05. Speaking Section:
06. Writing Section:
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5.02 Speaking Tips and Strategies: (7 to 8 Minutes)

Hello there, and welcome back! We’ve just been over the basic structure of the speaking section of the TOEFL exam, the things that students should expect, and the content that students should be prepared to explain. In this class, we will be going into each question in the speaking section, showing you how each of them are presented, and the things that you can do to ensure that you deliver articulate, well-timed responses.

The speaking section of the TOEFL is one of the most difficult, and students should make sure to stay as focused as possible. Remember, you will be speaking in an area where there will be other students giving their responses. Your focus on the question, and its contents is critical to your success. So, what we will do in this video is describe the layout of all four questions in the speaking section of the TOEFL.

So, what do you do generally when you’re speaking? As a general rule of thumb, try to avoid using filler words and phrases such as ‘like, ummmm, uhhhh, you know…’. Of course, some of these examples could be used appropriately. However, repeating these filler words indicates that the student may have trouble finding and using good language, and could impact the student’s score. As such, we always recommend that you prepare your responses, and try and speak in a consistent pace and tone while giving your answer.

On the topic of pace, we also advise students to deliver answers that are as close to the end of the time limit as possible. Anything with less than five seconds remaining is good. For example, if you are giving an answer for the opinion-based question, you will be required to speak for forty-five seconds. So, a well-timed answer would mean that you speak for forty seconds without stopping. Sounds simple so far? Good. Let’s continue.

So, what are the four questions that you’ll be required to answer when you go in for your speaking exam. The first question that you will answer is the opinion-based question. This question will always ask you a general question, and will ask for your opinion. It could be about whether you agree or disagree with a statement, or it could be about which of two statements or situations you prefer and your reasons. Regardless of which of these questions you’ll ask, you’ll be given fifteen seconds to prepare your response, and forty-five seconds to speak. When approaching this question, it’s best practice to supply a three-part answer.

The first part is Restating the Question. You could repeat or even paraphrase the information in the question while directly stating your opinion on the topic. The second part is to give your opinion, or simply to Answer the Question. The third part is to explain your opinion. Because this is an opinion-based question, you don’t have to worry about getting it wrong. As a general rule, it is good to provide one supporting reason first, and then an example. You could also give two general supporting reasons, as well. When structuring your answer, it’s also good to remember that when answering this question, you will only be speaking for forty-five seconds. A good suggestion would be fifteen seconds to Restate, fifteen seconds to Answer, and fifteen seconds to Explain. 

The second question in the speaking exam will always be based on a reading passage and a short conversation. The general topic is Life at University. The reading passage will explain some kind of activity or situation or program and the conversation will be two students discussing it.

With regards to the reading passage, the part that you will definitely need to write down is the main idea of the program or the event that comprises the question. You will have forty-five seconds to do this. Of course, the more you write, the better your overall response will be. You will then hear a conversation about this reading passage. This is where you will need to pay attention. Write down the opinions of both students who are speaking.

The question will always ask about one of the students’ opinions, but not both. This is why attention is necessary. You don’t know which of the two students you’ll be required to answer for. When you give your answer, you’ll be required to speak for the student that the question asks you. For this question, you should structure your answer in three parts. The first thing you will need to do is give a brief explanation of the event or program from the reading. You won’t need to give too much detail here, though.

Only the main idea will work. The second thing you will need to do is directly state what the student thinks of this program or event. Third, and finally, you should state all of the students’ reasons for their opinion. When you structure your timing for the response, you should allot ten to fifteen seconds for the information from the reading, five to ten seconds for the student’s opinion, and then the remaining thirty-five to forty-five seconds for the student’s reasons.

The third question is similar in layout to the second question. However, there is one difference. The question is based on a reading and a short University Lecture. That’s right. There is no conversation in the third question. The reading will be a brief explanation of the topic or concept that will be further explained in the lecture. Just like the second question, you won’t need to write down too much from the reading passage as it is simply a brief introduction to the lecture. Read it over once, and write down the main idea of the passage to help with preparing your response. The lecture will explain the concept in depth giving details and examples.

The question itself for this part of the speaking exam does vary greatly. However, there are some common things that appear that you will need to use in your answer. For example, the question may ask you to explain the overall concept, but also examples from the listening passage, or a question that asks the student to talk in detail about an experiment or study and how it relates to the concept, or even to explain a general subject, like birds or zones. Because this question varies so much, you should try to write a lot of notes from the listening passage, while paying extra attention to examples, experiments and concepts.

The lecture will usually give more information than is needed, so you should make sure that you’re not trying to explain everything that you hear in the lecture, but instead focus specifically on what the question asks you. Moving over to the subject of timing for this question, it will also vary greatly since the questions are different in nature. In general, you should try to give a small ten-second introduction of the concept first, and then devote the remaining fifty seconds to answering the question. 

The fourth question is very similar to the third question in that the question itself is centred around a lecture. The only difference between the third and fourth question is that there is no reading passage to introduce the topic. There will only be a short academic lecture. The question will be similar to the third speaking task.

Although, it most frequently asks about different things explained in the lecture. The timing for this question will also be the same as the third speaking task. You should first give a brief introduction on what the lecture was about, and possibly a small summary, and then focus on what the question specifically asks you.

So, there it is. All four of the speaking questions, what they deal with, and how to effectively respond to them. Just like giving a speech, or writing an essay, they all have the necessary structure of a beginning, middle, and end. Once you understand what each question demands, prepare for it, practice often, and you’ll be able to deliver your responses effectively.