5 Tips and Tricks for TOEFL Speaking

TOEFL Speaking requires you to really exercise your English skills. You don’t just speak — you also read, listen, and even write notes in English. As challenging as this can be, there are ways to master TOEFL Speaking and get a great score. Here are some tips and tricks.

For Independent Speaking, keep your answers simple

TOEFL Speaking Task 1 is the one independent Speaking task in TOEFL; it’s the only task where you respond entirely with your own ideas rather than explaining something you’ve read or listened to. And in TOEFL Speaking Task 1, you need to give and support an opinion an an important social issue.

In a real conversation, the answers to these kinds of questions could be pretty complicated. But on the TOEFL, you only have 15 seconds to think of your answer, and just 45 seconds to actually talk. This really isn’t much time! So for your answer, quickly think up your basic response, and not more than three supporting details. In fact, you may be able to fill the 45 seconds with just one really solid supporting detail for your response.

For TOEFL Speaking tasks 2 and 3, focus on the lecture and not the reading

TOEFL Speaking Task 2 and TOEFL Speaking Task 3 require you to read a passage, listen to speakers talk about the passage, and summarize what the speakers said. But often, test-takers forget that they are summarizing the speech and not the reading. Don’t make this mistake. You should just skim the reading. If you try to read the passage very carefully for every last detail, you may not complete the passage quickly enough. You could also be distracted from the real focus of these tasks: the audio track. It’s perfectly fine to just skim the passage and treat it as background information for the more important audio.

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Use different listening and note-taking strategies for lectures and conversations

The lectures in TOEFL Integrated Speaking (Tasks 3 and 4) have a structure that’s not too different from an academic reading passage. When you take notes on lectures, the idea is to understand the key academic information in the talk, identifying main ideas and supporting details. In other words, you can think of yourself as “reading” a lecture in TOEFL Listening.

The conversation-focused task in TOEFL Speaking Task 2 is strangely similar to the passage-based lecture in Task 3. This is because for both of these tasks, you’re really focusing on the words of just one speaker. Although the first Integrated Speaking task does feature a conversation between two speakers. Task 2, only one speaker really matters. You only need to focus on the speaker who has an opinion about the ideas in the reading. So you should take notes that show a “back and forth” between the ideas in the reading and the main speaker’s response to those ideas.

Understand how English intonation works

In English speech, important words are emphasized by a rising and falling tone. Being able to hear and recognize this pattern will help you identify all of the important information in the TOEFL Integrated Speaking audio. You should also need to reproduce this intonation pattern in your own spoken responses. Even if your pronunciation is great, your speech can be pretty hard to understand if you don’t use standard English intonation. (For help in this area, check out these tutorials for English intonation and its “rise and fall” tones.)

Be aware of your pronunciation strengths and weaknesses

There are probably some sounds and words in English that you have a lot of trouble pronouncing. And this is actually OK! TOEFL Speaking doesn’t require you to get rid of your accent or be perfect at pronunciation.

But you do need to use good pronunciation strategies. In your spoken responses, avoid words you have trouble pronouncing, if possible. And if you must say a word that is hard for you, find ways to repeat the word in your response. That way, the listener has multiple chances to hear and understand the word…and you’re able to put more context around the word, giving more clues about what you’re trying to say.

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  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he's helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master's Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he's presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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6 Responses to 5 Tips and Tricks for TOEFL Speaking

  1. Miguel Barráez August 13, 2019 at 4:47 pm #

    Thanks for the tips, Dave. We appreciate it. Good job!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 15, 2019 at 7:24 pm #

      Glad we could help, Miguel!

  2. Mohammad Moein Akbari September 29, 2019 at 12:17 am #

    I’m from Afghanistan, I come from a poor a family so they can’t afford mt TOEFL expenses. it 185$ and I want to know, is there any institutaion or any one that afford my TOEFL expenses
    I would thank you if you sent me a answer to these question

  3. Kinlo Ephriam December 30, 2019 at 5:46 pm #

    Wow! Thanks very much for the support, this was really a help to me and I have discovered new strategies that will help me improve on on English skills.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 24, 2020 at 9:53 am #

      Thank you for your kind words, Kinlo! 🙂

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