toefl guide

TOEFL speaking tips: How to improve connecting sentences in your speech

Ron Ross October 12th, 2021

If you have trouble connecting sentences while you’re speaking, it probably means you didn’t organize your response, or at least, didn’t organize it well, during the preparation time. The problem with an unorganized response is, although you may have an idea on what you what to talk about, if you’re not practiced in speaking your thoughts in a logical and coherent manner, what typically happens is unnatural pauses and poorly transitioned ideas. Therefore, you need to focus on planning your response within the allotted time frame. It can help learning one or even a few speaking templates you can use for each speaking question.

Once you’ve planned your response, it’s time to focus on the actual speech, and since this article is about having trouble connecting sentences, let’s look at a couple ways you can help improve this area of your speech.

Things you should do to improve connecting sentences

Below you’ll find connection words, that help your speech transition from one idea to the next and gap fillers, which give you a few more seconds to think of what to say next. By implementing both into your speech, your answer will sound more natural, fluent, and coherent to the listener, resulting in a higher speaking score.

Connection words

Words and phrases like

  • In addition, In addition to, besides, also
  • First, second, third
  • However, although
  • So, thus

Gap filler

When we speak continuously, we use gap fillers. These words or short phrases are said when we search for words. Here are some examples:

  • you know
  • it's like
  • that thing
  • ok
  • right
  • actually
  • basically
  • so
  • well
  • I mean

Things to avoid when making your speech

Now that you know some helpful words and phrases, let’s look at what most students do when they’re trying to think of the next word. Instead of using those handy dandy gap fillers you just learned, sometimes people will make a sound like:

  • ahh
  • er
  • um

Avoid constantly making sounds like these. Although it can come out naturally from native speakers in conversation, the TOEFL grader would prefer you didn’t do it.

How to practice using connection words and gap fillers

One tried and true way of practicing connection words and gap fillers is to listen to a lot of native spoken English and imitate how they speak. A great free resource is ted talks found here: We also recommend you utilize our resources. Every speaking question comes with a native English sample response in addition other audio found in our vocabulary section and TOEFL listening practices.

However, the absolute best way to improve your speech is to have someone provide feedback on your speaking answers and you can do that right here. Just submit a speaking response and request that response to be reviewed. Once requested, our speaking TOEFL expert will analyze your speaking response and give you live feedback on exactly what you need to improve on. 

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