Fretting over the TOEFL speaking section? No need to worry – here are five practical tips to help keep you grounded:
1. Remember – it doesn’t have to be immaculately perfect. Each speaking question is graded on a scale of 0 – 4, with a 4 being the highest possible score. Even with the highest possible score, it is still acceptable to have minor pronunciation errors. In other words, the TOEFL graders are well aware you are speaking into a microphone in a room full of others, who are also doing the same and they take into account both your situation during the test and the stressful impact of the time. Aim for the best you can possibly do but remember – a few minor mistakes won’t rule out a score of a 4.
2. Don’t take risks. The TOEFL speaking section is not the time or the place to experiment with new vocabulary words and/or complex pronunciations that might confuse the grader. Try to expand your horizons with moderate-level adjectives but, as a whole, play it safe with your choice of vocabulary and particularly your choice of topics on independent questions.
3. Don’t go over the time allotted. Keep in mind that for all independent speaking questions you have 45 seconds to respond, and for all integrated speaking questions you have 60 seconds to respond. It’s important to give concise responses that do not exceed the allotted speaking time. If you get 7 or 10 seconds until the end of your response time and you aren’t finished, it’s best to complete the thought and/or sentence you’re currently responding to or go to a conclusion right away.
4. Take notes. Some students do not take notes on the speaking section of the TOEFL and this is a major mistake. Taking notes is crucial not only for the factual information you need for the integrated speaking but also to serve as a “guide” for your response. With the stress of having to speak into a microphone with a room full of other people doing the same, it’s easy to get lost in your response or stop speaking altogether. Take notes not only to help you deliver a complete response, but also provide you with keywords from the lecture and conversation to impress the graders.
5. Make the grader’s life easier. Last but not least, you should always keep in mind your job is to make the grader’s life easier. Graders have to listen to many responses within the time span of one hour and if they have to replay part or all of your response because they happen to question what you were saying, it can only count against you. Speak clearly, concisely and comfortably in order to make their job of giving you a high score easier than they anticipated.
All in all, the best way to improve your speaking is to practice, practice, practice! Hopefully these hints will help you as you tackle what some students say is the most challenging part of the TOEFL examination.
While the speaking section appears to cause a lot of worry in many students looking to take the TOEFL, it’s best understood when able to tackle the section on a question-by-question basis. This article is going to explore TOEFL Speaking Question #5. Here’s what we know about this question:
Here are some tips to help you get the high score of a 4 on Question #5, in particular.
An example of a high-scoring response to Question #5 reads, as follows:
“The conversation is in regards to the changing of the library hours at a university campus. The female student is distressed about the change in library hours because she often likes to study at night. She goes on to say some days during the week, the only time she actually has to go to the library is late due to her part-time job. The male student offers several suggestions to her in regards to her problem. He recommends she speak with the library staff about the reasoning behind the change in hours, and if that doesn’t work, he thinks she should talk to the college dean about this change. I think the woman should go directly to the college dean because the dean will be able to attend to the issue in a direct way, which will ultimately and hopefully get the results the woman needs.”
In the above response, we have italicized the opinion portion, making it clear that the opinion can also serve as your conclusion.
Remember: Question #5 will always be a conversation about a university-related problem, so keep in mind university lingo (library, dean, dorm room, etc.) will be inevitable.
Many of you who are studying for the TOEFL might wonder what raters are looking for, especially out of your independent speaking responses. The raters, in fact, grade you based on levels broken into the following 4 categories.
It should be noted, that there is a score of 0, if you would believe it. However, the only way you would get a 0 is if you said nothing or if you talked about your plans for the weekend instead of addressing the task. Also, raters are known to give half scores – i.e. 2.5, 3.5, etc…