Thursday, October 2, 2014

TOEFL Preparation- The Speaking Test

Speaking is an area where many students have fear or lack of confidence especially when being tested. Fear not! The speaking section of the TOEFL test is only 20 minutes long and consists of just 6 questions. The purpose of the test is to determine the taker's ability to communicate in the English language. Clarity is the foremost thing to keep in mind when taking the test. Of the 6 questions two will be from familiar topics, two will be in response to written passages, and two will be responding to a conversation and a lecture.

Questions 1 and 2

In the first question you will be asked about a topic familiar to you. You will be given 15 seconds to prepare your answer and 45 seconds to respond. During the preparation make sure to jot down the key elements to your response. The question will be fairly simple and give you plenty of room to add details with supported reasoning.
The second question will offer you a choice, it doesn’t matter which scenario you pick ,it is your response that counts. Again you will be given 15 seconds to prepare and 45 seconds to respond. Make sure to give supporting reasons for your choice and explain why you made that choice.

Questions 3 and 4

These questions are drawn from a written passage and an accompanying short listening piece related to the passage. Question 3 will have you read a passage relating to an issue pertaining to university life. You are allowed 45 seconds to read the passage which will introduce you to the subject and then typically you will hear two viewpoints which you are then given 60 seconds to respond. The examiners aren't looking for your personal opinions on the passage but the details and opinions of others in the passage, so make sure you take some notes of the details while listening.

Questions 5 and 6

These questions will be based solely on listening material. In each question you are given 20 seconds to prepare and 60 seconds to speak. Question 5 will be a conversation between two people. Remember to take notes on each persons opinions on the subject and the issues they are talking about.

The last question in the speaking section of TOEFL is drawn from a lecture. Make sure to be listening out for specific facts that will most likely be the source of your response.

How to Prepare for the Speaking Exam:

What you want to be doing to prepare yourself for the speaking exam is having conversations in English as much as you can. Make sure you have someone with whom you can practice speaking. Preferably a native English speaker. You need to be able to speak clearly and naturally with a high degree of grammatical accuracy. Talk about specific subjects with a friend: watch a movie and talk about noteworthy situations and scenes that happened. Make sure if you are practicing with a speaker of your own native language that you do not resort to conversing in your mother tongue.

Above all don't let your nerves get the better of you. For many, speaking in a foreign language can be the most difficult part of learning a new language. This is because languages are different when they are spoken from when they are written. Just relax and focus on expressing yourself clearly. Have fun if you can!


Each question is graded on a scale of 0-4. 3 is usually considered a decent score. Things they factor into grading are delivery (pronunciation and clarity of speech), language use (grammar and vocabulary), and topic development (whether your responses related to the topic). You want to  ensure that you automatically form sentences correctly and don't step back to rearrange sentences. Minor errors won't hurt your score too badly as long as the meaning of your response is not obscured. Stay on topic and don't veer into unrelated territory.