Cracking the TOEFL-iBT – Speaking Section

Cracking the TOEFL iBT – Speaking Section


For many Indian students, the speaking section of TOEFL iBT is the most dreaded section because they either do not converse in English on a regular basis or speak in broken or poor English. Ironically, thus, for the smallest section of TOEFL, Indian students often prepare for the longest time.

To get a good score on the speaking section of TOEFL iBT, a test- taker must be conversant with the basic English and be able to express in lucid language.

This article aims to dispel most of your doubts about the speaking section of TOEFL iBT and help you improve your English speaking skills.

Some common misconceived perceptions about speaking in the speaking section of TOEFL

Should I speak in American or British accent?

Neither! You must NOT fake or throw any accent or try to speak in any sort of foreign twang. The raters are not looking for a response that sounds American or British or supposedly any fashionable or stylish accent. The raters want the responses to be coherent and look for features viz. delivery, language use and topic development.

Any pseudo accent sounds phony and irritable and also with poor or average grammar or language skills might ostensibly be understood to be donned. Under pressurizing test conditions, an unnatural accent may be the first thing to go haywire and ruin the speaking. Thus, it is highly advisable to speak in clear, conspicuous and natural tone and accent.

Should I use flowery, ornate or pompous language and words?

You are not required to use difficult sentence structures or flamboyant words or vocabulary. The main purpose of your speaking in the speaking section of TOEFL iBT is to respond to the task or question asked. Thus, you must be able to form and speak your points and views clearly and in an understandable manner.

Eloquence in speech is not to be equated with pompous language or flowery vocabulary which does not serve the purpose right.

You must speak in a distinct way and focus on answering the question asked in the best possible way and in clear pronunciations. You must try and use apt words rather than ornate ones to respond well to the tasks.

Tips for improving overall speaking

  1. Look for opportunities to speak to native speakers of English. Interaction with others will help improve your speaking ability.

• Find a speaking partner. Set aside time each week or rather day to practice speaking to each other in English.

• If you can’t find a native English speaker, find a friend who wants to practice speaking English and promise to speak only English for a certain period of time.

2. Practice speaking for a limited time on different topics without a lot of preparation. Time your responses to questions.

• Make a list of some general speaking or familiar topics such as people persons you admire, places you enjoy visiting, things you enjoy doing, etc. and also topics that recount a personal experience such as the most surprising events, the happiest moments, etc.

• Think of a specific example for each topic (a parent, the market, reading books) and talk about each for one minute.

• Select one of the topics above and write down 3 verbs and 3 adjectives relevant to the topic. Try to use the words as you speak.

3. Concentrate on speaking clearly with good pronunciation and intonation. Speak with confidence and without any hesitation or reservation.

• It is difficult to understand you if you speak word by word. Try to speak in “thought groups.”

• Take a reading passage and mark the thought groups first. Then read it aloud paying close attention to these groups of words and ideas.

• Get a book on tape or get a transcript from a news report, interview, or play. Listen to the performance and mark the pauses, stress, and intonation on the transcript. Then read the transcript and try to imitate the pauses, stress, and intonation patterns.

4. Use books and visit websites that come with or have audio recordings to study pronunciation, stress, and intonation in English.

5. When watching some English program or movie, try to repeat the sentences or phrases or words appearing in the subtitles.

6. Practise speaking in full sentences and with proper pauses and in normal speed and clear intonation.

7. Find listening and reading material on a topic that you like. The reading material and the listening material can provide similar or different views. Take notes on what you listen to and read, and create outlines. Use your notes and outlines to orally summarize the information and ideas from the listening and reading materials. Try to paraphrase what you have heard and read by using different words and grammatical structures.

8. Read a short article and then make an outline that includes only the major points of the article. Use the outline to orally summarize the information. Then add detail to the outline and orally summazie it again.

9. Find a textbook that includes questions about the material at the end of chapters. Practise answering the questions orally.