The speaking section of the TOEFL is made of six tasks. When you first start the speaking section, you will get a question about your personal experience—this is task 1. You may need to talk about a place you’ve been, a person you know, or an important event that has happened in your life. You will have 15 seconds to prepare your response and 45 seconds to speak. You can take notes during this time, but they will have to be very minimal, since 15 seconds is such a short time. Because you have little time to prepare and think, knowing what to expect and organizing your thoughts well are extremely important! Answering TOEFL speaking questions well requires practice.
You’ll use your 15 seconds of preparation to choose the main topic of your answer and then think of some supporting details. You willy only have time for that: a main idea and one or two details. Let’s look at an example.
Describe a teacher who has influenced you and why. Be sure to include specific details and examples in your response.
“My high school literature teacher had a deep…um…a deep, positive impact on me. Above all, he was respectful of his students and always interested in our opinions and thoughts. He treated us like, uh, like adults, instead of talking down to us or, you know, ordering us around. And his classes were creative, too—we did much more than just read. We acted out plays and went on field trips to places related to the books we were reading. He really changed how I thought of…of reading in general.”
Note that your response doesn’t have to be grammatically perfect in order to get a high score. Fluency—sounding comfortable speaking English—is more important than grammar, and content and structure are also important. A successful answer generally has three parts: an introductory statement (where you give the short answer to the question), supporting details (a good guideline is to give one or two reasons with concrete details), and then a short concluding sentence that draws your details back into the main idea.
Here are some examples of questions you may encounter in the first speaking task:
– Describe a person whom you admire and explain why. Be sure to include specific details and examples in your answer.
– Talk about a book or other reading source that is important to you. Describe the text, and explain why it is important. Include specific details in your response.
– Talk about an event that has changed your life for the better and explain how it affected you. Be sure to include specific details in your response.
And if you want more examples, there are ten more in this post from Lucas, as well as 10 examples of task 2. 🙂