As a non-native English speaker, you might struggle to communicate flawlessly in the English language. Even in your mother tongue, articulating your thoughts can be quite nerve-racking.

Effective communication, especially in English, is the key to personal and professional growth. It is also required to get a good score on TOEFL iBT.

The TOEFL iBT is an online test designed to measure a non-native speaker’s ability to understand and use the English language. Test takers are tested in four areas; reading, listening, speaking and writing. The score range for each section varies and so do the tasks.

Speaking is the third section of the iBT test, followed by reading, listening and a 10-minute break. Here are some important facts to consider about the speaking section:

Time Duration:

After the conclusion of the listening section, test takers get a 10-minute break. And then the speaking section starts, with a total time duration of 20 minutes.

Number of Tasks:

The TOEFL iBT speaking section consists of six tasks that have to be completed in 20 minutes. You will be asked to express opinions on independent and integrated tasks.

Integrated tasks are related to reading and listening tasks. To do an impeccable job on the speaking section, you must pay attention to the questions you answered in the reading and listening sections.

What to Expect:

The first 2 tasks in the speaking section are known as independent tasks. You will be asked to give your personal opinion on a particular topic.

Make sure you brainstorm ideas and thoughts quickly before speaking. You will be provided a microphone to respond. Timing is everything in the speaking section. You will be given 15 seconds to prepare your opinion and 45 seconds to respond.

Communicate your opinion and ideas in an intelligent, confident manner. Do not waste time fretting over facts and figures. Examiners are concerned about your ability to speak clearly and smoothly in English.

The remaining tasks, i.e. 3-6 on the speaking section, are integrated tasks. For these tasks, you will have to read a short text and listen to an audio recording on the same topic. Your task will be to explain what you heard and read.

Test takers are provided 45 seconds for reading, 30 seconds for preparation and 60 seconds to respond. Keep your eyes and ears open while attempting these tasks. Jot down key information. Remember: there is not enough time to include every minute detail in your response. Therefore, focus on the most important points.

The last two integrated tasks require test takers to listen to audio recordings, i.e. a conversation and a lecture. They will have to answer questions pertaining to those recordings. Preparation time is 20 seconds, while response time is 60 seconds.

Score Range:

The score range for the speaking section is broken down into:

26-30 – Good

18-25 – Fair

10-17 – Limited

0-9 – Weak


What Speaking Section Evaluates

The predominant aim of the speaking section is to test a candidate’s English speaking proficiency. But, there is more to this section.

The speaking section is designed to assess a test taker’s ability to read academic text and listen to audio recordings in English. They should be able to understand tasks and respond appropriately.

The TOEFL iBT speaking section determines how well a test taker is able to comprehend and deliver oral responses clearly. Examiners check their pronunciation and grammar usage as well.

Common TOEFL iBT Speaking Challenges

The majority of test takers experience the following issues:

Lack of sentence variety: Due to limited planning time, many test takers stick to a repetitive sentence structure. For example, they start and end every sentence with ‘I believe.’

With creativity and preparation, you can avoid this issue. Focus on improving your vocabulary. Try to incorporate different types of sentences in your natural language, such as simple sentences, compound sentences, introductory subordinate clauses (e.g. After I ate my snack, I wasn’t hungry.), and so on.Inability to grasp information:  If you fail to catch something during the integrated tasks, do not panic. Yes, you cannot go back to that text or audio recording again. Whatever you remember, draw it out on a piece of paper. This will help you to make the necessary connections.

Nervousness: The fear of speaking English fluently can scare  many test takers. If you feel nervous conversing in English, here are some tips that will definitely help you overcome your fears and ace the TOEFL iBT speaking section:

Think In English

As a rule, avoid translating from your native language into English. Not only is grammar and sentence structure different in both languages, but translating takes a lot of time.

If you want to speak like a native, start thinking in their language. Start with basic phrases in English and then form complete sentences. Keep practicing until you feel 100% confident.

Work on Your Vocabulary

Maintain a list of words in your notebook or your phone. Add at least 3 new words to this list daily. You can learn new words from books, movies, documentaries, speaking to people–the sources are unlimited!

Incorporate these new words into your writing and speaking.

Repeat What You Hear

When listening to an audio recording, focus and repeat after the speaker. Use the same technique when watching a movie or listening to music. This simple strategy will help improve your pronunciation and fluency.

Focus on Grammar

Correct use of grammar and idioms is a sign of fluency. However, if you do not know the meaning of a certain idiom, avoid using it.

Practice Speaking 

Before the test day, practice speaking tasks as much as you can. You will find plenty of TOEFL iBT practice exercises online.  Stick to a regular study schedule to get a good score.

For the independent tasks, practice speaking on common topics, including your opinion on your country, school, etc. Try to come up with solid reasoning.

Practice integrated speaking tasks daily. Read and listen to tasks carefully and summarise your responses.

Make a habit of recording your answers on your phone. As a result, you will be able to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.

Most importantly, talk to your friends and family members in English. Strike up a conversation in English with a native speaker online.

No matter how much you study, you will never be able to get over your fear of English without actually speaking.

Accept that fear is normal and that you will make mistakes during the learning phase. On the day of your TOEFL iBT test, relax and do the best you can.

Try to sound natural, coherent and clear. If you make mistakes, do not worry. You can repeat sentences and correct yourself.

Learn more about common TOEFL iBT speaking topics. uMasterExam is an online TOEFL prep guide for beginners as well as those at intermediate and advanced levels. Coupled with offering the best TOEFL preparation courses, practice tests and textbooks, you can even find qualified, experienced TOEFL tutors on uMasterExam to master your English speaking skills.

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