Strategies for the TOEIC Listening & Reading Test – PART 2: Question & Response

In my previous post, I gave you some tips to prepare for Part 1 of the TOEIC test. This post deals with Part 2 – the question-response section. There are 25 questions in Part 2. For each one, you’ll hear one question, listen to three possible responses, and then choose the best one. The responses are not printed.

For example, “Are you going to the advertising meeting?”

  1.  It was about the new annual plan.
  2. Yes, he saw the advertisement.
  3. No, I have too much to do.

Here, the answer is 3: “No, I have too much to do.” Answers 1 and 2 are incorrect because they do not answer the question. Answer A tells the topic of meeting, but don’t answer if the person is going or not. Answer 2 starts off with a clear yes or no, but is in the wrong verb tense, uses a similar word, “advertising” to distract you, and again does not answer the question. 3 is the only possible answer.

Just like with Part 1, I’m going to give you four main tips for the question-response section of the test.

  • Think about the meaning of factual questions.
  • Become familiar with different ways of answering direct questions as well as similar sounding words.
  • Become familiar with time and location structures.
  • Become familiar with the language used in offers, requests, and opinions.

1. Think about the meaning of factual questions.

To do this, you have to listen carefully for the 5Ws we use to ask direct questions – Who, What, When, Where, Why; and also the H question – How. Then listen for the answer choice that matches who, what, where, when, why, or how. Be careful, however, as two answers are designed to distract you from the correct choice. Here are three common distractors you might hear:

a) First is an answer choice that includes the same word with an unrelated meaning:

Question: “How can I book a meeting room?”
Distractor (false answer): “Which book are you reading?”

The word “book” is used in both the question and the answer choice, but the meaning of the word is different. Also, one is a noun, and the other a verb.

b) Another type of distractor is an answer choice with a related subject that doesn’t answer the question. For example,

Question: “They’ve reduced the price of the flights.”
Distractor (false answer): “I don’t think we met at the airport.”

Both the question and the distractor are talking about air travel, but the distractor does not answer the question.

c) A final type of distractor is an answer choice that distracts you with a similar sounding word which has a different or unrelated meaning. Here’s an example.

Question: “Would you mind waiting until the officer can see you?”
Distractor (false answer): “I don’t normally weigh myself.”

Here, the words waiting and weigh sound similar and the meaning is unrelated.

Bonus Tactic 1:

Often the question and answer in this section might use different verb tenses, and still be a good match. For example, an answer to “Did you clean the dishes after dinner?” might be, “No, I’ll do them in the morning.” The answer is in the future tense, and not the past, but it still answers the question appropriately.

Bonus Tactic 2:

The focus in Part 2 of the TOEIC test is on meaning. Listen for key verbs, nouns, or question words to help you avoid distractors, and find the correct answer choice. Do a lot of practice tests in this section to help you learn to avoid common distractors.

2. Become familiar with different ways of answering direct questions as well as similar sounding words.

TOEIC test answer choices in Part 2 tend not directly answer the question using standard language patterns you typically learn in English classes. In fact, you will rarely hear a correct answer that uses the same grammar pattern as that used in the question. Listen for answers that indirectly answer the question. For example, to answer the question, “Did you eat a lot of sushi when you were in Japan?” you might hear, “Actually, I’m not a big fan of raw fish.” rather than “No, I didn’t eat any sushi.”

The correct answers to questions will not usually answer with yes, no, or don’t know (although sometimes they will). They will often use a different verb tense. Here are some more examples:

Q: Did professor Owens come to the presentation?

A: Unfortunately, he’s still on vacation. No he didn’t

Q: Did she say when she would be free to talk?

A: Sorry, I forgot to ask her. No she didn’t

Q: Do you think he would mind if Sarah came, too?

A: You should probably ask him first. No, I don’t think he would.

Q: Could you help me prepare for the meeting?

A: Bob set up the room an hour ago, so there is nothing more to do. No, I don’t need to.

All of these answers above are correct possible choices. Did you notice that they don’t answer using yes or no? Some of the answers also use different words and/or different verb tenses. Here again, you ultimately must focus on the meaning.

The same, similar-sounding words are often used in some answer choices to distract you. Look at this example:

Are you going to the party tonight?

    1. Yes, it’s tonight.
    2. No, he’s departing.
    3. I haven’t decided yet.

The answer can only be 3. Answers A and B do not answer the question. Moreover, they contain the same or similar-sounding words. The word “tonight” is repeated in answer choice 1, and in answer choice 2, the word “departing” sounds a bit like “party.” Also, “departing” in answer 2 has a similar meaning to “going” in the question. Clearly, if you don’t understand some parts test item, you might easily choose the wrong answer. Here is one more example:

Did she hand in the report yet?

    1. She’s already reported.
    2. She put it on your desk yesterday.
    3. She thought it was very handy.

2 is the correct answer. In answer choice 1, “reported” is a similar sounding word to “report” in the question, but actually, it’s a verb, not a noun, and has a different meaning. Similarly, the word “handy” in question choice 3 sounds like part of the phrase “hand in” in the question, but also has a different meaning. Note that the correct answers doesn’t repeat any of the words, and doesn’t even start the answer with “yes.”

Bonus Tactic 3:

Your short-term memory is important. Repeat each response in your head while listening and check it if it answers the question. Ignore it if it has contains distractors.

3. Become familiar with time and location structures.

Questions about time and location are common in the TOEIC test, so it’s a good idea to become familiar with the types of questions and answer choices you’ll get in this part of the test.

Questions asking where or for directions are the first type you’ll see.  Examples of answer choices are:

  • It’s at Northwest University, on the 2nd floor.
  • Go down the hall, turn left, and it’s just across from the cafeteria.
  • It’s in the refrigerator, behind the vegetables.

Take notice of the underlined words here. These are called marker words, and they indicate (or show) the time or location. It’s a good idea to become familiar with common prepositions and other words used as marker words, because these often appear on the TOEIC test.

Questions asking how long are the second type. Example answer choices are:

  • I’ve had this pain in my knee for about 6 days.
  • She’s been working in the admissions office for several months now.
  • They’ve been waiting in line since 9am this morning.

A third type question you’ll get is when questions. Example answer choices are:

  • We’ll be finished in March next year.
  • The package was delivered two hours ago.
  • The meeting is on Wednesday the 23rd at 4pm.

Bonus Tactic 4

Although most of the time, you will hear marker words in the answer choices, some answer choices might not have obvious marker words. Listen for these and decide what kind of questions they could answer. Examples are:

  • Manchester. (where/ directions question)
  • It could take all night. (how long question)
  • He hasn’t signed in yet. (when question)
  • Sorry, but I’m not from around here. (where/ directions question)
  • Costa Rica, again! I can’t wait! (where/ directions question)
  • It’s supposed to arrive tomorrow. (when question)

Bonus Tactic 5

Questions about location usually involve the word where, but other words can also be used when asking for directions for a place. When questions usually involve the phrases, How long… or When… or What time… Below a few examples. Think about the type of question: Is it a where question, a directions question, a when question, or a how long question?

  • Excuse me, can you tell me where I can find the stairs?
    1. Go out this door and walk around the corner. (correct)
    2. They’re away on business. (doesn’t answer the question)
    3. It’s not polite to stare. (stare sounds like stair)
  • When did she cancel the order?
    1. Back in April, I think. (correct)
    2. No, she wasn’t ordered to do it. (order as a different meaning is used as a distractor)
    3. He thinks she has to cancel it. (cancel as a different meaning is used as a distractor)
  • How long did he have to wait?
    1. Yes, it was quite long. (long is repeated as a distractor)
    2. He was waiting for her on Monday. (another form of the verb wait is repeated as a distractor)
    3. Not as long as he thought. (correct)

4. Become familiar with the language used in offers, requests, and opinions.

Social interactions, including offers, requests, and opinions are also a common feature in Part 2, so it’s a good idea to be aware of the language commonly used in these situations.

Common offers in this section included questions that start with: Would you like (some/any) ~? Do you need (any) ~? or Can/May I (do something for you)~? Is there anything I can ~? Would you care for ~?

Requests might start with: Could/can you (do something (for someone))~? Would you mind if I ~ed or May/Can/Could I (get/have/do something)?

Opinions include forms such as: How was ~? What do you think about ~ What’s your opinion of ~? What would you say is/are ~?

Here are some examples with some possible correct answer choices:


A: Would you like me to call you a taxi?

B: No, it’s not far. Thanks.


B: Actually, I already called one.

A: Do you need any help preparing the classroom

B: Actually, it’s already done.


B: Yeah. Could you erase the whiteboard?

A: Can I get you a drink while you’re waiting.

B: Sure, a coffee would be nice.


B: No, I’m fine, thanks.


A: Can I book a room for Saturday, the 4th?

B: Sorry, we are fully booked that night.


B: Sure. May I have your name?

A: Would you mind telling me how this works?

B: Not at all. It’s pretty easy, actually.


B: I’m sorry, I have no idea.

A: Could I borrow your pen for a second?

B: Sure. Here you are.


B: OK. You can give it back to me after class.


A: What do you think about the changes to the proposal?

B: Honestly, I’m certain a lot of people will be upset.


B: To tell you the truth, it the changes seem pretty good to me.

A: What’s your opinion on our new teacher?

B: Good. She seems friendly and experienced


B: To tell you honest, I don’t know yet.

A: What would you say is the best way to increase sales?

B: I think we need to lower our prices.


B: I believe we should increase our marketing efforts.

And here we end! In this long post, you have learned to that you need to think about the meaning of factual questions, become familiar different ways of answering direct questions as well as similar sounding words. You also learned the importance of knowing time and location structures, as well as language used in offers, requests, and opinions.

A quick summary of some useful tips:

  • Listen for key words and focus on meaning.
  • Don’t expect the form of the answer to be the same as the question.
  • Listen for common distractors.
  • Be careful of same or similar-sounding words with different meanings.
  • Note that verb tenses may be different.
  • Don’t always expect yes/no answers.

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