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Introduction to the TOEFL® speaking section - Academic speaking skills

The speaking section of the iBT TOEFL® test is a measure of how well you can express yourself in English effectively in an academic setting both inside and outside a classroom. There are two tasks under this section, all drawing on real-life situations that students encounter:

  • During a class, where students must be able to answer or ask questions, partake in academic discussions, give a summary of what they read and hear as well as express their views on the topics under discussion.

  • Outside the classroom. Students need to hold casual interactive conversations, express their views and generally communicate with people in such places as the bookstore, cafeteria or in the accommodation centers.

Speaking Test Section: Description

The speaking section is about twenty minutes long and includes six questions. The candidate will be required to speak on various topics that draw on their personal experiences, campus-setting situations and academic material. The test is divided into two parts: Independent Speaking Tasks and Integrated Speaking Tasks.

The Independent Speaking Task comprises of the first two questions. They are so named because they require that the test taker rely entirely on their own ideas, opinions and experiences for their responses.

The Integrated Speaking Tasks on the other hand includes the rest of the six questions. These require an integration of one’s English-language skills such as listening and speaking or reading, listening and writing just as one might in a classroom.

Just like the rest of the iBT TOELF, the speaking section is administered online via a computer. For the test-taker’s speaking, they use a headset with a microphone while they listen to all the short spoken passages or conversations in spoken questions via the same. For speaking questions that also include reading, they will listen while they read the short passages on the computer screen. Taking of notes while listening to use while answering questions is allowed. Responses are recorded and sent to the ETS Online Scoring Network where they are scored.


Scoring of Speaking Responses


The raters assign a single score on the basis of the overall skill level that is apparent in a candidate’s answer. Scoring criteria may vary to some degree dependent on the questions but the general that raters listen out for in an answer include:

  1. Delivery: Pronunciation, natural pacing and natural sounding of words all combine to bring out clear and fluid speech or otherwise.

  2. Language use: effective use of grammar and vocabulary to bring out one’s ideas indicate the degree of mastery of the language to the raters.

  3. Topic Development: the question is presented clearly and hence how well a candidate answers it as well as how coherently they are able to present their ideas total up to show their topic development ability. Good responses will utilise the time allotted, using at least most of it and with clear, easy to follow progression from idea to idea.

The best method to be able to master speaking in English is to learn from native English speakers. In the age we live in that is not as hard as it might have been some years back as we have the internet today. All one needs is to get online and enroll in our TOEFL program. Upon signing up either to get an account immediately or run a trial version first you may access resources that are very useful in building these skills.

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