Though the TOEFL Speaking section is the shortest section of the TOEFL test, many students struggle with it the most. Speaking in English, into a microphone, under a time constraint, in a room full of other test-takers … it can be stressful if you’re not prepared.
Luckily, you have time to prepare! By understanding the format of the TOEFL Speaking section, and some strategies for making good use of your time, you’ll be able to answer all six speaking questions in the allotted time.
What You Need to Know About TOEFL Speaking Infographic
Check out our new TOEFL Speaking Infographic for useful information and helpful tips!
And after you’re done reading the infographic, check out Magoosh TOEFL for six practice tests with sample answers, explanations, strategies and tips for every question!
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TOEFL iBT Speaking Section Overview
The Speaking section is just one of four sections on the TOEFL exam. The four sections are: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing (in that order).
Here is a breakdown of how you will spend your time during the TOEFL:
- 60 or 80 minutes
- 36-56 questions
- 60 or 90 minutes
- 34-51 questions
- 10 minutes
- 20 minutes
- 6 tasks
- 50 minutes
- 2 tasks
The TOEFL Speaking Section
The TOEFL Speaking section actually tests more than just your English speaking skills. It tests your ability to read, listen to and understand recordings by native English speakers, pronounce words correctly, use appropriate grammar, and manage your time wisely. This section also tests exam-taking strategies, such as your ability to remain focused and take brief notes.
Though you won’t be speaking directly with another person, you will be speaking out loud into a microphone. No one will be listening to you in the moment, but your recordings will be graded at a later date. Hopefully, you will find this to be less nerve-wracking than speaking to a live person – you could even do it with your eyes closed! 🙂
TOEFL Speaking Questions
The Speaking section is made up of six tasks, which require you to give personal opinions, summarize lectures and conversations, and speak about the opinions of others. TOEFL Speaking topics vary, but the format of the section is always the same.
There are two categories of questions in the Speaking Section:
- 1. Independent (Tasks 1 & 2)
- 2. Integrated (Tasks 3 – 6)
Independent Tasks 1 & 2:
- You’ll be asked a general question about your life or your opinion on a topic.
- You’ll have a short period of time to take notes and gather your thoughts.
- You’ll respond into the microphone.
- Tip: Your answers and opinions don’t have to be true! No one is going to fact-check your response, so go ahead and be creative if it saves you time and angst.
Integrated Tasks 3 & 4:
- You’ll be asked to read a short text and listen to a recording on the same topic.
- In Task 3, you’ll listen to a recording of students discussing their opinions on the reading.
- In Task 4, you’ll listen to a professor’s lecture on the topic of the text.
- You’ll then be given a short period of time to prepare your response.
- You’ll explain what you read and heard.
- Tip: Use your 30 seconds of prep time to identify key information. Don’t try to include every single detail in your response! You’ll run out of time.
Integrated Tasks 5 & 6:
- You’ll listen to a recording, but this time there will be no accompanying text for you to read.
- Task 5: You’ll listen to a recording by a student.
- Task 6: You’ll listen to a lecture by a professor.
- You’ll be given 20 seconds to prepare your response.
- You’ll be given 60 seconds to answer a question about the recording.
- Tip: The question in Task 5 is difficult to answer in only 60 seconds. Use an outline to structure your response:
- 10-15 seconds: Explain the student’s problem.
- 20-30 seconds: Provide two solutions to the problem (these solutions will be suggested in the recording).
- 15-10 seconds: Explain which solution you prefer and why.
Scoring the TOEFL Speaking Section
For each task, you will receive a score between 0 and 4. These scores will be scaled, and your combined Speaking score will be out of a total of 30 points. Here’s how to rate the quality of your score:
- Weak: 0-9 points
- Fair: 10-17 points
- Good: 18-25 points
- Excellent: 26-30 points
So, how can you boost your score?
TOEFL Speaking Tips and Practice
This blog is jam-packed with strategies for succeeding in the TOEFL Speaking section. Let’s break down the six best:
1. Take Awesome Notes
TOEFL lectures are dense, so taking brief notes while you listen can help you stay focused and thinking about the main ideas. They are also great to revisit when you’re planning your response.
Take a 10 or 15 second break. Close your eyes, sit back, and take a few deep breaths. Sometimes you need to let your heart rate go back to normal before you can think straight. Being nervous is completely normal, but don’t lose points because you’re panicking.
3. Stay Focused
The test center can get noisy with everyone speaking at the same time. Try not to listen to your fellow test-takers. Try doing some TOEFL Speaking practice with distractions in the room so you can get used to tuning out the chaos.
4. Use a Template
Structuring your answer ahead of time can help you outline your response faster, and prevent test-day stress. Create a template with structure words for each task. A phrase like, “Besides that, the student also points out that…” will help organize your answer. But beware…
5. Don’t Plagiarize!!
This should be obvious. Remember that templates can be useful on the test, but be very careful. If you memorize sentences and use them on the TOEFL exam, suspicion of cheating could lead to cancelled scores.
6. Block Out Distractions
If you can’t focus, try momentarily covering your ears and closing your eyes to clear your head.
Ready to Ace TOEFL Speaking?
Remember that the Speaking section is only one part of the TOEFL exam, and that you aren’t expected to speak English like a native speaker. Try to practice speaking English as much as possible in the days leading up to your test, so that you become more comfortable coming up with quick responses.
Good luck! 🙂
Still have questions about TOEFL Speaking? Let us know.