Does Watching Movies Help with the TOEFL?


Among advanced English students, one of the most popular ways to practise English listening is to watch movies or TV shows in English (usually with subtitles). If you do that, then great—keep watching! After all, movies and TV shows usually have natural, native English, or at least close to natural. That is, the people speak very quickly, use conversational vocabulary (including a lot of phrasal verbs and idioms), and elide often. And if you’re going to have conversations with native speakers or live in an English speaking country, then you will definitely want to understand full-speed, natural English.

But watching TV may not help your TOEFL scores, specifically. Well, it will help some, of course—any practice is good practice! But it won’t help to prepare you for the particularly difficult parts of the TOEFL. In other words, English movies and TV are very difficult, and the TOEFL is difficult, but they’re difficult in different ways.


“… any practice is good practice!”

What Makes TOEFL Listening Difficult?

The TOEFL listening section can be difficult even for a native speaker. I’m not trying to scare you if you’re new to the TOEFL; I just want to clarify what, exactly, you should be practising. After all, watching a movie isn’t difficult for a native speaker—it’s one of the easiest, most comfortable things! So it’s important to consider what exactly is different about the TOEFL, and how you should prepare for it.