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TOEFL Speaking Topics

Before learning about the various TOEFL Speaking Topics, make sure that you understand the basics of the TOEFL Speaking section. Our TOEFL Speaking infographic is a great place to start:

TOEFL Speaking Topics 

Now, on to the specifics …

What You’ll Learn in This Article

You’re probably here because you want to understand what concepts the Independent portion of the TOEFL Speaking section tests, how it tests those concepts, and what types of questions you can expect to see on test day. And that’s exactly what you’ll find! The goal of this post is to introduce you to TOEFL Speaking on a high level, and then delve into specifics that will help you prepare for the exam.

When you get to the end of the post, be sure to sign up for Magoosh’s 1 Week Free Trial to get access to some Speaking lesson videos from our TOEFL Experts.

Here are the sections in case you’d like to jump ahead:

The Difference Between Integrated and Independent TOEFL Speaking Tasks

Similar to the TOEFL writing section, the TOEFL Speaking section includes two types of questions—“independent” questions and “integrated” questions. In terms of topics, there’s a pretty clear divide between the two types: integrated TOEFL speaking topics are about academic topics while independent speaking topics are about personal experiences, opinions, and ideas.

The “integrated” topics are called that for a reason: they integrate reading and/or listening with speaking. That also means that integrated speaking topics are as varied as listening and reading topics, and answering them well mostly depends on how well you can find the most important ideas in a lecture or text.

In contrast, the independent tasks are only really about how well you can speak, rather than how well you digest incoming information. That means communicating clearly.

 

TOEFL Speaking Task 1: Choose a Preference from Two

This speaking prompt is the only Independent Speaking prompt currently on the TOEFL. Older TOEFL prep resources will mention two Independent Speaking tasks, so if you’re using older prep, note that the prior version of the TOEFL had two Independent Speaking topics. Also note that Task 2 in the old TOEFL is the same thing as Task 1 in the current test.

Task 1 will be very similar to many TOEFL essay prompts. It will ask you to make a choice between two things, then support that choice.

EXAMPLE: Some people prefer work that allows them move around outdoors. Others feel it is more pleasant to work in an office. Which do you prefer, and why?

Note: ETS used to give a list of essay prompts for free on their website, but they deleted that page. Now, you need the Official Guide to the TOEFL, fourth edition see the list of essay prompts mentioned above.

Practice for your TOEFL exam with Magoosh.

Again, this is an exercise in choosing fast. You only have 30 seconds to answer, so you need to make a quick decision and then work on supporting it with a reason or two.

Cats or dogs?

Black or white?

Cold or hot?

And then there’s the most important part of the question: why?

ETS, which makes both the TOEFL and the GRE, likes to ask questions about education especially. So, in order to prepare for your TOEFL, it’s a good idea to practice speaking about your preferences in education. Where do you like to study? What types of teachers do you like? Do you like to work alone or in groups? What subjects are the most interesting? (If you’re going to take the GRE, that essay is very possibly going to be about education, too, so this might help in that preparation, too).

 

TOEFL Speaking Practice Topics for Task 1

1. Some people prefer work that allows them move around outdoors. Others feel it is more pleasant to work in an office. Which do you prefer, and why?

2. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Use details and examples to explain your answer.

Snakes should never be kept as pets.

3. Some people feel they perform better when they have to finish by a strict time. Others feel they do better work if they do not have time pressure. Which best describes you? Explain why.

4. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Use details and examples to explain your answer.

Parents should buy for their children any books that the children choose to read.

5. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Use details and examples to explain your answer.

Students should spend more time learning outside of classrooms than within classrooms.

6. In some areas, summer days are longer, so there is more daylight in the evening and early morning, but winter days are shorter. In other areas, summer and winter days are similar lengths throughout the year. Which do you prefer, and why?

7. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Use details and examples to explain your answer.

Movies that are longer than three hours should be made shorter by removing less important scenes.

8. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Use details and examples to explain your answer.

Parents who do not regularly exercise should start in order to be good role models for their children.

9. Some people prefer to respond to emails, phone calls, and other messages they receive immediately. Others take more time to respond. Which do you do, and why?

10. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Use details and examples to explain your answer.

It’s better to reward employees with gifts and job perks, such as gym memberships or English classes, than it is to simply pay more.

 

TOEFL Speaking Slideshare

If you’re a visual learner, you can also view these practice questions in our SlideShare. Note that the SlideShare currently mentions “Task 1” and “Task 2” from the old version of the TOEFL. You can ignore the questions labelled as Task 1 in the SlideShare. It’s the “Task 2” questions from the file– which are now “Task 1” on the new TOEFL– that you can study and learn from. 🙂


 

Preparing for TOEFL Speaking

Within the first task, TOEFL Independent Speaking subjects have a very wide range. If you also factor in the integrated, academic tasks, that range is enormous. The most important thing for preparing isn’t learning all of the topics; it’s learning how to answer completely in a very short time and under pressure, and knowing the proper strategies to tackle each task. A great way to do this is by taking a TOEFL practice test and signing up for the free trial of our premium prep. I’ll elaborate more on this in later posts. 🙂

You might also download our free TOEFL speaking app for your iPhone or Android. The app simulates the real TOEFL speaking test with free practice speaking materials. You can even use it in offline mode any time you need more practice.

Here’s one more resource for you! You can take a full-length TOEFL speaking practice test by checking out our video post. Note that since the recent changes to the TOEFL, you now only need to complete four speaking tasks on the real exam, while our video still shows 6 Speaking tasks. But the video is still quite useful Simply skip past the first and fifth tasks in the video, and you’ll get to practice a full TOEFL Speaking section just like the one you’ll see on test day!
 

Video: TOEFL Speaking Test





This video contains 6 TOEFL speaking practice questions designed to be just like the real TOEFL exam.

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