Note Taking for TOEFL

Note taking is one of the most important skills to crack TOEFL. This technique if relearned well can fetch you really good scores especially in Reading and Listening section. We mentioned relearn because note taking technique that you might have learned in school days might not be good enough. Purpose of taking notes in school days was to either jot down important points which you can remember later in order to recreate your answers or to condense a chapter. In TOEFL, you are not only supposed to meet before-mentioned purpose but also apply it aptly in producing answers of the questions in limited time.

Have a purpose

Do not take notes just for the sake taking it. Think of the purpose of it. In case of Listening section, if you are supposed to solve Multiple Choice Questions after listening to the recording, take notes accordingly. You need to jot down ideas explained in few keywords, not in descriptive format. This will save time and also help you do justice to all points. In case you need to speak after listening to particular piece of audio, take notes in such a way that you can go back to each point and add few extra points that you -would like to add. This will save your ample of time allotted to prepare to speak.

Pay attention to tone or actions

This question is fairly common on TOEFL. After reading a passage or listening to the audio you might be asked to select tone or follow up action after conversation. While reading or listening try to judge mood of author or speaker and jot it down after the notes taking session.

Create a format

After sufficient amount of practice you will be able to generate you own format which will help you in variety of questions. You may have two columns while taking notes. In one of the columns you would like to take notes while to other column you might like to add your own ideas.

Introduction to Listening skills in TOEFL

Listening and grasping the information refer to the primary, basic or the principal skills. The Listening section measures your ability to understand the English spoken in academic settings in the USA. For the Listening task you are given 40-60 minutes.
The Listening section in TOEFL contains 6-9 listening tasks that include:

  • A minimum of 2 questions between two people – such as two students or a student and a professor, a librarian, in store, restaurant etc;
  • A minimum of 2 lectures;
  • A minimum of 2 lectures, with student comments and questions interspersed;
  • Each task is followed by questions.


For the listening task you will need headphones. If you need, you can adjust the volume during the test. You may also take any notes that will help you to answer the questions. A sheet with your notes will be destroyed after you pass exam.
It is not permitted to go back to previous questions. So you should answer each question in proper order. A question should be answered before you can go on to the next question.

Listening questions
There are three different categories in TOEFL test:

  • Basic comprehension questions;
  • Pragmatic understanding questions;
  • Connecting information question.

There are several different types of questions:

  • grasping the main idea;
  • determining the purpose;
  • catching details;
  • determining attitude;
  • understanding conclusion;
  • making implications;
  • connecting content.

Listening topics
Topics for listening can cover a wide range of subjects. There are four major categories: arts, life science, physical science, and social science.
Arts lectures include architecture, music, literature, photography, urban planning, crafts, and industrial design.
Life science includes public health, animal communication, conservation biochemistry, medicine, bacteria, nutrition, and animal behavior.
Physical science includes climate, geography, landforms, environment, pollution, astronomy, optics, physics, technology, mathematics, and computer science
Social science lectures include anthropology, linguistics, education, history, business, psychology, and mass communication.

Listening strategies
To improve your listening skills, get used to the radio and television news, interviews, and discussions. Try to grasp the main idea, catch some new words and then look them up and remember. Listen to various academic talks, lectures, and educational documentaries.
Begin a systematic vocabulary improvement program to expand your vocabulary. Use the subject books, tapes and CDs.