Speaking is notorious for being the hardest TOEFL section. Not only do you need super fast reading and listening comprehension skills, but you also have just 15 seconds to prepare for the first question! It’s not easy to practice speaking on your own, and trying to boost your score can feel like you’re talking to a wall over and over again.
No more walls — It’s time to talk like human beings.
I’ve researched and gathered 5 exercises and TOEFL Speaking templates that lead to strong and effective speaking skills.
Let’s get started!
1. Separate Tasks
First exercise: we have to divide the TOEFL Speaking Section practice.
Because there are 2 different types of tasks in the Speaking Section, it’s easier to practice them separately: Independent and Integrated.
If you’re new to the TOEFL Speaking Section, here’s all you have to remember:
Independent Question = You have to answer with your own ideas, experience, and opinions.
Integrated Question = You have to make connections or give a summary of the information you’ve just heard.
You’ll have to answer 1 independent question and 3 integrated questions, which makes 4 questions in total.
As you may already know, independent questions are very different from integrated questions.
If you’d like to know more about the Speaking Section, here’s the full list of all Speaking Question Types by topic.
Now, it’s time for our second speaking exercise. Here we go!
2. Use TOEFL Speaking Templates
Independent Speaking Template
Let’s start with a fun independent practice exercise:
What’s the best snack in the world?
Go ahead and answer the question out loud.
(Take a second and record your voice if you can.)
If you feel awkward about speaking to yourself, just remember —
It’s going to be just you and the computer in the testing area on your test day.
Whether you’re taking the TOEFL iBT at a testing center or the TOEFL iBT Home Edition in your room, you have to practice talking out loud.
Here’s an example response: “My favorite snack is honey roasted almonds”
Now, we need to back that statement up with personal experiences and ideas.
- Here’s an experience: “My mom likes to make honey roasted almonds at home, so I have fond memories of eating them as a special family treat.”
- And here’s an idea: “Honey roasted almonds are healthy and sweet.”
- Now, Conclude: “Because it is healthy and shareable, I believe it’s the best snack in the world.”
Now put it all together, and we have a standard speaking practice answer:
My favorite snack is honey roasted almonds. First, my mom likes to make honey roasted almonds at home, so I have fond memories of eating them as a special family treat. Second, they are healthy snacks. When I share them with my friends, I don’t have to feel guilty about giving them junk food with no nutritional value. Additionally, honey roasted almonds are vegan-friendly, which makes everyone feel welcome when they’re served at a party no matter their preference in food. Because honey roasted almonds are healthy and shareable, I believe they’re the best snack in the world.
See how I added “Additionally” to transition from an experience to idea? Transition words can help your points become smoother and easier to connect.
In total, this answer only takes 35 seconds to speak out loud, even when spoken slowly. During the TOEFL, the independent answer must be 45 seconds.
From this perspective, 45 seconds feels like a long time!
- Here’s tip #1 for a well-timed speaking answer: Jot down at least 2-3 reasons to explain your statement.
Writing down 2-3 reasons will help you stay focused, even when you run out of time on your 15-second preparation time.
If the timer makes you uneasy and nervous, I have good news — you can practice in a timed testing environment with TestGlider!
TestGlider practice questions are designed using a timed platform to help test-takers feel more confident before their test day. It will stop recording on the 45-second mark just like the TOEFL test, so you can experience an accurate speaking session.
Facing the speaking time limit before the actual test day can help you feel more confident and prepared.
- Here’s tip #2 for a stronger speaking answer: If you struggle with developing a strong structure for your Independent answer, try practicing with fun questions first.
While the TOEFL might not ask you about your favorite snack anytime soon, knowing how to put your words together is a solid first step towards boosting your speaking score.
Answer the Question
- For me….
- In my opinion…
- I think…
Mention a short experience
- I remember…
- I have felt…
- In my memories…
Mention an idea
- In addition…
- All in all…
Try practicing with these words to get your answer started. Practicing your speaking skills will get a lot easier once you start!
Integrated Speaking Template
The Integrated question consists of 2 audio types: conversation and lecture.
For your second task, you’ll hear a person talk about whether they like or dislike a new change on campus in a conversation.
The question will ask you to summarize what that person said, and how he/she talks about the change.
TOEFL does not use the singular “they” to indicate neutral gender — If you use “they” to refer to a single person during the exam, it will be penalized as the wrong pronoun for a single person.
- The article about a new change on campus states…
- The speaker agrees/disagrees with…
- The man/woman is happy/unhappy about it for 2 reasons…
- Firstly, the speaker feels that… …
- The change will impact the campus…
- The examples they mention are…
- Next, the speaker also explains that the change will…
- For example, they state that the change will…
- In addition, they feel that…
In all, the speaker thinks…
Because of the change, the speaker…
For those reasons, the speaker agrees/disagrees…
As for the lecture-based question, the exam will ask you to either relate what the lecture’s concept was about or summarize what the lecturer says.
Here’s a basic lecture-based speaking template:
- The lecturer talks about…
- The lecture’s concept….
- In the lecture…
- One example they mention…
- The lecturer supports this idea with…
- Another example is…
- In the second example, the lecturer explains…
- The lecture states that…
- They also mention…
Because of those examples, the lecturer…
The lecturer concludes…
Both questions are TOEFL Integrated Speaking Questions, but they have different answer formats.
To start practicing with templates, follow these simple pieces of advice :
- Keep track of time. If there are 15 seconds left, get to your last point.
- Conclusions are optional. If there’s no time to conclude, complete your reasoning and end with a full sentence, instead of trying to start a conclusion and getting cut off at the time limit.
Learning which template works best for your speaking practice will take some time. Try a few today, then a few tomorrow.
Once you feel more confident with your speaking skills, feel free to venture out and try other ways to start your speaking answer.
You’ll find a template that works best for you after a few days. Keep practicing, and keep those speaking skills active!
Moving on from templates, let’s look at 3 general Speaking Section strategies that can help you exercise your confidence.
3. Don’t Copy Details
Speaking exercise number 3: Don’t waste time talking about every single detail. Cramming your answer with every detail can hurt your speaking score in 3 ways:
- Repeating the passage word-for-word
- Repeating the same words/phrases over and over again
- Not having enough time for topic development
I’ve heard so many user-submitted answers on our TestGlider YouTube channel where test-takers answer the question using the same words as mentioned in the passage, lecture, or conversation.
Although this can certainly help your pronunciation and make you feel like you’re staying on topic, TOEFL speaking scores will not improve if the same words are used repeatedly.
Keep your answer original
Without developing your own, original thoughts, your TOEFL speaking score won’t score higher than a 3. So don’t copy all the details — stick to your own answers, and avoid overusing words from the passage, lecture, or conversation.
To avoid repeating the same words or details used in the question,
- Use synonyms
- Use relevant terms
- Describe the concept
Practice replacing common words with similar words, like synonyms. Knowing how to use synonyms is a powerful way to boost your TOEFL score in all sections.
For the Speaking Section in particular, replacing a word with a strong synonym can help your flow sound and feel more natural, like a normal conversation.
Another way to avoid repeating the same words from the given section material is to use relevant terms related to the topic. If the topic is about a social behavior, you can swap out the word “behavior” with “habits,” “common characteristics,” or even “everyday conduct.” Using relevant terms can help you avoid sounding like a robot, repeating the same word “behavior” over and over again!
The final way to avoid using the same word is to describe the concept of the given speaking material.
If the topic is about new scientific discoveries, and you don’t want to say “scientific discovery” every time you mention the topic, go a little wide and try to describe the concept of the discovery: “The new findings,” “Scientists have realized,” or “Recent research indicates that…”
Practice using different terms in your speaking answer and don’t lose another point!
4. Take Short Notes
This is the best tip for 75% of all TOEFL material. Take short notes.
You’ll need to take notes whenever there’s an auditory portion of the test.
During the Speaking Section, you won’t be able to hear the conversation or lecture again. Take a deep breath and pause — there’s no need to panic and write every single word!
You’ll most likely be hearing technical terms, words, and phrases you’ve never heard before. You might not know how to spell them correctly, and that’s perfectly fine.
Use short symbols, drawings, or use a single capital letter to mark the term, and move on to the next point in the lecture or conversation.
If you feel lost trying to listen and focus at the same time, keep your notes short.
In a conversation, mark each point with a bullet point and list out the reasons why the speaker in the audio thinks a certain way.
In a lecture, use numbers or arrows to mark the lecture points. This can help you keep track of what was mentioned and how an example is related to the topic.
This is a great strategy that you can put into practice in the Listening and Writing sections too!
That’s 4 exercises done, and just one more to go. Let’s move on to the final speaking practice exercise.
5. Keep Talking
Here’s the final speaking exercise: Keep talking!
It’s important to practice your speaking skills often. Naturally, your speaking pace will get faster once you find more things to talk about.
That means practice talking outside of practice times, in your everyday life.
Practice with song lyrics, with an online friend, or with TV shows!
Then, give yourself simple tasks like: “Summarize the character’s story”, or “How does the song relate to life?”
Practice with fun questions. When you start speaking about something you really enjoy (I can talk for hours about my favorite bands), you’d realize that you speak faster than if you were asked to speak about… a boring lecture.
Practice talking after the timer runs out. Then, pick out major points and trim down on others. Remember to jot down at least 2 good points and make sure to support your points with reasons.
This is a good way to keep practicing your speaking skills, even when you don’t feel like listening to lectures and campus conversations.
That completes the 5 exercises to boost your Speaking Score!
Speaking can feel daunting at first, but once you hear yourself say the words, you’ll get a feel for the templates in no time.
Templates are guidelines to help you structure your answer, but keep in mind that your score will be determined on your own thoughts, examples, and connections.
If you want to find out what score you’ll get on the real TOEFL exam, feel free to practice with all the Recommended Speaking Questions right here at TestGlider.
To conclude, let’s review the exercises:
- Separate the tasks
- Use the templates
- Don’t copy details
- Take short notes,
- Keep talking.
Keep on practicing, and you’ll see your score go up in no time!
Leave a comment if any of these exercises were super effective for your TOEFL speaking practice!
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below
And as always —
Good luck with your studies,
Your TestGlider Team