TOEFL iBT Test – Tips for the Speaking Section

TOEFL iBT Test – Tips for the Speaking Section

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By Pietro Rossini

If you intend to come to study in the U.S., you will soon find yourself involved with the preparation for the TOEFL iBT test. Any university and college will ask you for a TOEFL score. Every institution has different requirements. To apply for some, you will need a score of 80 while for others 90 or 100 out of 120. Some colleges, furthermore, may ask you for a specific minimum partial score in one of the four sections of the test (Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing). In the previous guides, I told about “how to beat the reading section,” and “some tips for the listening part.” Here, I will give you some tips for the speaking section.

The mandatory break and the first strategy

Right after the listening section you will have 10 minutes of mandatory break. I suggest you bring some protein bars or snacks and water. This is the time to take a break from the intense first part of the TOEFL. You are halfway but you haven’t finished yet.

In fact, when you go back to your computer, you will find the speaking section waiting for you. However, this section won’t start immediately after the break. Indeed, you will check the microphone and headphone first. And that is the moment to apply the first strategy: use this time to write down your templates on your scratch paper. It’s not cheating, it’s the best way of managing your time instead.

Tips for the speaking section

After this audio check, you will start with the speaking section. Here I’ll introduce you to each speaking question:

1. Independent Speaking Question

The first speaking question is an independent question. This means that you will have to express your opinion about a general topic. You will have 15 seconds to prepare your response and 45 seconds to speak.

Does this time sound short for you? Let’s set a strategy to manage this short time better. First, remember that on your scratch paper you have already written your template. There are many templates that you can find around the web, but my suggestion is to create your own template. Once you understand the logic of each question, you can use your words to prepare yourself to answer them.

For this question you should think of 2 ideas and 2 examples. Do not worry too much about details. You won’t have time! Just 2 ideas (why you agree or disagree with the statement in the question) and 2 examples. My advice is to invent 2 like-real very short stories that support your ideas. In the days before the test, try to practice it. You will see that it’s easier than what it seems like.

2. Integrated: Campus Announcement and Conversation

In this integrated task, you will read a short passage (50 sec.) and then listen to a conversation between two students. 

First, from the passage take just the main idea (what the announcement is about) and the 2 pros or cons that the passage claims.

Secondly, for the listening part, you should understand who is expressing an opinion about the issue. Usually it’s the student that speaks more. The other one just asks questions. Focus on the one who’s expressing his or her opinion and take notes about two things: what are the reasons and why the student agrees or disagrees with the announcement.

When it comes your turn to speak, you will report briefly what the announcement is about and what is the opinion of the student in the listening part. 

Do not share your opinion in this question! It will drop down your score consistently.

3. Integrated: Academic Reading and Lecture

The third task is another integrated question. This time is about an academic passage. Don’t worry — this passage won’t be complicated as the ones in the reading part! It’s a very short passage where you will look just for the main idea (what this passage is about).

In the listening part (the lecture), you will focus on the examples that the professor will make about this topic. This is extremely important because when you speak you will report these examples made by the professor in the lecture. So, don’t worry too much about the reading in this section and focus on listening instead.

4. Integrated: Academic Lecture

In the last speaking task, you will listen to an academic lecture. This time without reading a passage about the topic.

Here you will take notes about two things: first, the topic; secondly, the two points and two examples made by the professor to better explain the topic.

Remember that for all three the integrated tasks you won’t express your opinion at all! Only for the first question, you will do that instead.

A Little Secret

A TOEFL teacher who worked as a ProctorU (a person in charge of controlling that the TOEFL iBT test is taken without cheating) revealed to me this special secret for the speaking part: SPEAK ALOUD!

You may think, what kind of secret is this? Well, you know that the speaking section is graded by both a computer and a human. The computer grading part highlights the clarity of speech. For this reason, just speaking aloud you will increase your score of about 4 points!

Free websites where you can practice for the TOEFL iBT test

These strategies and tips are not magic or superstition. They need the practice to be effective. It is like when you are learning how to play an instrument. You need to spend time on it applying the correct exercises. The same is with the TOEFL iBT test. The more you practice (correct strategies), the better and faster you become answering the questions.

Here there are some websites that you can use for free for your test practice:

Toeflbank.com –  a Korean website where you can practice the 4 sections. I like this tool because it is the only one that gives you feedback also for the speaking and the writing part. Moreover, with your free account, you will get advice on how to get your score goal.

Weixue100.com –  a Chinese website that contains tons of free tests. It’s nice for practicing all sections, but particularly the reading part because you can choose one passage at a time.

Zabanexam – an Iranian website that contains full free practice for the four sections. There is only one limit: outside Iran, you need a VPN to use it.

Keep following studyusa.com for more publications about TOEFL iBT test tips. In the next few weeks, you will find other tips for the last section (Writing).

For Tips and Strategies for the Reading section – click or tap here!

For the Listening section – click or tap here! 


Pietro Rossini is a Xaverian Missionary and ESL student at Framingham State University. He came to the U.S. in January 2020 with the purpose of studying for a master of arts in journalism at Boston University. His dream is to collect and share stories of humanity around the globe, making the world a single family.