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:
Now, on to the specifics …
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 Topic 1: Select One from Many
The subject of the first speaking task will be something very easy to relate to. It will be about a very broad topic which you will then give a personal answer to. For example, you might be asked about your favorite type of music.
Or you may be asked about family member, a hobby, or an accomplishment. Here’s a list of some very TOEFL-like questions for reference. If you started studying English as an adult, these questions might look familiar. They are the types of questions that beginner’s English text books often ask, because they rely almost completely on the present simple (e.g. “I love soccer”) or the past simple (e.g. “I played soccer”).
To answer these questions well, it’s important to choose a specific subject to speak about quickly. If the TOEFL asks you about a person who you admire, you should choose the first person you think of, and then immediately start thinking about why you admire them.
TOEFL Speaking Topic 2: Choose a Preference from Two
This speaking prompt will be very similar to many TOEFL essay prompts. It will ask you to make a choice between two things, then support that choice. For example, this topic is from the essay prompt list in Official Guide, but it could easily appear as the second speaking task: “Some people prefer to live in a small town. Others prefer to live in a big city. Which place would you prefer to live in 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 see the list of essay prompts mentioned above.
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 Tasks 1 and 2
1. Talk about a purchase you’ve made that you are happy with. Describe what you purchased and explain why you are happy about it.
2. Talk about a time when you found a task harder to accomplish than you expected. What were you trying to accomplish? Why did it become difficult?
3. What personality quality do you think is most important in a good friend? Explain why.
4. Talk about something friend a family member of yours did that you were proud of. Describe what they did, and explain why you were proud.
5. Choose a recent event in your country that people want to talk about. Why are people interested in the event? Explain with specific details and reasons.
6. Imagine the ways in which your country will change over the next five years. Talk about one way you expect it to change. Use details to explain your answer.
7. Choose a famous person who you think would be enjoyable to have a conversation with. Explain why you would like to talk with them, using specific details and reasons.
8. Choose a subject that students study in school but you think is not important. Explain why you feel it is not important to study. Use details and examples in your response.
9. What type of long-distance transportation do you think is most enjoyable? Explain why you like it with specific details and examples.
10. Think of a movie you have not seen but would like to see. Explain why you expect to like the movie. Give specific details and reasons in your response.
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.
If you’re a visual learner, you can also view these practice questions in our SlideShare, below. 🙂
Preparing for TOEFL Speaking
Between the first and second tasks, TOEFL 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. I’ll elaborate more on this in later posts. 🙂