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TOEFL Speaking Task 3 Template: Outline-Based

In TOEFL Speaking Task 3, a short passage gives a surprisingly complicated argument. This is followed by a short-yet-detailed audio student response.

I’ve already written a detailed post about the structure of TOEFL Speaking Task 3. In that post, I included a table that summarizes the Task 3 structure nicely. I’ll reproduce that table below:

TOEFL Speaking Task 3

As you can see, the content of a Task 3 prompt can be a little tricky. It’s a real tangle of information. You don’t want to get lost in that tangle as you try to organize your thoughts and give your own spoken summary. So it’s good to have a game plan — a template for organizing all of the information before you speak.

TOEFL Speaking Task 3 Template Outline

This template is actually one of a few different templates that my students have successfully used to master this task. The template works if the student agrees with the campus policy, or if they disagree with it. (The student in the Task 3 audio track will always take a clear stance, although they may sometimes partly agree or partly disagree with a supporting detail within the passage.)

Here’s the outline of the template:

  1. Summarize passage’s policy, reasons for the policy (speak for about 12 seconds)
  2. Say whether the student agrees or disagrees with the policy (speak for about 3 seconds)
  3. Summarize student’s response to passage’s reason # 1 for policy (speak for 15-20 seconds)
  4. Summarize student’s response to passage’s reason # 2 for the policy (speak for 15-20 seconds)
  5. Restate/summarize the student’s main thesis (do this only if there’s time left over).

You’ll notice that this template gives you between 45 and 55 seconds to speak, even though the TOEFL gives you a full minute of speech time for this task. I’ve deliberately “undershot” for the amount of time on this template, because it’s better to have more time than you need. If you run out of time and get cut off at the end, this will always put your score at risk. But if you fall short of the 60 seconds, you can simply restate and clarify the main ideas, adding on a conclusion (as described in step 5 of the template above).

How to Use this TOEFL Speaking Task 3 Template

This template, with its outline style, is ideal for organizing your notes. If you can boil your Task 3 notes down to just 4 or 5 lines (the fifth line in the template is again optional), you should have an easy reference to use for your one-minute speech.

Pay especially close attention to the recommended amount of time in each stage of the template. For most test-takers, it’s very easy to spend too much time summarizing one part of the Task 3 prompt. It’s especially easy to accidentally spend more time than you should on your passage summary. This task really does focus on the conversation and not the passage. So be very time-conscious with step one in this template.