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Question Type: Main Idea
Main idea questions are one of the most important types of listening questions on the TOEFL. There will be six or nine of these on your test. So, there’s a lot of them. And of course, they ask about the main idea of the recordings. They’re the first question after each recording.
So, let’s say you just listened to a conversation, and after the conversation’s finished, you move on to answer some questions. Question number one will be about the main idea in the conversation. So on every TOEFL, the first listening question is a main idea question. And then, after that, when you move to another recording, maybe you hear a lecture, then the first question about that lecture will be about the main idea of the lecture, etc.
If you have six listening recordings, you’ll get six main idea questions. If you have nine recordings and a long listening section, then you’ll get nine main idea questions. They ask about the main topic or purpose of the recording. The topic is really, what is it about? What is the topic?
What is the subject? Purpose questions ask why? So a topic question might say, what is the lecture mainly about? A purpose question might say, why does the professor give the lecture? But they’re both big picture. They’re overall questions, not about specific details.
And they’re very similar and we answer them in almost the exact same way. In order to answer these, you have to remember the beginning of the recording. This is key. It’s not the only thing, but it’s important. That’s especially true for conversations. That’s because conversations change topics pretty often.
So, when we ask about the purpose of a conversation, we’re usually asking about the purpose in the beginning of the conversation, not something that happened later. No later details are important. That is, no specific later details. As a whole, they are important.
That is, let’s say we have some main idea, some main topic, and then we have detail one, detail two, and detail three. Of course, this is very, very structured, more structured than you’ll probably see in most lectures. But, this is not the main idea. This is not the main idea.
This is not the main idea. Instead, as a whole, the three together could be the main idea. So you have to be careful to answer this question, not just from one part of the lecture or the conversation. The format of the questions is pretty constant, it doesn’t change often. You’ll see something like this.
What is the main topic of the conversation? Notice how general this is. This could be about any conversation. This one’s a little bit more specific. What trend in child development does the professor mainly discuss? Now, all this information here tells you the basic subject of the lecture.
But if we took this out, you still have pretty much the same question. What does the professor mainly discuss? That’s the type of question we’re looking at. And these, this little bit of extra information doesn’t change anything. Here’s another. What is the main purpose of the lecture?
Again, like this one, it’s very general. We’re asking just about something that could be true of any recording. And this one’s a little bit more specific, but why does the student go to speak with his adviser? We have some pretty constant why does the student, why does the professor and then a very, very general description of the conversation or lecture.
Okay. That’s all for this video.
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