Inside the TOEFL® Test - Listening Organization Questions



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[music playing]

Michael: Hi, I'm Michael from ETS. Today on Inside the TOEFL Test, we're going inside the TOEFL iBT Listening section. Specifically, the Organization questions. 

Inside the TOEFL® Test – Listening
Organization Questions

Michael: Organization questions ask you to show understanding of how a lecture is structured.

On-screen: Question Structure
Organization Questions
How a lecture is structured

Michael: You can recognize organization questions because they often include phrases such as "Why does the professor mention…?" or "Why does the professor discuss…?"
These kinds of phrases show that organization questions are often asked about the examples in a lecture, so it helps to listen for examples, and think about why the professor is using them.

On-screen: Recognizing the Question Type
Organization Questions

  • Why does the professor mention…?
  • Why does the professor discuss…?

Often about the examples in a lecture

Michael: Now let's look at a sample question. The question is from a literature lecture about detective novels, including one titled The Moonstone. The passage focuses on an important character from The Moonstone named Sergeant Cuff who is trying to solve a crime.

On-screen: Sample Questions
[image of professor leading a lecture]
[Moonstone on chalkboard]
[Sargent Cuff on chalkboard]
[image of professor leading a lecture]

Michael: Here is an excerpt from the lecture:

So, now Cuff arrives. Uh, Cuff is the man who's coming to solve the mystery, and-and again he has a lot of the characteristics that future detectives throughout the history of this genre will have. Um, He's eccentric. Um, He has a hobby that he's obsessive about—in this . . . uh, in this case, it's the love of roses. He's a fanatic about the breeding of roses; and here think of Nero Wolfe and his orchids, uh Sherlock Holmes and his violin, uh a lot of those later classic detective heroes have this kind of outside interest that they uh . . . they go to as a kind of antidote to the evil and misery they encounter in their daily lives.
Now, um, these detective heroes . .um. . they have this characteristic of being smart, incredibly smart, but of not appearing to be smart. And uh most importantly, from uh a kind of existential point of view, these detectives see things that other people do not see. And that's why the detective is such an important figure, I think, in our modern imagination. Um, In the case of The Moonstone—um I don't want to say too much here and spoil it for you—but the clue that's key to . . . the solving of the crime is a smeared bit of paint in a doorway. Um, of course, the regular police have missed this paint smear or made some sort of unwarranted assumption about it. Cuff sees this smear of paint—um this paint, the place where the paint is smeared—and realizes that from this one smear of paint you can actually deduce the whole situation . . .um, the whole world. And-And that's what the hero in a detective novel like this . . . brings to it that the other characters don't—it's um it's this ability to see meaning where others see no meaning and to bring order . . . to where uh it seems there is no order.

Here's an example of an organization question:
Why does the professor mention a smeared bit of paint in a doorway in The Moonstone?

On-screen: Why does the professor mention a smeared bit of paint in a doorway in The Moonstone?

  • To describe a mistake that Sergeant Cuff has made
  • To show how realistically the author describes the crime scene
  • To exemplify a pattern repeated in many other detective stories
  • To illustrate the superior techniques used by the police

Michael: Let's look at the answer choices one at a time.

Choice A can be ruled out because the professor directly states that noticing the smeared paint is the key to solving the crime, not a mistake.

On-screen: [red x next to answer option A]
Michael: For option B to be correct, there would have been a pattern of discussing details from the crime scene. But the smeared paint is the only visual detail from the crime scene that is mentioned. So option B is not correct.

On-screen: [red x next to answer option B]

Michael: Option D can be eliminated because the professor states that the police officers didn't notice the smeared paint.

On-screen: [red x next to answer option D]

Michael: Option C is the best answer because the professor talks about hero detectives in mystery novels and the characteristics they have in common. The professor indicates that there is a pattern when he says this:

These detectives see things that other people do not see.

On-screen: [Green check mark next to answer option D]

Here's a listening tip that can help you understand how a lecture is organized:
Listen for the signal words that indicate the introduction, major ideas, examples and the conclusion or summary. These might be sequence words like "first," "next" and "then." Or they might indicate time or a chronology, like "before," "during" or "since." Or they could show cause and effect, like "accordingly" or "as a result."
These signal words are good cues for when to take notes.

On-screen: Skill Building Tips
Listen for Signal Words

  • Introduction
  • Major ideas
  • Examples
  • Conclusion
  • First, next, then, second, finally
  • After, at last, before, during, now, since
  • Obviously, of course
  • Accordingly, as a result, because, for example, for instance
  • In conclusion, to summarize

Michael: There are lots of ways to improve your English skills. Whatever you do, keep practicing. And good luck on your TOEFL test.

On-screen: For more information about the TOEFL® test and to register, visit the TOEFL® website at