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TOEFL Speaking Task 2- Independent

The first independent speaking task asked you to describe a personal experience. The second one, on the other hand, will ask your opinion on an issue. Usually it will present two opposing opinions, and you will need to choose the one that you think is most justified and explain why.

As before, you’ll have 15 seconds to think and 45 seconds to speak. Generally speaking, the structure of your response should be similar to the structure of the first speaking task: briefly state your opinion, give two reasons why you think the way you do, then offer a conclusion of some kind. If you choose to, you can use the conclusion to acknowledge another side of the issue or an opposing opinion. That’s a good way to use up extra time if you get through your examples with 10 or 15 seconds left. If you do this, however, be sure that you will have time to return to your original opinion and make your preference clear (and give a brief explanation).

It can be very hard to give a complete answer in such a short time—especially because you have little time to prepare. But practicing with a timer many times, learning answer structures, and studying sample answers makes it easier eventually. If you want more guidance and practice material, Magoosh TOEFL can help.

Let’s look at an example question, followed by an example of a good answer.

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Often, people prepare their food at home and bring it to work or school. Buying food on one’s lunch break is also a popular practice. Which lunch break practice is your favorite? Give supporting details and reasons.

Sample Response

“Personally, I prefer to bring my own food to my job or to school. If I buy food while I’m out of the house, I often buy something that is unhealthy. For example, I might buy candy bars from the vending machine, because I feel too busy to go to the cafeteria or a restaurant. But even cafeteria and restaurant food is sometimes not-so-healthy. I can only control how healthy my food is if I bring it myself.

Also, I like to have as much time as possible to relax and to eat when I have a break from school or my job. I don’t want to take extra time to find food and wait in line to buy it. That time’s better spent enjoying the food I brought from home, and chatting with colleagues.

Although buying food at work or school seems convenient, it has higher cost. And I don’t just mean money. Getting food at school or work also takes up precious break time too. And it can be bad for your health.. Bringing food from home really is better.”


This general format is a great one to use on the test: “I prefer/believe that…”, then some examples, then an “although statement,” followed by a concluding remark. Remember that any well-developed answer is correct, and any poorly-developed answer is wrong. You will not lose points for picking an opinion that the graders don’t agree with.

If you want more practice than you can find for this kind of speaking question, check out other official TOEFL independent writing tasks. The prompts are remarkably similar, and in addition to the wealth of materials you’ll find on the Internet (including this Independent Writing topics post by Lucas), the Official Guide has a long list of independent writing topics as well. (Interestingly, the fourth edition of the TOEFL OG offers even more writing topics than the newer 5th edition Official Guide to the TOEFL!)

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19 Responses to TOEFL Speaking Task 2- Independent

  1. luka October 27, 2014 at 11:48 am #

    Hello i am a college student from Georgia and i will be honored if you will link me the simple list or a group of TOEFL speaking samples. Somehow, as it is here -

    all the best

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas October 28, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

      Hi Luka!

      Unfortunately, I don’t know of any free lists of sample speaking questions of high quality other than the one you listed, but luckily the essay questions are strikingly similar, and ETS does have a free list of independent writing questions here:

      But keep in mind that most of the speaking tasks are about a conversation or lecture that you hear (sometimes with a text, too), so those are not possible to write lists of examples for.

  2. Rucha October 30, 2014 at 8:32 am #

    In the independent writing or speaking section where we have to choose a side, so is it better to choose one side or if we can choose to be neutral in our opinion?
    secondly, in the writing section british english and american english has different spellings for example behaviour is in british and behavior is in american so does it make a difference if the word is spelled in british english?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas November 3, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

      It’s better to choose a side. The goal in the TOEFL is to communicate clearly, and it’s easier to be clear if you have a relatively simple opinion. Besides, the tasks tell you to choose a side. 🙂 As for British vs American English, either is fine, but it’s best to be consistent, in general: use one or the other, and don’t combine them. But really, that doesn’t have any significant effect on your TOEFL scores even if you mix them.

  3. Rahim November 10, 2014 at 7:18 am #

    Thank u Sir. Your responses are very helpful. Respected I need to know that on TOEFL we have notepad like medium to write in. how can we insert symbols and characters to reinforce our writing. for example, dash (—)

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas November 10, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

      Yes, you do get note paper during the test. You can use it the whole time to take notes. 🙂 As for writing symbols, the keyboard you use is a standard QWERTY keyboard. There is no button for a dash, but the common substitute of two hyphens (for example, –) is acceptable. Other symbols are on the keyboard in their standard positions. Make sure you’re comfortable with a QWERTY keyboard before test day!

  4. Hana December 21, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    Are there new questions every test or do they repeat? I mean how likely is it that there will be one question from that 40 free sample speaking topic list? Thank you for your answer. H

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas December 30, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

      There are often new questions. Some speaking tasks and writing tasks may repeat across test dates and locations, but you will almost definitely not see something on test day which you’ve seen before. I think the list of 40 speaking tasks you’re referring to, by the way, is an unofficial list. That is not from ETS, so none of them will be on any TOEFL, anywhere (although very similar questions might be!).

  5. Eltaf March 15, 2015 at 11:30 pm #

    Your information was great!!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas March 17, 2015 at 11:42 am #

      Thanks! Glad we could help a bit. 🙂

  6. Siri May 4, 2015 at 5:38 am #

    Hi ,

    I have read in many blogs stating that the independent speaking questions would be a familiar question such as your favorite sport , favorite teacher , childhood memories , vacations etc … What are the chances of such questions repeating again in TOEFL exam ?

  7. David Recine
    David Recine May 4, 2015 at 7:22 pm #

    Siri, there are definitely some common Speaking quesitons that may be repeated across different tests. Having said that, it’s best to focus your practice on improving your overall ability to talk about life and offer your opinions. If you just memorize the answers to a bunch of possible questions, you could spend a lot of time and still have the bad luck of taking an exam that has none of the questions you studied.

    Look up some common questions to help you understand what kinds of things you’ll need to think about. Then practice your general Independent Speaking skills. Lucas has a good additional post on how to practice TOEFL Independent Speaking here:

  8. Olive December 6, 2015 at 10:59 pm #

    This was very concise and helpful, I’d definitely recommend your notes to my friends. Thank you!

    • Rachel Wisuri
      Rachel Wisuri December 7, 2015 at 10:05 am #

      Thanks, Olive! 🙂

  9. Naike June 20, 2017 at 1:23 pm #

    Hi is it better to give one reason and one example in order to fully develop your idea or give two reasons and two examples respectively and keep them short?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 21, 2017 at 1:34 am #

      Hi Naike! Excellent question 🙂 I recommend giving two succinct supporting details to support your opinion, rather than one, more fully developed reason. And, if you have time, you may want to conclude your response by addressing the other side of the issue, as we mention in this blog post. You don’t have much time to speak and may not have time for this last part. But that’s ok. Remember to choose one side of the argument and provide two reasons that support your opinion.

      I hope this helps 🙂

      • Naike June 21, 2017 at 2:03 pm #

        Hi! I didn’t expect to get your reply so soon! Thank you! Okay, two reasons and two supporting details then.
        Another question for you is that, let’s say if I got a question like, “do you prefer to go hiking or read a book when you are free?” And I say “I prefer to go hiking because it can help me become stronger, both mentally and physically. ” And then I give detailed explanations. Do you think I should make the examples my personal experience? I mean, like “I actually joined a hiking club two years ago. Going hiking made me physically stronger because it exercised my legs. I also made a lot of friends when hiking because we always motivated each other.” Or, I simply give two reasons, like, “Going hiking can make you physically stronger because it exercises your legs. It also allows you to make many friends because when hiking, you will motivate each other. As a result, hiking can bond you and other people together.” Which way do you prefer and why or are they basically the same?
        Thank you very much!!!

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 21, 2017 at 8:49 pm #

          Hi Naike,

          Actually, both responses are great options! You can honestly do either. But, if you want, I would actually recommend doing both and shining a little light on your ability to convey facts and personal experiences. For example, “Going hiking can make you physically stronger because it exercises your legs. It also allows you to make many friends because when hiking, you will motivate each other. I actually joined a hiking club two years ago…” And, then you can add another line of personal experience, perhaps drawing from the motivation aspect. This would also be a strong response. Again, both responses in your example were good. Keep up the great work! 😀

          • Naike June 21, 2017 at 8:57 pm #

            Yeah, great idea! Thank you!

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