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Note Taking and Listening Comprehension on the Test of English as a Foreign Language TOEFL

Hale, Gordon A.; Courtney, Rosalea G.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Listening Comprehension, Note Taking, Performance Factors, Test Administration, Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)


This study examined the effects of taking notes in the portion of the TOEFL® listening comprehension section that contains short monologues, or "mini-talks." These effects were assessed in experimental testing sessions with students in intensive English language programs and with undergraduate and graduate international students. A multiple-choice questionnaire surveyed the students' reactions to the opportunity to take notes and their previous note-taking experiences. Allowing students to take notes had little effect on their performance, and urging students to take notes significantly impaired their performance. These effects were observed even for students who reported being in the habit of taking many notes or reported having had classroom instruction in note taking. Apparently, then, little benefit is gained by taking notes in the context of the present TOEFL mini-talks, perhaps because they are designed to assess listening comprehension with minimal demand placed on memory. Responses to the questionnaire aid in understanding the results and provide useful general information about the students' note-taking experiences and habits.

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