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TOEFL Listening Practice
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TOEFL Listening Skill 3: Understand The Function

In the Listening part of the test, you may be asked about the speaker's function] or purpose, in saying something. This type of question asks you to understand not just what the speaker said but why the speaker said it. You may be asked, for example, to determine that a speaker said something in order to apologize, explain, clarify a point, change a topic, indicate a change of opinion, or suggest a new action. To answer this type of "question, you must listen to' what is said in a particular context and draw a conclusion about the speaker's purpose in saying it.

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

QUESTIONS  ABOUT  FUNCTION
HOW TO IDENTIFY THE QUESTION
listen again to part of the passage.
Why does the speaker say this? 
 
WHERE TO FIND THE ANSWER
The part of the passage that indicates what the speakers says you.
 
HOW TO ANSWER
1. Listen carefully to what the speaker says in the part of the repeated.
2. Draw a conclusion about why the speaker says it.

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

Example 1: Consultation - Assignment

(narrator) Listen as a student asks her professor about an assignment.

(student) Professor Roberts, I have a question for you about the assignment.

(professor) Okay, if it's a short question.

(student) It is. The assignment on the syllabus lists pages 101 through 120 in the text, and the last page of the assigned reading is a list of questions. I was wondering if we were supposed to read through the questions and just think about the answers or actually write out the answers to the questions.

(professor) Well, you don't need to write out neat and formal answers to the questions, but you should be really familiar with the answers because we 71 be talking about the questions during class and I expect you to have answers ready.

(student) You mean, we don't need to turn in written answers to the questions?

(professor) That's right, but you might want to jot down notes about your answers so that you can refer to them during our discussion.

After you listen to the conversation, a function question asks about the speaker's purpose in saying something. To start this question, a part of the conversation is replayed.

Question 1: 

(narrator) Listen again to part of the passage. Then answer the question.

(student) Professor Roberts, I have a question for you about the assignment.

(professor) Okay, if it's a short question.

The question and answer choices then appear on the computer screen as the narrator states the question.

1. What does the professor mean when he says this: (professor) Okay, if it's a short question.

a. He hopes it is an easy question.

b. He does not like to give long answers.

c. He thinks that short questions are the easiest.

d. He does not have much time to answer a question.

In the conversation, the student says Professor Roberts, I have a question for you ... and the professor responds by saying okay, if it's a short question. From this, it can be concluded that the professor means that he does not have much time to answer a question. The last answer is therefore the best answer to this question.


Now look at an example of a question that asks about a different function. To start this question, a part of the conversation is replayed.

Question 2:

(narrator) Listen again to part of the passage. Then answer the question.

(professor) well, you don't need to write out neat and formal answers to the questions, but you should be really familiar with the answers because we'll be talking about the questions during class and I expect you to have answers ready.

(student) You mean, we don't need to tum in written answers to the questions!

The question and answer choices then appear on the computer screen as the narrator states the question.

2. Why does the student say this: (student) You mean, we don't need to tum in written answers to the questions?

a. To suggest something to the professor

b. To indicate that she thinks the professor is mistaken

c. To verify what she thinks the professor said

d. To request a further explanation of the professor's response

In the conversation, the professor says well, you don't need to write out neat and [ormal answers to the questions, but you should be familiar with the answers, and the student responds by saying you mean, we don't need to tum in written answers to the questions? From this, it can be concluded that the student said this to verify what she thinks the professor said. The third answer is therefore the best answer to this question.