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TOEFL Speaking Topics

Announcement! As of August 1, 2019, the TOEFL Reading, Listening and Speaking sections will be shortened. The TOEFL will also make changes to its prep materials and scoring system. Because of this, some of the info in our blog posts may not yet reflect the new exam format. We cover all the changes here.

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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30 Responses to TOEFL Speaking Topics

  1. Karishma June 9, 2014 at 3:18 am #

    Thanks Lucas. The list of topics might be helpful!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas June 11, 2014 at 8:17 am #

      You’re welcome!

      • David G.C. November 1, 2015 at 9:20 pm #

        It would’ve nice if you could also provide us Samples of these Questions

        • Rachel Wisuri
          Rachel Wisuri November 2, 2015 at 11:01 am #

          Hi David! You can find some speaking sample questions here: 🙂

          • mangboi khongsai November 11, 2017 at 7:05 am #

            Hi madam I want to learn english, plz tell me what shall I do

      • Simone Costa March 21, 2017 at 8:16 am #

        How do you start the question: do you agree or desagree?

        • David Recine
          David Recine March 21, 2017 at 10:46 pm #

          One of the best ways to start your “agree or disagree” answer is to directly express agreement or disagreement. To do this, start with a statement such as “I agree with…” or “I agree that…” or “I don’t agree with/that….”

          You could also start by directly stating your opinion, with a statement like “I think that….” or “I don’t felt that it is….”

          Basically, get to your opinion as quickly as possible. You don’t need an elaborate introduction. (Longer introductions are appropriate in agree/disagree questions for TOEFL Writing, though.)

  2. Munkhtsetseg Bayarmagnai August 10, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    thank you so much Dear Lucas. i am really glad that i ve found such a great website.

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas August 11, 2014 at 11:27 am #

      You’re welcome! Thank you for the kind words.

  3. Anupam September 11, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    lucas,you are really doing a great work..this list was of great help.

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas September 12, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

      You’re more than welcome!

  4. Archangel89 September 22, 2014 at 11:31 pm #

    Given I have only 10 days to study for Toefl, what are the books that I need to buy to get a grip of the test? Why is it that there is a dearth of representative practice materials for this test? Can I have some free sources from which I can practice? I am mostly concerned with listening and speaking section of Toefl.

  5. Mayank September 29, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    Thank you Lucas, you’ve more than helpful.

  6. renu March 1, 2015 at 8:42 am #

    where is list of topics of speaking ., can u please help to find that speaking topics

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas March 4, 2015 at 5:53 pm #

      Sorry about that! The link to the writing essay prompts stopped working, because ETS removed the page. :-/ Now, you need the Official Guide to see the list of essay prompts (which are similar to speaking task 2). But the link to the list of example questions for speaking task 1 still works!

  7. Jash August 24, 2016 at 12:16 am #

    Where can I find the list of speaking section of both the task?
    If ets have removed it, then can u please share the link if you have uploaded in your drive.
    And thanks for the post, it helps alot.:)

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 25, 2016 at 6:13 pm #

      Unfortunately, ETS doesn’t maintain a long list. And if they did have one before, no one that i know of has managed to save the list and host it elsewhere on the web. But here’s the good news: there are some excellent unofficial (non ETS) lists of TOEFL Independent Speaking topics on the Internet.

      This very post is one good source, of course. And Jason Renshaw has made a good TOEFL Independent Speaking Topic list on his blog. Then there’s TOEFL Speaking Teacher’s list of TOEFL Independent Speaking topics.

      The third-party TOEFL Independent Speaking websites I gave you aren’t perfect– really only ETS materials are guaranteed to be exactly like the real test. But the questions here on the Magoosh TOEFL Blog, over at Jason Renshaw’s blog, and over at TOEFL Spekaing Teacher are close to the real thing. They’re close enough that you’ll be able to practice all the skills you need for Independent Speaking on test day.

  8. Billy September 22, 2016 at 5:03 pm #

    Hello Lucas,
    You’re doing a great job here bud. I’m a Toefl prep teacher in Brazil and I was wondering if you could answer a question. How well do you think a little bit of comic relief would go over with the scorers for the speaking tasks 1 and 2? Have you ever heard of a situational case as such?
    Thanks and keep up the fantastic job! Billy

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 23, 2016 at 11:55 am #

      I can get this one, Lucas! (And, Billy, thanks for your kind words about our lead TOEFL instructor! 🙂 )

      Humor won’t necessarily cause TOEFL scorers to give your students extra points. But it won’t necessarily hurt them either. As long as the humor is very relevant tot he answer and fits in well with the organization of the response, it’s fine. And humor can also help your students’ TOEFL scores in an indirect way. Loosening up and joking can help students feel more relaxed and confident as they give their response. And a relaxed, natural, confident delivery can really boost a TOEFL Speaking score.

  9. Uma December 8, 2016 at 6:34 am #

    Great website! Thanks for coming to our rescue, especially because toefl provides very less practice material.
    I have a question. How realistic are practice tests provided by ETS? Can I expect similar score in my final test?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 8, 2016 at 11:50 am #

      Hi Uma,

      I’m glad you’ve been enjoying our site and resources! We hope that we continue to be helpful in your studies. With regard to your question, I will say that the practice tests provided by ETS are the best representation of the actual exam. Generally, your score will be comparable, but note that there may be some variance given the questions you get and potential test stress. Still, the ETS mock exams are good gauge of where you are. Best of luck!

  10. Levan June 23, 2017 at 3:51 pm #

    Lucas! I am serious: you are the best TOEFL instructor I have ever seen on the web! Thank you for your clear, understable and really useful lessons!

  11. Ritika Garg November 29, 2017 at 4:35 am #

    Hi Lucas,

    Wanted to ask one question. In the Speaking Section Question 3 and 4, are we able to see the reading content at the time of speaking our answer.???

    PS: Thank you soo much for all the Toefl Tuesday classes, i love them

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 30, 2017 at 4:45 pm #

      Hi Ritika,

      I’m so glad that you like our TOEFL Tuesday classes 🙂

      You will NOT be able to see the reading content while you are speaking in integrated tasks 3 and 4–after reading the content provided, it will disappear as you listen to the audio. You will NOT be able to see the reading passage while listening to the audio or preparing/giving your answer.

      Note that in the reading section you will be able to see the passage as you answer the questions 🙂

  12. ADITYA S MAHAJAN April 3, 2018 at 9:57 pm #

    hi Lucas
    can u help me with readind and listening

    • David Recine
      David Recine April 6, 2018 at 11:16 am #

      Here in the comments, we can certainly give you some advice. 🙂 What are your biggest challenges in TOEFL Reading and Listening?

  13. mahanthsh May 14, 2018 at 4:11 pm #

    Hi Lucas,
    I wanna improve my speaking score from 24 to 26 . I tried all speaking tactics and practiced speaking for many hours but I ended up with a score of 24. I guess my pronunciation and intonation are not upto the mark. In some of the integrated speaking tasks I am not able to conclude as I try to put lot of information in 1 minute. Please guide me to improve my speaking score above 26.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 15, 2018 at 9:47 am #

      Hi Mahanthsh,

      I know it’s frustrating to work hard without seeing the sort of improvement that you are looking for! I encourage you to keep up the hard work; the more you practice speaking, the more you will improve! One thing that can help you improve your speaking skills is to use a Speaking Template, which helps you to structure your responses. It’s also helpful to hear other responses and understand the Speaking grading rubric, so that you know exactly how to craft a strong response.
      For example, you may need to determine what information to include and what not to include, If you try to fit too much information into 1 minute, you may speak too quickly or lose points. That’s why it’s essential to take notes, plan your response and practice as much as possible!

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