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How to Improve TOEFL Integrated Speaking, Part 4

In Part 3 of this series, we looked at a transcript of a TOEFL Speaking Task 4 response. Then we looked at a revision. Today, we’ll go through my commentary for revisions the student made to the first paragraph of the spoken response. This response is based on the fourth Speaking Task from Test 3 in Official TOEFL iBT Tests, Volume 1.

All of the changes here are revisions of wording and content, two of the most important aspects of TOEFL Integrated Speaking. My commentary explains the reasons for each revision. Think about similar changes you could make to improve your TOEFL Integrated Speaking responses.

Revisions to the first paragraph of a TOEFL Speaking Task 4 Response, With Commentary

Paragraph 1 (first sentence)

  • Original text:
    The reading defines the term of (the concept of) implicit memory as a non-conscious method of memorizing.  
  • Changed to:
    The passage defines “implicit memory” as an unconscious way to memorize something.
  • Notes on changes:
    Here, the speaker awkwardly used both the words “concept” and “term” because they weren’t sure which word was the correct one to use. Concept would probably be a little better, because “term” just means “vocabulary word,” while a “concept” is a set of ideas. However, a better strategy here is for the student to completely avoid any terms they’re unsure about. So the student rewrote the first sentence without using either of those two words.Also notice that in the revision, the student put “implicit memory” in quotation marks. You can think of this punctuation in terms of spoken English. Quotation marks represent a certain kind of sound in speech: a pause before you say the words in quotation marks, a pause afterwards, and emphasized intonation for the words within the marks.Further note that the student changed “non-conscious” to “unconscious.” This word is more consistent with the student’s use of “unconscious” in the second paragraph. It’s also a better choice of word because “unconscious” is a very common academic term in the study of psychology.

Paragraph 1 (second sentence)

  • Original text:
    It means that our brain memorizes the events around us without our permission.
  • Changed to:
    In the process, our brain recalls things without any conscious knowledge.
  • Notes on changes:
    “Without our permission” is a little too extreme– it sounds very negative. The speaker originally used this phrase as a way to criticize forceful advertising, since the psychological experiment described in the lecture involved a billboard ad. This negative tone isn’t in keeping with the focus of the speech, though. The lecture doesn’t really deal with the forceful nature of advertising. The commercial billboard was (probably) not an ad for a real product. And none of the people in the experiment showed evidence of unconsciously wanting a new car.

The takeaway

Remember that this commentary shows my personal thoughts on the revisions the student made to their first paragraph. (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.

This particular TOEFL Speaking Task 4 question was a hard one– so much detailed information about psychology and psychological experiments. After a second look, the student was able to make a lot of revisions in the main body of the speech– the second paragraph. In Part 5, the second paragraph revisions will be looked at in detail.

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