Listening & Reading
Comprehension Exercises

Listening and reading comprehension exercises can really help you improve your understanding of English. Reading and listening to English on your own is very important to increase your vocabulary and fluency in English, but sometimes you need a way to check how much you understand.

On this page there is a variety of comprehension exercises on different subjects and at different levels, so you can choose the ones that will work best for you.

Photo of lady listening, with her hand to her ear.She's listening for details: Who? When?
Photo of lady listening, with her hand to her ear

Many of the videos for the listening exercises also provide a transcript-- a written version of what you heard.

This means that you can also use them for reading comprehension, as well as to improve your vocabulary (by both seeing and hearing new words-- often more than once). Your  speaking fluency and writing will also improve as the rhythms of English become more and more familiar. 

In addition, some of the TED talks have subtitles or translation of the transcript-- or both-- into several common languages. You may be able to listen or read in your own language before or (better) after you listen or read in English, to deepen your understanding of the message.

(If you can, do the English version first, to see how much you already understand. Then check in your own language.)

You can find the videos and articles with their exercises below in the Listening or Reading Comprehension sections, each arranged from beginning to higher levels. At the bottom the same videos and exercises are arranged by topic: health and psychology, the environment, and society and social change.

ESL Listening Comprehension Exercises

Listening Exercises for Several Levels, including Beginner

> ESL Lab. Lots of different subjects at several levels, these are mostly about everyday life, and include quizzes and optional related grammar exercises. He has another site, Daily ESL, that has short easy readings on daily life topics with listen-along audio.

USA Learns has a number of entertaining videos following several families through different everyday experiences (working and looking for a job, renting an apartment, getting phone service, resolving family problems), along with different types of practice activities.

Teachers may sign up a class, and the site will report individual student activities and quiz results. I used this site and their videos with several classes and loved it! The ongoing stories are easy to follow, and provide lots of repeat exposure to vocabulary and some grammar points.

The British Council has several series of Elementary Podcasts with stories about everyday life and interactive exercises to practice what you have just heard.

The Clilstore  provides videos or audio recordings with transcripts linked to dictionaries in many languages. (Be sure to select English if that's what you want to practice!-- They offer reading and listening materials to learn a number of different languages.)

This free service of the European Commission makes it possible to read slightly harder texts on subjects you're interested in, since you can click on any unknown word and learn its meaning(s) in your language. The recordings are arranged by level (A1- C2-- basically beginner to very fluent.)

They have a lot of TED talks as well as songs, interviews, science and history articles-- even lesson plans, folktales, and an article on the greatest children's stories ever. Many selections also have exercises or quizzes for extra practice.

There are also comprehension and discussion questions for several very interesting A2 level TED talks on hope at English Listening Practice (and Answers.)

Intermediate Listening 

(as noted, these also can be used to practice your reading)

> Listening and Reading Comprehension Practice for the 2 TED Talks on Nature’s Genius and Clean Energy policy

>A Comprehension Worksheet on a TED talk about cancer

> Lesson Plan on the Columbian Exchange includes a listening comprehension exercise.

High Intermediate or Advanced Listening 

> Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Gradation Speech explains the idioms and less-common vocabulary he uses to help you understand this classic commencement address.

> This ESL Listening Worksheet pdf has comprehension and discussion questions for an exceptional TED talk on "the Danger of a Single Story."

> A Comprehension Test on a TED talk on motivation. (It tests either reading-- if you read the transcript-- or listening/watching.) 

ESL Reading Comprehension Exercises

Multi-level Readings, Beginning up:

> Newsela-- the same news report at diff rdg levels. They have a great variety of interesting articles, recent and older, some-- but not all-- with quizzes to check comprehension.  They’re free, but you have to register.

Low Intermediate (and up) Reading Exercises: 

> Reading Comprehension Questions on a Commencement Address on Success

> Practice for the TOEFL and Other Reading Tests (with a reading selection about early American agriculture)

> Reading Comprehension Worksheet pdf on Education’s Death Valley (a TED video with transcript to read-- or you can listen to it by following the link). 

> Reading Comprehension Test Practice based on the TED talk “Where ideas come from: (This also can be used for listening practice.)

> Daily ESL.com: Short articles about daily life, so that after studying these you could use the words, common phrases, and ideas in conversation. There are audio recordings with them so you can also listen.

> Free Reading Comprehension Worksheets (It also lists pdfs for some of  the pages above.)

For Classroom Reading: Reading Comp Lesson Plan Packets at modest prices:

> Reading Comprehension Lesson Plans.

High Intermediate or Advanced Reading:

> A Practice Reading Test (on psychodynamic therapies)

> Check Your Reading Skill (with a selection on mental illness)


Reading & Listening Comprehension Exercises by Topic

(These are intermediate- high intermediate unless noted.)

Understanding our Bodies and our Minds (Health & Psychology)

>A Comprehension Worksheet on a TED talk about cancer

A Comprehension Test on a TED talk on motivation. (It tests either reading-- if you read the transcript-- or listening/watching.) 

Reading Comprehension Test Practice based on the TED talk “Where ideas come from: (This also can be used for listening practice.)

A Practice Reading Test (on psychodynamic therapies)

Check Your Reading Skill (with a selection on mental illness)

Understanding Nature and "Going Green"

Listening and Reading Comprehension Practice: 2 TED Talks on Nature’s Genius and Clean Energy policy

Understanding Society: History, Cultures, and Social Change

Practice for the TOEFL and Other Reading Tests (with a reading selection about early American agriculture)

Reading Comprehension Worksheet pdf on Education’s Death Valley (a TED video with transcript to read-- or you can listen to it by following the link). 


What next?

For some suggestions on how to read English better, see ESL Reading and Reading Strategies Practice. For ideas for conversation and improving speaking fluency, see English Conversation Practice. There are lots of vocabulary exercises, along with games, at Vocabulary Games.

Home> Listening and Reading Comprehension Exercises.

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