Afraid of Negative Expressions on TOEFL iBT Listening? Follow these Simple Steps to Increase your Listening Comprehension

Do you understand negative expressions?
Do you understand negative expressions?

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On TOEFL iBT campus-related listening passages, academic discussions, and academic lectures, you will sometimes encounter negative expressions. It will be important for you to understand these expressions in order for you to answer questions accurately on the listening, speaking, and writing sections of the TOEFL iBT. Take the following mini-diagnostic test to see how proficient you are when listening to negative statements. It is suggested that you only read the scripted conversations once and then answer the questions.

1. Man: Have you ever come early for class?

Woman: At no time have I ever come to class on time.

Narrator: What does the woman mean?

A. She has no time to come to class.

B. She doesn’t attend class.

C. She comes to class early every once and a while.

D. She always comes to class late.

2. Man: I hope we will get back our homework the next time we show up for class.

Woman: Probably, the instructor will not hand back the workbook exercises.

Narrator: What does the woman mean?

A. They will most likely get back their work.

B. Rarely does the Professor give back homework the next class.

C. The professor never gives them a hand with their homework.

D. The professor forgot to include the homework in the exercises.

3. Woman: Is attending the Writing Center the solution to the problems with my English class?

Man: The solution is not illogical.

Narrator: What does the man mean?

The woman should not waste her time with the writing center.

Attending the writing center is not logical.

The Writing Center might be a reasonable solution to the woman’s writing difficulties.

It is logical that the woman continue to attend her English class.

4. Man: How did you do on the Physics test?

Woman: I couldn’t be any happier about my test score.

Narrator: What does the woman mean?

She couldn’t be more dissatisfied with her score.

She is glad that she aced the test.

She is not happy about her test score.

The test score could have been better.

In question 1, “at no time” is an absolute negative meaning never, thus making answer choice D correct: “She always comes to class late.” Put another way, the woman means she never comes to class on time. Words like “under no circumstances” and “under no account” are completely negative expressions and should not be confused with almost negative expressions like “rarely,” “seldom,” and “hardly ever.”

In question 2, since the woman says the instructor will probably not give back the exercises, it can be inferred that answer B is most correct: “Rarely does the Professor give back homework the next class.” “Rarely gives back” is similar in meaning to “probably will not give back.”Almost negative expressions like “rarely,” “hardly ever,” and “seldom” are not completely negative expressions and thus do not have the meaning or “never.”

In question 3, the man’s statement “not illogical” is a double negative which means logical. Therefore, answer C is correct: “The Writing Center might be a reasonable solution to the woman’s writing difficulties.” “Logical” is similar in meaning to “reasonable.” A negative plus a negative equals a positive so double negative expressions have positive meanings. However, do not confuse double negative expressions with comparative negative expressions. In addition, make sure you hear negative prefixes such as “il,” “un,” “dis” which will help you to understand the meaning of the speakers’ ideas.

In question 4, the woman’s statement “I couldn’t be any happier about my test score” is a comparative negative meaning she is very happy about her test score. Thus, answer choice two is best: “She is glad that she aced the test.” “To ace a test” means to get a perfect score.

The important thing to remember with comparative negative expressions is that using a negative helping verb with a positive -er adjective results in a very positive meaning: I couldn’t be any happier right now = very happy. Conversely, using a negative helping verb with a negative -er adjective results in a very negative meaning: I couldn’t be any unhappier right now = very unhappy.

Therefore, if you want to improve in your ability to understand negative statements, you will need to practice negative, almost negative, double negative, and negative comparative statements. Even consider scripting out some conversations in order to make you more aware of these expressions.

For more information, go here:

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