TOEFL speaking practice: Learn how to master the TOEFL speaking section

TOEFLspeakingpracticeThe TOEFL is a test that measures the ability of non-native English speakers to use and understand the English language in an academic setting.  The TOEFL consists of four sections (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) and is scored out of 120 points.  Scores are valid for two years and you may retake the test as many times as you would like.  To do the best job possible on your test, consider taking a complete TOEFL preparation course.

The speaking section is 20 minutes long and consists of 6 questions categorized as independent and integrated speaking tasks.  The first two questions are independent speaking tasks because you will be speaking about your own ideas, experiences, and opinions.  The last four questions are integrated speaking tasks because you will also be required to read and listen to perform these tasks.

During the test, you will be speaking into a headset microphone and your answers will be recorded.  From there, your answers will be sent to the ETS Scoring Network where they will be scored by a real people (not a computer).  Three to six people will evaluate your answers and you will receive a score between 0 and 30.  You do not need to speak in a native English accent to receive a high score.  Evaluators are focused more on the effectiveness of your ability to communicate verbally and perform the tasks as assigned.

Tips for conquering the TOEFL speaking section

  • Before you begin to speak, take the time to think about what you are going to say.  Even a few moments of planning will make you appear more polished in your speaking.  You will sound even better by correctly utilizing phrasal verbs.  Learn how to use phrasal verbs with this online class.

  • Jot down a few keywords or ideas that you want to speak about.  Don’t try to write out exactly what you are going to say though.  Evaluators will give you a lower score if they think you are reading off of a script.

  • Use connector words during your test.  These are words like “also”, “however”, “otherwise”, “then”, “therefore”, “instead”, “later”, “meanwhile”, etc.  Connector words help you connect your ideas and create a logical path for the listener to follow.

  • Practice your pronunciation with a friend or an online program.  Even though evaluators are not looking for a native English accent, they still have to be able to understand you.  If you need help mastering your vowel sounds in an American accent, try this class.

Speaking Section Practice Test

When providing your answers for the TOEFL speaking sections, you must  speak on the topics provided.  The following practice test appears directly on the TOEFL practice website.  Focus on clearly and coherently conveying your ideas.  Remember that minor errors will not hurt your score so if you trip up, just keep going. If you feel like you need additional help, try this TOEFL speaking online preparation course. Good luck!

Directions:

In questions 1 and 2, in an actual test, your response will be scored on your ability to speak clearly and coherently about familiar topics.

In questions 3 and 4, in an actual test, you will first read a short text and then listen to a talk on the same topic. You will have to combine appropriate information from the text and the talk to provide a complete answer. Your response will be scored on you ability to accurately convey information, and to speak clearly and coherently. In this sampler, you will read both the text and the talk.

In questions 5 and 6, in an actual test, you will listen to part of a conversation or lecture. Then, you will be asked a question about what you have heard. Your response will be scored on your ability to accurately convey information, and to speak clearly and coherently. In this sampler, you will read the conversation.

Independent Tasks

1) Talk about a pleasant and memorable event that happened while you were in school. Explain why this event brings back fond memories.  Preparation Time: 15 seconds. Response Time: 45 seconds.

2)  Some people think it is more fun to spend time with friends in restaurants or cafés. Others think it is more fun to spend time with friends at home. Which do you think is better? Explain why.  Preparation Time: 15 seconds.  Response Time: 45 seconds.

Integrated Tasks

3)  Read the following text and the conversation that follows it. Then, answer the question.

The Northfield College Student Association recently decided to make a new purchase. Read the following announcement in the college newspaper about the decision. (Reading time in an actual test would be 45-50 seconds.)

Good News for Movie Fans

The Student Association has just purchased a new sound system for the Old Lincoln Hall auditorium, the place where movies on campus are currently shown. By installing the new sound system, the Student Association hopes to attract more students to the movies and increase ticket sales. Before making the purchase of the new equipment, the Student Association conducted a survey on campus to see what kind of entertainment students liked best. Going to the movies ranked number one. “Students at Northfield College lovegoing to the movies” said the president of the Student Association, “so we decided tomake what they already love even better. We’re confident that the investment into thesound system will translate into increased ticket sales.”

(Male student) I really think the Student Association made a bad decision.

(Female student) Really? Why? Don’t you like going to the movies?

(Male student) Sure I do. But this new purchase is just a waste of money.

(Female student) What do you mean? It’s supposed to sound really good.

(Male student) Yeah, well, I’m sure it does, but, in Old Lincoln Hall? I mean that

building must be 200 years old! It used to be the college gym! The acoustics are terrible.

(Female student) So you’re saying there’ll be no improvement?

(Male student) That’s right. And also, I seriously doubt that going to the movies is the

number one social activity for most students.

(Female student) Yeah, but that’s what students said.

(Male student) Well, of course that’s what they said. What else is there to do on

campus?

(Female student) What do you mean?

(Male student) I mean, there isn’t much to do on campus besides go to the movies. If

there were other forms of, uh recreation, or other social activities, you know, I don’t think

most students would have said that going to the movies was their first choice.

Question: The man expresses his opinion of the Student Association’s recent purchase.

State his opinion and explain the reasons he gives for holding that opinion. Preparation Time: 30 seconds. Response Time: 60 seconds.

4)  Read a passage from a psychology textbook and the lecture that follows it. Then answer the question. (Reading time in an actual test would be 45-50 seconds.)

Flow

In psychology, the feeling of complete and energized focus in an activity is called flow. People who enter a state of flow lose their sense of time and have a feeling of great satisfaction. They become completely involved in an activity for its own sake rather than for what may result from the activity, such as money or prestige. Contrary to expectation, flow usually happens not during relaxing moments of leisure and entertainment, but when we are actively involved in a difficult enterprise, in a task that stretches our mental or physical abilities.

(Male professor) I think this will help you get a picture of what your textbook is describing. I had a friend who taught in the physics department, Professor Jones, he retired last year. . . . Anyway, I remember . . . this was a few years ago . . . I remember passing by a classroom early one morning just as he was leaving, and he looked terrible: his clothes were all rumpled, and he looked like he hadn’t slept all night. And I asked if he was OK. I was surprised when he said that he never felt better, that he was totally happy. He had spent the entire night in the classroom working on a mathematics puzzle. He didn’t stop to eat dinner; he didn’t stop to sleep . . . or even rest. He was that involved in solving the puzzle. And it didn’t even have anything to do with his teaching or research; he had just come across this puzzle accidentally, I think in a mathematics journal, and it just really interested him, so he worked furiously all night and covered the blackboards in the classroom with equations and numbers and never realized that time was passing by.

Question: Explain flow and how the example used by the professor illustrates the

concept.  Preparation Time: 30 seconds. Response Time: 60 seconds.

5)  Read the following conversation between two students and then answer the

question.

(Female student) How’s the calculus class going? You’re doing better?

(Male student) Not really. I just can’t get the hang of it. There’re so many functions and formulas to memorize, you know? And the final . . . It’s only a few weeks away. I’m really worried about doing well.

(Female student) Oh . . . You know, you should go to the tutoring program and ask for help.

(Male student) You mean, in the Mathematics building?

(Female student) Ya. Get a tutor there. Most tutors are doctoral students in the math program. They know what they’re talking about, and for the final test, you know, they’d tell you what to study, how to prepare, all of that.

(Male student) I know about that program . . . but doesn’t it cost money?

(Female student) Of course. You have to register and pay by the hour . . . But they’ve got all the answers.

(Male student) Hmm . . .

(Female student) Another option, I guess, is to form a study group with other students. That won’t cost you any money.

(Male student) That’s a thought . . . although once I was in a study group, and it was a big waste of time. We usually ended up talking about other stuff like what we did over the weekend.

(Female student) But that was for a different class, right? I’ve actually had some pretty good experiences with study groups. Usually students in the same class have different strengths and weaknesses with the material . . . if they’re serious about studying, they can really help each other out. Think about it.

Question: Briefly summarize the problem the speakers are discussing. Then state whichsolution you would recommend. Explain the reasons for your recommendation.  Preparation Time: 20 seconds.  Response Time: 60 seconds.

6)  Read part of a lecture in a biology course and then answer the question.

(Female professor) Human beings aren’t the only animals that use tools. It’s generallyrecognized that other animals use tools as well . . . use them naturally, in the wild,without any human instruction. But when can we say that an object is a tool? Well, it depends on your definition of a tool. And in fact, there are two competing definitions—a narrow definition and a broad one. The narrow definition says that a tool is an object that’s used to perform a specific task . . . but not just any object. To be a tool, according to the narrow definition, the object’s gotta be purposefully changed or shaped by the animal, or human, so that it can be used that way. It’s an object that’s made. Wild chimpanzees use sticks to dig insects out of their nests . . . but most sticks lying around won’t do the job. . . they might be too thick, for example. So the sticks have to be sharpened so they’ll fit into the hole in an ant hill or the insect nest. The chimp pulls off the leaves and chews the stick and trims it down that way until it’s the right size. The chimp doesn’t just find the stick . . . it . . . you could say it makes it in a way.

But the broad definition says an object doesn’t have to be modified to be considered a tool. The broad definition says a tool is any object that’s used to perform a specific task. For example, an elephant will sometimes use a stick to scratch its back . . . it just picks up a stick from the ground and scratches its back with it . . . It doesn’t modify the stick, it uses it just as it’s found. And it’s a tool, under the broad definition, but under the narrow definition it’s not because, well, the elephant doesn’t change it in any way.

Question: Using points and examples from the talk, describe the two different definitions of tools given by the professor.  Preparation Time: 20 seconds.  Response Time: 60 seconds.