About the TOEFL® Speaking Section
Academic Speaking Skills
Students should be able to speak successfully in and outside the classroom. The Speaking section measures the test taker’s ability to speak effectively in academic settings.
In classrooms, students must:
- respond to questions
- participate in academic discussions with other students
- synthesize and summarize what they have read in their textbooks and heard in class
- express their views on topics under discussion
Outside of the classroom, students must:
- participate in casual conversations
- express their opinions
- communicate with people in such places as the bookstore, the library, and the housing office
The Speaking section is approximately 20 minutes long and includes six tasks.
- The first two tasks are independent speaking tasks on topics familiar to test takers. They ask test takers to draw upon their own ideas, opinions, and experiences when responding. (However, test takers can respond with any idea, opinion, or experience relevant to completing the task.)
- The remaining four tasks are integrated tasks where test takers must use more than one skill when responding. Test takers first read and listen, and then speak in response. They can take notes and use those notes when responding to the speaking tasks. At least one requires test takers to relate the information from the reading and the listening material.
TOEFL Fact: Human raters, trained and certified by ETS, rate the Speaking and Writing responses.
The best way to practice speaking is with native speakers of English. If you do not live in an English-speaking country, finding native speakers of English might be quite challenging. In some countries, there are English-speaking tutors or assistants who help students with conversation skills and overall communication skills. It is critical to find them and speak with them as often as possible. Another way to practice speaking is by joining an English club whose members converse in English about movies, music, and travel. If a club does not exist in your area, start one and invite native speakers to help you get started.
All Speaking Tasks
- Increase vocabulary and learn to use idiomatic speech appropriately.
- Learn grammatical structures and use them naturally when speaking.
- Work on pronunciation, including word stress, intonation patterns, and pauses. (There are a number of products and websites that can help you develop pronunciation skills.)
- When practicing for the TOEFL iBT using the tips above, take 15 seconds to think about what you’re going to say before you speak. Write down a few key words and ideas, but do not attempt to write down exactly what you are going to say. (Raters will be able to detect responses that are read and give them a lower rating.)
- Use signal words and expressions to introduce new information or ideas, to connect ideas, and to mark important words or ideas. This will help the listener easily follow what you are saying. (For example, “on the one hand…,” “but on the other hand…,” “what that means is…,” “The first reason is…,” “another difference is…”)
- Make recordings of the above activities and evaluate your effort by asking yourself these questions:
- Did I complete the task?
- Did I speak clearly?
- Did I make grammatical errors?
- Did I use words correctly?
- Did I organize my ideas clearly and appropriately?
- Did I use the time effectively?
- Did I speak too fast or too slowly?
- Did I pause too often?
- Monitor your progress and ask an English teacher or tutor to evaluate your speech using the appropriate TOEFL iBT Speaking Rubrics.
TOEFL® Independent Speaking Task
|Task Type||Task Description||Timing|
|1. Personal Preference||This question asks the test taker to express and defend a personal choice from a given category—for example, important people, places, events or activities that the test taker enjoys.||Preparation time:
|2. Choice||This question asks the test taker to make and defend a personal choice between two contrasting behaviors or courses of action.||Preparation time:
- Make a list of topics that are familiar, and practice speaking about them.
- Describe a familiar place or recount a personal experience.
- Later, state an opinion or a preference and present clear, detailed reasons for it.
- Make a recommendation and explain why it is the best way to proceed.
- Practice giving one-minute responses to topics
TOEFL® Integrated Speaking Task
|Task Type||Task Description||Timing|
|3. Campus Situation Topic: Fit and Explain||
|4. Academic Course Topic: General/Specific||
|5. Campus Situation Topic: Problem/Solution||
|6. Academic Course Topic: Summary||
- Find a textbook that includes questions about the material at the end of chapters, and practice answering the questions orally.
- Read a short article (100–200 words). Make an outline that includes only the major points of the article. Use the outline to orally summarize the information.
- Find listening and reading material on the same topic covered by the article. The material can contain similar or different views. (The Internet and the library are good places to find information.) Take notes or create outlines on the listening and reading material :
- Orally summarize the information in both the written and spoken materials. Be sure to paraphrase using different words and grammatical structures.
- Orally synthesize the material by combining the information from the reading and listening materials and explain how they relate.
- State an opinion about the ideas and information presented in the reading and listening material and explain how they relate.
- If the reading and/or listening material describes a problem, suggest and explain a solution to the problem.
- Recognize the attitude of the speaker or the writer of the original material through intonation, stress, and word choice. This helps to understand their point of view and plan an appropriate response.