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The Dual Nature of TOEFL Speaking Task 3

The TOEFL Speaking Task 3 prompt is short but complex. In 100 words of text and a minute of audio, you have two separate, detailed arguments to summarize.

Reviewing the Structure of TOEFL Speaking Task 3

I’ve already done an in-depth post on the surprisingly complicated nature of Task 3 in TOEFL Speaking. That post can be summed up in the following handy table:

TOEFL Speaking Task 3

So in the passage, we have an argument in favor of a campus policy, with two supporting details. Then in the dialogue, we have an additional argument in response to the passage’s argument. This argument also has a thesis and two supporting details. The thesis in the conversation audio track is linked directly to the passage’s thesis. And the two supporting details that the speaker uses correspond to the two reasons the passage gives for its stated position.

The Dual Nature of TOEFL Speaking Task 3

In this post, we’ll look at a third template that can be expressed as an outline or a flowchart. This template addresses an aspect of TOEFL Speaking Task 3 that many people forget about. In the conversation track of TOEFL Speaking Task 3, the speaker may agree or disagree with the argument in the passage.

The dual nature of the TOEFL Speaking Task audio dialogue is easy to forget. After all, the majority of the time, the opinionated student in the TOEFL Speaking Task 3 conversation will disagree with the policy in the passage. However, somewhere between 10 to 20% of the time, the student will agree with the passage. In this case, the student will add their own extra arguments in favor of the policy, on top of the supporting details in the reading itself.

If the student actually agrees with the passage’s policy — and its arguments in favor of the policy — this changes the structure of your own answer. Instead of summarizing an argument and counter-argument, you are summarizing a written argument and then a spoken argument that supports the written argument in greater detail. When this happens, TOEFL Speaking Task 3 becomes bit more like TOEFL Speaking Task 4, where you read a passage and then listen to a lecture that expands on the passage.

How to Prepare for the Alternate Format of TOEFL Speaking Task 3

Because you have a 10-20% chance of getting this alternate format of the Speaking Task 3 prompt, it helps to prepare.  One of the best ways to prepare is by using a good template for the task.

Recently, I showed you two different templates that can help you catch every important detail in this prompt, and appropriately connect the reading and the listening. The first TOEFL Speaking Task 3 template I showed you is based on an outline. The second TOEFL Speaking Task 3 Template is based on a flowchart.

The last two templates I showed you are meant to be flexible enough to work for either Task 3 format. But for the extra cautious TOEFL prepper, it may help to make two different templates — one for each possible direction the audio conversation could go. In my next post, I’ll show you a template that separately covers both possible audio responses to the Task 3 reading.