Getting a high score on the speaking section of the TOEFL is essential, especially if you want to be able to get into a top university or land a high-paying job. If you can’t make yourself understood, you will not be able to function in an English-speaking environment.

The top reasons that students do not get high scores on the TOEFL are:

  • Poor pronunciation
  • Poor intonation
  • Incorrect grammar
  • Lack of fluency
  • Weak note-taking skills

If you want to get a high score, you must master all of these points. Here are four ways to do that.

#1: Talk to yourself

You might feel silly talking to yourself, but it is a very effective way to improve your ability to speak English fluently. A big part of learning a new language is feeling comfortable speaking it. As you go through your day, talk to yourself when you have the chance. Here are some things to try:

  1. Narrate your actions as you perform them. If you’re cooking dinner, imagine that you are explaining the recipe to someone. Talk your way through it, step by step.
  2. Imagine a conversation with someone and then speak both parts of it aloud.
  3. Read out loud to practice your pronunciation and intonation.

The more you speak, the more comfortable you will be with speaking. It might seem like a small thing, but it’s an important one.

#2: Record yourself speaking and play it back

Very few people know what their voices really sound like. If you want to work on your pronunciation and intonation, you must first be able to evaluate your skills as they are right now. One good way to do that is to record yourself speaking.

Many cell phones have a recording option, and if yours doesn’t you can buy a small digital recorder for just a few dollars. Practice speaking into it. When you play the recordings back, make notes of particular sounds and words that are difficult for you. Some people who learn English have a hard time with diphthongs and other letter combinations. When you know what those are, you can dedicate some time to improving your pronunciation.

#3: Practice structuring your response as an essay

The skills you use to do well on the written part of the TOEFL also apply to the speaking section. What you say to the examiner must be logical and well structured. When you do practice exams, take notes and practice your ability to respond in a way that flows logically.

One thing that may help is to take notes as the examiner speaks to you. Remember, the goal of this section is to make sure that you are able to participate in academic discussions. Your thoughts must be organized and clear if you want to do well.

#4: Work on your grammar

Just as people who are new to English sometimes struggle with pronunciation, they also struggle with grammar. English grammar is complex and riddled with exceptions, and that makes it a challenge to learn proper grammar.

You should strive to use the same grammar when you speak as you do when you write. Even when you are having a casual conversation, you need to pay attention to:

  • Sentence structure (Many languages have different sentence structure than English. For example, in some languages, the adjective usually appears after the noun it describes. In English, the reverse is true.)
  • Subject/verb agreement. (English has many irregular verbs and it is essential to conjugate them properly.)
  • Proper use of pronouns. (Even native English speakers sometimes misuse personal pronouns.)

If there is a particular element of grammar that is difficult for you, make sure to work on it before the exam.

The more you speak English – and listen to yourself talk – the easier it will be for you to impress the TOEFL examiner when test day arrives.

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