Speaking for the TOEFL can be a scary experience. I’ve been there — confused, lost, and unprepared.
With only 15 seconds to prepare the first speaking response, the domino effect of one rushed answer can leave your other answers a rambling mess. (No? Just me?)
Suffice it to say: I could have definitely used a list of TOEFL Speaking Section Questions before going headfirst into a practice test.
Because I have spoken English for over 15 years, I thought I could easily ace the TOEFL Speaking Section.
Boy, was I wrong.
I have never had to speak so concisely within a short span of time — ever!
So don’t repeat my mistakes. Save yourself the hassle and read through this list.
Here are 4 Types of Speaking Section Questions you will encounter on your test day:
Q1: Independent Task
- Paired Choice
Q2: Integrated Task
- Fit and Explain
Q3: Integrated Task
- General / Specific
Q4: Integrated Task
First, there are two main categories of Speaking Section questions: Independent and Integrated.
The Independent category simply asks you to answer a question.
Since there are only 15 seconds to prepare during the exam, your main position should be easy to follow.
Here are the first three types of questions you’ll encounter during the Independent Task.
1. Paired Choice
Paired choice independent questions ask you to pick a position based on two possible outcomes. You’ll have to pick one position and support your argument on why you think your choice is the best option.
All TOEFL Speaking Independent questions cover a variety of topics on general, everyday issues.
An example of an agree/disagree question is: “Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? All college students should live in dormitories.”
To build a strong answer, make sure to include 3 things:
- Your argument
- 2 supporting details
- 2 examples (per detail)
Focus on the benefits of your answer choice to raise your topic development score. You could set up your scenario, then list out specific benefits of the option you chose. Remember to use precise words — simply adding more words does not always lead to a good speaking answer!
Make each of your words count and practice constructing responses with a template.
That’s all the types of Independent Task questions. Next up are the types of Integrated Task questions.
The Integrated Task asks you to read a short passage, listen to an audio file (lecture, conversation, announcement, etc.), and make connections between the two.
Topics can cover a range of academic and administrative situations.
Here are some common ones you might run into:
2. Fit and Explain
TOEFL Speaking Fit and Explain questions give you a short reading passage about a campus-related situation and then a conversation between two students discussing the passage.
You’ll encounter a variety of campus-related topics such as university policy, rules, plans, facilities, and more.
Examples include: “The man expresses his opinion of the announcement by the university administrator. State his opinion and the reasons he gives for holding that opinion.”
To get this question right, you’ll need to take effective notes during the lecture.
Split your notes into a t-chart and jot down the main points o the reading passage. Then on the right side, write the main arguments the student states in favor of or against the passage.
3. General / Specific Question
Next, General Specific questions will give you a short passage about an academic topic and a lecture audio about the same topic.
Examples include: “The professor describes the behavior of geese and penguins in herds. Explain how their behavior is related to their suitability for migration.”
In your first paragraph, explain the passage in your own words. If the topic was about “suitability for migration,” then start your answer with a short summary of what the topic entails. This will help you incorporate the next part of your answer, the lecture summary.
Make sure to connect each point of the lecture to the main topic. Emphasize how the piece of information you’ve chosen to explain the topic is related to the topic. Do not add outside information (i.e. information not included in passage and/or lecture).
4. Summary Question
The fourth question type, the Summary question, will ask you to summarize a lecture.
Topics include anything from life science, social science, physical science, and humanities.
The lecture will focus on a single main topic and explain the topic to you — you do not need to use any outside knowledge to answer this question.
Examples include: “Using points and examples from the lecture, explain how smartphones and wireless technology contributed to a common culture in the United States.”
Just like the previous question types, construct your answer in the order of the topics mentioned in the lecture. This will help you keep track of related pieces of information.
Always assume the person listening to your speaking answer does not know any of the concepts mentioned in the lecture and summarize them as briefly as possible.
Use complete sentences and make sure to connect all pieces of information to the main topic.
When constructing your response, keep the order of your information consistent throughout each of your points.
(New to summarizing lectures? Use this summary answer template)
These are the 4 types of speaking questions you’ll see on the TOEFL.
I hope this information finds you before your first encounter with the Speaking Section.
For me, my head went blank and I couldn’t think of what to say!
Sometimes, I would speak so fast that everything would come out garbled and I would have so much time left over.
Because there’s only one independent question, the three integrated questions will come wave after wave. Don’t get lost in the waves like I did.
Focusing on what type of question you’re dealing with can help you dive deep and get the score you need.
Let us know how you’re surfing through your speaking answers!
If talking to someone else is too scary, try our fast-graded speaking practice tests right here on TestGlider.
Either way, I hope your tongue doesn’t get tied up on your testing day.
Leave a comment below on how you’re improving your speaking skills. Is there a question type you like more than others? (My favorite is the Summary Task — I can organize my words better!)
And as always,
Good luck with your studies!
your TestGlider team.