TOEFL iBT Speaking: 05 Simple Methods For Success
Are you ready for the TOEFL iBT speaking test? For most test-takers, the speaking section is the hardest part. If you don’t work on improving your skills now, you might end up being a stammering, stuttering, mess on test day. Save yourself the disappointment and embarrassment, not to mention the cost of retaking the exam, by studying these 5 free tips to get your best score on the TOEFL speaking exam.
You can’t be ready if you don’t know what to expect. According ETS’s official guidelines, the TOEFL speaking test has 2 types of questions. For independent speaking questions, you’ll get a 1-sentence prompt with 15 seconds of preparation time and 45 seconds of speaking time. For integrated speaking questions, you’ll read and/or listen to longer passages, and then speak about them. You will have 20-30 seconds of preparation time and 60 seconds of speaking time. Your preparation time is minimal, so make the most of it with these tips.
5 Simple TOEFL iBT Speaking Practice Tips For Success
1. Use The “Plan Out Loud” Trick During Your TOEFL iBT Speaking Prep Time
The “plan out loud” trick is the sneakiest one of my speaking topic tips. During your 15-20 seconds of prep time, there is no rule against talking! While writing your notes, speak your main idea out loud and verbally summarize each reason you write. This will help you warm up and get the words you need on the tip of your tongue. On test day, other students will be talking at all times, and no one will even be able to tell you’re using this trick, so it won’t be awkward!
The “plan out loud” trick is an adaptation of a method commonly used to increase EFL students’ reading comprehension, and has been featured in journals such as theInternational Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research.
2. P.R.E.P. For Your TOEFL Speaking Topics
For the TOEFL iBT speaking test, you must have a main point supported with reasons and examples. You can do this with the P.R.E.P. technique. I have never heard anyone recommend this practice technique before, but it works extremely well! I first learned it from Toastmasters, an organization that helps people improve their impromptu speaking skills.
- Point: Start your TOEFL iBT speaking response by stating the main point of your response (also called your thesis). Do it in 1 sentence, or 2 at most. For example, “I like cats.”
- Reason: Next, provide a reason why your point is true. For example, “I like cats because they are very independent pets. You can’t leave a dog at home when you go on vacation, but you can leave a cat at home, and it will be okay.”
- Example: Support your reason with 1-2 examples of the reason you gave, such as: “Last year I flew to Barbados for a week, and my cat stayed home alone. When I got back, the house was not destroyed and my cat was patiently waiting for me.”
- Point: Finally, restate your original point in new words. For example, “So, as you can see from my example, a cat is a fun and low-maintenance pet, and that’s why I like them.”
Of course, you can offer more than one reason. Just be sure to give at least 1 example for each reason, and summarize all your reasons when restating your point.
3. The Speaking “Hot Seat”
A lot of test-takers find the speaking section difficult because you have to speak “on the fly” for 45 to 60 seconds all by yourself. It can be much harder than having a conversation with a friend or other students. The “hot seat” is one of the strategies you can use for this challenge. Ask a close friend or family member who speaks English to put you in the “hot seat” several times per day.
To do this, print this list of 40 speaking subjects commonly seen on the TOEFL, and give it to that person. Then, ask them to surprise you with mini practice-tests throughout the day or week. Every time they do, you’re in the hot seat! When they read you a prompt, you prepare for 15 seconds and speak for 45-60 seconds just like the real test. Once you have done all 40 TOEFL speaking topics, you will be well prepared for success.
The “hot seat” method is based on a similar technique used by Professor Steve Issit at the University of Birmingham to help EFL students learn English.
4. Double Your TOEFL Speaking Practice With Reading Practice Synergy
Another quick way to improve your speaking score is to “synergize” with your reading practice, which I know you are doing diligently! What does “synergizing” mean? It means combining reading and speaking practice in a way that makes both more effective than they would be alone.
Every time you read an article or passage for your reading practice, start your stopwatch, because you are going to verbally summarize the article you just read. Take 15 seconds to prepare, and then take 45 seconds to summarize the main point and arguments in the article, out loud. You can use the P.R.E.P. technique if you want.
By doing this, you will not only get more speaking practice, you will also increase your reading skills and comprehension. I developed this strategy based on research by Xiaomei Song, a scholar at Queen’s University.
5. Improve Your Speaking Skills With The “60 Second Swap”
The “60 second swap” helps your TOEFL speaking practice in two ways—it makes you speak more AND it ensures instant feedback to help you conquer your weaknesses.
To use it, get a list of practice TOEFL speaking topics like the one above, and find another Test Of English As A Foreign Language student. (If you don’t know anyone else, find an online partner. First, you read a prompt to your partner, and he/she responds with 15 seconds of preparation and 45 seconds of speaking. Then, you take 15 seconds to prepare a critique of his/her speech, and 45 seconds to deliver it. Then, swap roles and repeat.
The “60 second swap” is a special technique developed in light of research on the effectiveness of social strategies for English test-taking by Wenxia Zhang et al. at Tsinghua University in China.
With these 5 TOEFL speaking practice techniques, you don’t need to dread this English exam anymore. Take a few minutes right now to do a practice speaking prompt using at least one of these tips.