETS experts. Even though this MOOC, which means Massive Open Online Course is predominantly taken by students, the instructors can get an even better understanding of how each section of the test looks like and what additional activities and resources they can use in their classrooms. Please check website for the next enrollment date.

On-screen: [TOEFL iBT® Test Preparation. Official TOEFL iBT® Tests, V2 – NEW! 5 real practice tests and interactive DVD-ROM. The Official Guide to the TOEFL® Test, 4th Edition. Test prep handbook from ETS. TOEFL® Practice Online. Complete online practice tests. TOEFL® Online Prep Course. Up to 80 hours of content. TOEFL® Value Packs. Save up to 38% on official prep and other resources.]

Last but not least, there are a number of excellent paid test preparation materials available including: The Official TOEFL iBT® Tests Volume 1 and 2; The Official Guide to the TOEFL® Test, TOEFL® Practice Online; TOEFL® Online Prep Course and TOEFL® Value Packs, which enable you and your students to purchase sets of materials at reduced prices.

On-screen: [ETS® TOEFL®. Resource Series for Teachers. The key to success for teaching English. Thank you! To stay up-to-date with all available materials, please make sure to periodically visit]

Thank you very much for taking time to view this webinar. I hope you will now feel much more confident preparing your students for the Reading and Listening Sections of the TOEFL iBT® test.

End of TOEFL iBT® Reading and Listening Webinar Video.

Video duration: 20:20