If you read many forums or comments sections sites in English, you might sometimes see a very long comment with a small part at the end labeled “TLDNR” (also “TL;DR” and “TLDR”). Those letter stand for “Too long, did not read.” It’s a small summary of the text for people who don’t want to read the long version.
But how does that help you for TOEFL speaking? After all, nobody is going to read your answer, and it can’t be “too long.” But the general format is actually very similar to the solution to a common TOEFL problem.
Imagine you’re taking the test, and you’re answering the first speaking question, which has a 45-second timer. But let’s say you finish your story at 40 seconds, so you have 5 remaining. It can be very awkward to stay silent for a full 5 seconds, and if you sound unsure the grader might think you don’t have the language skill to continue speaking.
So if you finish early, and you don’t know what to say next, the easiest solution is to provide a “TLDNR” section at the end of your answer—summarize!
My favorite word for this is a common, conversational word that we use to clarify something into a simpler version: “Basically.” If you start a sentence with “Basically,” the person listening knows you will summarize what you already said. So if you have 5 to 10 seconds left on the clock, but you don’t know what to say, start with “basically,” and then just retell the main point of your story or answer in a single sentence.