The TOEIC® exam is a part of life in Japan, and for many people a barrier that is standing between you and your goals. Nevertheless, we don’t need to be afraid of the exam, because anyone can get a good score on the exam with basic knowledge of English and some test-taking skills. Today, I want to look at three basic skills for the TOEIC® Listening, or most any other English exam really.
- Avoid distracters
Now, what do I mean by those? Let’s start with inference.
Inference（推測) is the ability to guess, more or less. In the first part of the TOEIC® listening section, you will see photographs and then be asked to select a sentence which best describes each picture. Now, before you listen, you will need to make some inferences.
In order to do well on this section, practice quickly coming up with as many true English sentences in your head about a given photograph as you can. Infer what is happening and create sentences using mostly “there is/are”and present continuous “They are ___ing”.
1. There is a cup full of pens on the desk next to the computer.
2. The woman is looking at her computer.
3. The woman is holding a sheet of paper.
One of these will probably be the answer, and you'll prepare the vocabulary in you head. The best way to approach these questions is to scan the picture completely and identify what's happening, just like a journalist or a spy. Ask yourself: who, what, where, why? Listen for any words that are stressed, as they may hold a clue.
To study for this part of the test, you can also try making sentences that describe what you are doing during your day. Another helpful exercise is to make a list of all the things around you that you see. This helps you learn the vocabulary and connect it to a place.
Paraphrasing (言い換え) is another important concept to remember. Paraphrasing is the ability to say the same idea, but using different words.
Here is a quick example of paraphrasing:
Almost all the time, the answer that you see on the test will use different, paraphrased words, from the listening. The ability to recognize how they are paraphrasing will be key to identifying the answer. There are a few things to listen for. They may use different vocabulary with the same meaning in order to make it harder to choose the correct answer. They may also change the word order or use different grammar.
1. "The most effective way to build your English skill is to study regularly."
2. "The most effective way of building your English skill is to do studying on a regular basis."
If the original sentence is in the active voice, they may change it to passive or vice versa.
1. "To improve English, you should learn new vocabulary on a daily basis."
2. "To improve English, new vocabulary should be learned on a daily basis"
Finally, let’s look at distracters (引っかけ) which you will find in each part of the TOEIC® Listening. The multiple choice answers will try to distract you by using very similar, or even the same word. For example, let's look at one word which can have several meanings, like 'mind'.
Make sure that the answer is using the word in the same way it should be used in the answer. Because the correct answer is usually paraphrased, if you hear the same keyword in the conversation and the answer, it is usually not correct! Here are some of the things to be careful about for part 1:
- words that sounds similar but are in fact different
- the right words used inaccurately
- the right words used in a confusing manner
- answers that are only partially true
- words that refer to a context other than the one shown in the picture
- words related to, but not in the picture
for part 2:
- words that sound similar but have different meanings
- wh- questions - who what, when, where, why, what - that need logical answers
- questions with question tags
- yes / no questions which may have no direct yes / no answers
for part 3:
- similar-sounding words
- inaccurate words
- confused word order
- words that change the meaning
- negative words (hardly, not, etc.)
- words associated with time (always, never, etc.)
It will help if you can read the question, and possibly even the answers, before you hear the dialogue. Check all the options and don't choose too quickly. When you are taking the actual exam, pay attention to the context. Try and picture the speakers and where they are.
If you want to practice more, then please join us for our TOEIC® Listening Seminar!
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