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TOEFL Listening Practice
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TOEFL Listening Skill 1: Understand The Gist

Gist questions are questions that ask about the overall ideas of a passage as a whole. They may ask what the subject, topic, or main idea of a passage is. They may also ask what overall purpose the passage serves. It is important to understand that the gist of a passage may be directly stated in the passage, or you may have to synthesize (bring together) information from different parts of the passage to understand the overall gist.

The following chart outlines the key points that you should remember about gist questions.

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE GIST OF A PASSAGE
HOW TO IDENTIFY THE QUESTION
What is the subject of the passage?
What is the topic of the passage?
What is the main idea of the passage?
What is the purpose of the passage?
Why ... in the passage? 
 
HOW TO FIND THE ANSWER
Information to help you understand the gist may be directly stated beginning of the passage. It may also be necessary for you
to about the gist based upon information provided throughout the passage.

 
HOW TO ANSWER THE QUESTION
1. Listen carefully to the beginning of the passage
to develop an the gist of the passage.

2. Then, as you listen to the rest of the passage, adjust your idea passage as you consider what the speakers are saying.
 


Look at an example of a part of a listening passage.

Example 1: Consultation - A Comprehensive Exam

(narrator) Listen as a student talks to his advisor.

(student) I see that a comprehensive exam is required for my major, and I'm not exactly sure what a comprehensive exam is.

(advisor) A comprehensive exam is an exam that you take in the final quarter of your studies. Its purpose is to determine your overall competency.

(student) How is this comprehensive exam different from a final exam?

(advisor) A final exam covers all the material taught in a specific course; a comprehensive exam, on the other hand, covers all of the materials taught in the entire program.

(student) And it's true that the comprehensive exam is required for my major? It's not an option?

(advisor) (laughs) No, ... it's not an option. comprehensive exam isn't required for all majors at this university, but it is required for your/ major. Sorry, it's not optional.

After you listen to the conversation, the question and answer choices appear on the computer screen as the narrator states the question. This is a gist question that asks about the purpose of the passage.

Question 1: (You hear the narrator) Why does the student go to see the advisor?

a. To take an exam that he missed
b. To discuss what his major should be
c. To learn about a requirement for his major
d. To change his major

In the conversation, the student says I see that a comprehensive exam is required for my major; and I'm not exactly sure what a comprehensive exam is. From this, it can be determined that the student goes to see his advisor in order to lean? about a requirement for his major: The third answer is therefore the best answer to this question.

Now look at an example of another type of gist question. This gist question asks about the overall topic of the passage.           .

Question 2:(You hear the narrator) What is the topic of this conversation?

a. Choosing majors at this university
b. When comprehensive exams are given
c. Why final exams are comprehensive
d. The exam requirement for a specific major

In the conversation, the student says I see that a comprehensive exam is required for my major, and I'm not exactly sure what a comprehensive exam is, and the professor says a comprehensive exam isn’t required for all majors at this university, but it is required for your major: From this, it can be determined that the topic of the conversation is the exam requirement for a specific major: The last answer is therefore the best answer to this question.