Like the fifth TOEFL Speaking Task, Task 6 requires you to respond to just one audio source. In Speaking Task 6, you listen to a short portion of an academic lecture. The lecture has the instructor’s speech only, without classroom discussion from students. The audio track will be about 2 minutes long.
The language in the Task 6 lecture is appropriate for a first year American university classroom. The course topics usually focus on the humanities, and “soft sciences” such as psychology. Occasionally the topics will focus more on “hard science” subjects such as biology. However, even when the topics are more scientific, the information you must understand is very general.
In this task, you won’t need to be an expert on any one academic subject. However, you will need to be able to understand the key points in an introductory academic lecture. You’ll also need to do more than just understand what you hear. Test takers are asked to paraphrase what the lecture says and summarize it in their own spoken words.
As you listen, remember that spoken lectures have a structure very similar to written paragraphs. Learn to recognize topic sentences and verbal transitions. Take notes on the main ideas and supporting facts while the lecturer speaks.
After the lecturer is finished speaking, you will be asked the sixth question. This question may require you to repeat definitions of key terms. You may also need to summarize the lecture’s main ideas using the instructor’s examples. You will not be asked to provide any new information or opinions of your own.
You have just 20 seconds to review the information from your notes and structure your answer. Your notes should already contain the basic info you’ll need to paraphrase the instructor’s words. During these 20 seconds, focus less on what the lecturer said and more on what you’ll say. In what order will you restate the information? Where will you make transitions? What key ideas will you paraphrase? What examples will you use?
Because you will introduce no new ideas of your own, try to use at least one or two reporting verbs when you speak. Use phrases such as “the teacher states,” or “according to the data.” Use of these words will help you focus on the lecturer’s ideas and the basic facts you are restating.
Your spoken answer will be limited to 60 seconds. This means you need to shorten what was said, summarizing only the most important information. Remember that your speech is half as long as the lecture itself. Be mindful of timing and pacing. You should be ready to skip certain ideas or explain them more briefly if time is running out. Avoid speeding up your speech to stay in your time limit. Faster speech can be harder to understand and this can hurt your score for the task.
To give you an idea of what a good answer to this question might be like, listen to a Task 6 lecture and question from ETS Quick Prep. Then look at a transcript of the question and a sample answer below:
Question: Using points and examples from the lecture, explain the two major factors of product quality, and how their role in consumer decision making has changed.
“If two different versions of a product cost the same, buyers will look at quality. Quality helps them decide which brand to buy. When consumers try to figure out an item’s quality, they look at reliability and features. A reliable product does what it is expected to do and does not break quickly. Features are extra things in a product that make it more fun or easier to use.
According to the teacher, buyers used to look at reliability as the main factor for buying decisions. However in modern times, tough government rules make all products reliable. The teacher gives cars as an example. Car makers all have to meet the same standards. So instead, buyers focus on features. In cars, the teacher points out common features like air conditioning or sun roofs. These things influence buyers the most nowadays. So these days, sellers give their products lots of extra features.”