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Reviewing the Structure of TOEFL Speaking Task 3

The structure of each TOEFL Speaking task is predictable. Knowing the structure can help you know what to listen for.

The Structure of TOEFL Speaking Task 3

In the case of TOEFL Speaking Task 3, the structure involves both a short reading passage and a short academic lecture. The passage is read first, and the reading will always introduce an academic concept. From there, the passage will do one of two things: give two examples of the concept, or give two additional supporting details about the concept.

Next, you’ll listen to a professor give a brief talk on the topic that was introduced in the passage. The professor will give two examples that illustrate the academic concept from the reading.

You must look for the key academic concept at the beginning of the reading, and then look for two supporting details or examples of the concept. Knowing this before you see the passage allows you to read the passage more quickly and confidently. And in the lecture, you don’t have to worry too much about what information is important. You can know that exactly two pieces of spoken information will be important — two illustrative examples related to the main idea of the passage.

TOEFL Speaking Task 3 Practice

Let’s practice reading and listening for the right details in Speaking Task 3 — the ones that are key to the task’s predictable structure. To do this, go to ETS’s TOEFL Quick Prep Volume 2 PDF and read the Speaking Task 3 passage found on page 29. Immediately after the passage, you’ll see a transcript of a Task 3 lecture. But don’t read the transcript. Instead, listen to the audio version of the lecture that I have created and linked below. (NOTE: TOEFL Quick Prep is slightly out of date, as the TOEFL Speaking Task list has been shortened and re-numbered since the Quick Prep materials were created. As a result, Task 3 on the current TOEFL is listed as Task 4 in the Quick Prep PDF.)

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TOEFL Speaking Task 3: Audio

Once you’ve read the passage on page 29 of the PDF I linked above, listen to the audio for this task. Click the file below to play the audio. (Audio will open in a separate window.)

TOEFL Speaking Task 3 strucutre

The Key Points from the Passage and Lecture

Hopefully you were able to use your knowledge of TOEFL Speaking Task 3 structure to easily identify the important ideas in both the passage and the lecture. To check your work, read through the answer key below. This key tells you the most important ideas in the prompt.

The Passage:

  • Key academic concept: revealing coloration as a way for animals to defend themselves from predators
  • Two supporting details: Animals usually hide their bright colors; bright colors are revealed to startle or scare predators

The Lecture:

  • Example 1: peanut bug surprises predator with bright colors
  • Example 2: morpho butterfly blinds predator with reflected light


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