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How to Improve TOEFL Integrated Speaking, Part 2

In Part 1, we looked at a sample Task 3 response, with revisions for wording and content. Today, we’ll look at these revisions again, with commentary. (The question for this response comes from the third exam in Official TOEFL iBT Tests.)

Improve TOEFL Integrated Speaking: Revisions to a Task 3 Response, With Commentary

Paragraph 1

  • Original text:
    The reading talks about a student proposal. It says that the history seminars are too lengthy and need to be shortened from 3 hours to 2 hours.  
  • Changed to:
    The reading talks about a proposal that history seminars be shortened from 3 to 2 hours.
  • Notes on changes:
    The focus of TOEFL Speaking Task 3 is the student’s response to the reading. You don’t want to focus on the passage itself. So summarize the reading as briefly as possible– try to keep the summary to just one sentence. You don’t even need to say what kind of text a Speaking Task 3 passage is, so in this case it’s not necessary to specify that it’s a student proposal in the opening sentence.

Paragraph 2 (first two sentences)

  • Original text:
    The female student disagrees. She said that the student proposal is quite personal ideas.
  • Changed to:
    The female student disagrees. She says the student proposal is completely personal.
  • Notes on changes:
    The main problem here is grammatical. Always carefully review the phrases you use. “Quite personal ideas” is a noun phrase. But here, you actually need to use a descriptive adjective phrase after the verb “is,” because this verb introduces a description of the proposal.

Paragraph 2 (third and fourth sentences)

  • Original text:
    This student who is called Tim spent his time enjoying himself at parties until late in the evening. As a result, he is quite sleepy during history seminars and that ‘s why he has presented this proposal.
  • Changed to:
    It was made by her classmate Tim. Tim only has trouble staying awake in history seminars because he likes to party late into the night.
  • Notes on changes:
    Remember, one of the purposes of a summary is to simplify the original source, focusing just on the most important facts. In the first version of these sentences, the description of Tim is almost as long as the female student’s explanation.  The revised version does a better job of “boiling down” the key ideas from the audio track.

Paragraph 3 (sentence 1)

  • Original text:
    Another reason is that the last one hour of each history seminar is very productive.
  • Changed to:
    The woman then points out that the last hour of each seminar is very productive.
  • Notes on changes:
    In the original version, the female student who gives her opinion in the audio track is not actually mentioned. This makes it hard to tell whether the test-taker is talking about the woman’s opinion or is still talking about Tim’s personal reasoning. using “the woman” and the reporting verb “points out” helps the reader understand that the speaker’s opinion is being discussed again.

Paragraph 3 (sentences 2 and 3)

  • Original text:
    By reducing the length of seminar many students will miss some important information. For those reasons, the female student disagrees with the Tim’s proposal.
  • Changed to:
    So if the seminars are shorter, students will miss important information. For these reasons, the female student disagrees with Tim’s proposal.
  • Notes on changes:
    You don’t have much time to explain things in Task 3– just 60 seconds! So you want to explain the speaker’s reasoning for their opinion as simply as possible. In TOEFL Speaking Task 3, a speaker will often use “cause-effect” relationships as the basis for their opinion. And cause-effect relationships can be described the most simply and clearly through conditionals, statements that use “if.”

The takeaway

Remember that this commentary shows my personal thoughts on the changes the student made to their response. (This response comes from a real Magoosh student who has generously agreed to share their work on the our blog.) I am a test prep expert, and my commentary can certainly help you. But be sure to make your own observations too– these revisions can teach you a lot of different things about how to improve TOEFL Integrated Speaking.

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