TOEFL Speaking Overview and Tips

TOEFL Speaking Overview and Tips

Are you taking the TOEFL soon? Like most students, you are probably worried about the Speaking Test. The test is only 20 minutes, which is very short compared to other sections of the test, but it is very stressful! Follow these TOEFL speaking tips to understand and prepare for the TOEFL Speaking exam.

TOEFL Speaking Overview and Tips

TOEFL Speaking Test Overview

The TOEFL Speaking test is 20 minutes long and has a total of six questions (tasks). There are two parts to the TOEFL Speaking test: Independent Speaking (two tasks) and Integrated Speaking (four tasks). All of the answers are recorded while the student speaks into a microphone.

With Independent Speaking, the test taker must answer a question. The answer will be based on the test taker’s experiences and opinions. The speaker does this twice.

With Integrated Speaking, the test taker listens to a short audio clip, reads a text (or does both) and then answers a question. The speaker does this four times.

TOEFL Speaking Overview and Tips
TOEFL Speaking requires listening. Are you listening?

Independent Speaking (Tasks 1 and 2)

The student has 15 seconds to prepare and 45 seconds to respond to a question. The speaker is expected to talk about experiences or opinions.

Talk about a teacher who influenced you. Explain why this teacher made an impact on you.
Preparation time: 15 seconds
Response time: 45 seconds

TOEFL Speaking Overview and Tips
Practice studying speaking in groups. It will help improve your fluency.

Integrated Speaking (Tasks 3-6)

There are two types of tasks (questions) in this section. For tasks 3 and 4, the student reads a short passage, listens to a recording, and then answers a question. The student has 30 seconds to prepare and then 60 seconds to speak.

For tasks 5 and 6, the student is asked about specific information in the recording. The student has 20 seconds to prepare and then speaks for 60 seconds. Task 5 will be a conversation. Task 6 will be a lecture.

TOEFL Speaking Overview and Tips
Be sure to improve your vocabulary for the Speaking section of TOEFL.

General Tips for TOEFL Speaking

When preparing for TOEFL Speaking, remember to:

  • Speak clearly. Clear pronunciation is important because the listener will not be able to see you, only hear you.
  • Speak slowly. Speaking quickly is not always better and does not always show fluency. It will not improve your score to try and speak like a native speaker.
  • Use the full time. If you have said everything you planned to say but you still have some time left, use it!
  • Practice speaking for 45 and 60 seconds, without pausing for long periods of time. This may sound obvious or strange, but it’s a skill that can be learned and developed.
  • Practice speaking English in a non-test-taking environment. This will give you confidence and fluency .
  • Practice specific TOEFL questions. This will help you become familiar with the exam’s format.
  • Improve your vocabulary. This great list of 300+ words for TOEFL is an excellent place to start.
  • Know what is expected of you. Learn the TOEFL scoring so you can deliver what they are looking for: see the “TOEFL Scoring” section in this article for more information.


Tips for Tasks 1 and 2 (Independent Speaking)

Follow these tips to score well on Tasks 1 and 2 of the Independent Speaking section.

  • Become confident with the past tense, especially for irregular verbs. The answers often deal with the past.
  • Learn vocabulary to help you state your opinion, such as “for this reason,” “as a result,” and “therefore.”
  • This is the only time it’s OK to lie. (Really!) If you can’t think of an answer, you can just be creative and tell a “story.”

TOEFL Speaking Overview and Tips

Tips for Tasks 3 – 6 (Integrated Speaking)

Follow these tips to score well on Tasks 3-6 of the Integrated Speaking section.

  • Practice taking notes. Write the notes in your native language if this helps.
  • Don’t write every detail. Learn to listen for key ideas.
  • Remember that the reading and the recording are related. What is their relationship? Identify this as you are reading and listening. Try to predict what the recording will be about.
  • You will be asked to speak about key points, not details, in your answer.
  • Since Task 5 will be a conversation, listen to podcasts and watch movies where there is dialogue.  
  • Since Task 6 will be a lecture, watch university lectures online (Yale has a great YouTube channel, and so does Harvard!) Watch TED Talks to further improve your listening skills for academic lectures.TOEFL Speaking Overview and Tips


TOEFL Scoring

You can’t do well if you do not know what is expected of you. Here is what TOEFL scorers are looking for.

  • Did you answer the question? (Remember to follow instructions, give examples when asked, etc..)
  • Was it easy for the listener to follow? (Organize your answer.)
  • Did you hesitate a lot? (Have fluency.)
  • Did you speak clearly? (Have good pronunciation. Having an accent is OK! But you must speak clearly.)
  • Did you use more complex sentences? (Have correct and complex grammar.)
  • Did you use the right vocabulary, and a high level of vocabulary? (Impress them with your idioms, phrasal verbs, and vocabulary.)

CISL provides intensive instruction in small classroom settings. As a leader in English education and testing, we have seen thousands of students successfully complete our classes and score well on their English proficiency exams. Contact CISL for more information about TOEFL and Intensive English classes.