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The Listening Timer
This topic seems very simple, but it’s actually not. The clock in the listening section is a little complicated to understand. So, let’s go through it. First of all, the listening section in general is structured in sets of three. You get six or nine recordings in groups of three. If you have a short listening section, then you get six recordings, that’s if you have a long reading section.
So you got long reading and then a short listening or you could have a short reading section and then a long listening section with nine recordings, but they come in groups of three. That’s important, because the timer depends on this. So you could have a group of three, like a lecture, conversation and discussion.
And when that’s finished, when you finish these three recordings, you move onto another group of three with a lecture, conversation and classroom discussion and then you could get one more set on a long listening section. This is key, because the timer counts for each set of 17 questions. For each set of 17 questions, you get ten minutes. And notice these 17 questions is counting the questions for the lecture, conversation and classroom discussion.
If you add those together, they make the 17. So you get ten minutes total for all of these questions and then you get ten minutes here, and the you get ten minutes here. So, the timer is separated by these sets of three. Let’s look at an example. So first, you’re going to see a picture and hear a recording.
The picture might look like this and you hear a lecture. And while this happens, there’s no clock. There’s no timer, but after that, you see a question. And when you see the first question, the timer will begin and it counts down from ten minutes. Here you can see that this is probably the first question, because, well, I’ve only spent 49 seconds on it.
I still have over nine minutes remaining. Actually, maybe this is the second or third question, but it’s early in the set. So after I finish five or six questions, depending on whether it’s a lecture or a conversation, I see another picture and get another recording. So when I get to another recording, there is no clock. It stops, it is paused.
But when I finish that, I come back to more questions and the clock comes back. And it’s the same clock, because it’s counting down from the time remaining out of the ten minutes that I have and this repeats three times. You get three recordings in each set. But after those three recordings are finished, you get the next set of three recordings and the timer restarts to ten minutes.
This is complicated, but the truth is you don’t have to worry about it too much, because it doesn’t cause problems for most students. Listening section questions can’t take that much time, because you can’t go back. You can’t listen again or just repeat the whole recording, if you want to. Reading section questions can take time, because sometimes students get stuck rereading the whole passage or spending a long time looking in the text.
You can’t do that during the listening. So most of the time, timing is not an issue. You read the answer choices, you choose one and you move on. The questions are generally quite short and because you can’t listen again, you can’t get stuck for a long time. But sometimes, the students to have a little trouble.
If you have trouble with the timer, well, if you’re running out of time, then choose the answers that look familiar. Because often, wrong answers in the TOEFL listening bring in topics, keywords that were just not in the recording. They were not in the lecture or conversation. So choose things that you think you heard, don’t choose things that you think maybe were not In the recording, because it’s possible they actually were not in the recording.
Now if you’re running out of time, it is also possible to just choose a random answer and move on. This is only for if you’re spending a lot of time on one question. For example, if you know you have just 3 more questions remaining, but you have 15 seconds remaining and you have already spent 20 seconds on one questions.
Well, then, it’s probably time to move to the next question and just guess. This is only important for the last few questions in a set of 17. You don’t need to worry about guessing, usually. You should make the best answer, give the best answer that you can and don’t give up.
But in the last couple of questions, again, 2 or 3 questions, then you might just guess and move on if you have less than 30 seconds remaining. So, this only a last resort if there is no time left.
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