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iBT Speaking Section

published by Brat Maning

tags: toefl, toefl ibt, toefl ibt speaking, (all tags)

origin: iBT Speaking Section (

Jasonrenshaw: Good evening everybody! Our topic for tonight’s discussion is iBT Speaking, and the discussion will be open for the next 90 minutes or so. First of all, I recommend clicking on the “Full Size” option below the GED Chat box. It will be much easier to follow the chat with it on a full screen. Next, just as with a real discussion, we need some basic ground rules to ensure the discussion can proceed coherently, and not end up with 20 people all talking over each other. To that end, I would request that you wait until I call on you by name before asking your question. You will have a chance to add up to 2 follow up questions after the main question, and then the turn will pass to somebody else. Also, I can’t call on you for a question if I don’t have your username. Hence, if you’re here in this discussion as “Anon”, don’t expect to be invited to ask a question. Please set an actual name for yourself if you want to participate (though of course you’re free to just watch anonymously if that is what you prefer).

Jasonrenshaw: Chock - go ahead with your question.

Chockulit: I mean if I somewhat got mental blocked on the process while I am speaking, what would be the best thing to do? And if I finished more than the time alloted for me, will that be a deduction on my part?

Jasonrenshaw: Two questions in one! Well, for the first one, with a mental block, the most important thing to do is not panic. It's better to have even a 5-10 second pause to gather your thoughts than to just start babbling aimlessly.

As for the time, you can't go over the time, because the recorder simply stops working at the time limit.

Chockulit: I see. Thanks Jason!

Jasonrenshaw: Obaid, you there? Got a burning question for me?

Obaidmaroof: i got 20 in speaking, and i want to increase it. does the grammer matters while speaking or only the flow of the english makes the difference?

Jasonrenshaw: Grammar does make a difference of course. The three evaluation criteria are DELIVERY, LANGUAGE USE, TOPIC DEVELOPMENT. Small grammar mistakes won't kill your score, but if the grammar is poor in the sense it makes you hard to understand, it will definitely lower your score.

Jasonrenshaw: Great, Yellowflower, you're up!

Yellowflower: Ok. Obviously, we should avoid going over 45 seconds in our answer. If I have a hard time coming up with a (complete) answer, is it bad to end at, say 35 seconds?

Jasonrenshaw: 10 seconds under the speaking limit will probably hurt your score on that question - not because you finished early but because you probably didn't develop your topic fully enough. It's hard to completely cover the questions even with the full time allowance. Five seconds short is okay - anything more and you were probably lacking something.

Follow up question for me?

Yellowflower: But it's better to end 10 seconds early than to end 5 seconds late, right?

Jasonrenshaw: Well, as I said above, technically you can't finish over the time limit, because the recorder simply stops. Personally, I think it would be better to be cut off towards the end of your answer than to finish 10 seconds early. The assessors know the time is tough, and will probably be less harsh on someone who managed to continue speaking all the way through.

Yellowflower: Good point!

Jasonrenshaw: Nasir, you ready with a question?

mhdnasir: Hello Jason, I want to improve my speaking section score. I gave TOEFL just a month ago and I got 24, now I want to score around 29-30. Can you advise me that what specific things I should practice on to acheive that score? Mistakes that I remember were humming and the deviation from the typical answers format taught by the Samples.

Jasonrenshaw: Sort of sounds like you already know what was lacking in your responses. However, I can try to tell you what usually separates scores of 22-24 from 26-28. It is usually one of topic development or delivery. Topic development is the biggest problem I see in all the practice responses. ETS is very specific about what it expects to see in most of the answer formats. If you're lacking in that, you won't go over the magic 26 mark. Those who do have the topic development perfected and still don't score over 26 usually have some definite pronunciation issues.

Which do you think applies to you, Nasir?

mhdnasir: First I think that I didn't follow the format and second of course the topic development.

Jasonrenshaw: Right - so that's where you'll need to focus.

mhdnasir: the format thing can be cured I think but how should I improve the topic developement?

Jasonrenshaw: Run through the points I make in the iBT speaking tips and tricks online. Are you doing all of those things? I mean, really doing them, perfectly?

mhdnasir: Infact I really didn't prepare well for my first attempt because I have to met the university deadlines. And I gave TOEFL during my semester exams.

Jasonrenshaw: Right, well, let's see how you do after you practice using my tips! Have you accessed those mini lectures on my other site?

Okay, Amj - go ahead with your question.

Amj: I have the same problem as Nasir i can't over go the 24, but I need 26. Could you give us more detailed examples that could get us tha magic score?

Jasonrenshaw: There are tons of example answers around the Internet and in preparation textbooks. Soon I will be looking to add more examples of myself doing some tasks to try and show you stronger examples that will get you beyond the 24-26 mark.

Amj: the problem is that even if at home i'll do good at the exam w the stress i forget to stay focust on the practice tips.

Jasonrenshaw: That's a very good point. Practicing at home is not stressful, and taking the actual test is VERY stressful. So, simply put, you need to create a practice environment or procedure that IS stressful, to replicate the feeling when taking the test. For example, speaking in groups face to face, or setting a goal to record 20 answers (even general) in say 20 minutes on something like Chinswing.

Chock - you ready?

Chockulit: Okay. If ever, but I hope not, I will fail the speaking section of TOEFL-IBT, do I need to take the whole exam again, such as the writing, reading, listening parts?

Jasonrenshaw: Yes, unfortunately, you do. If a speaking score is what you need, that is.

Chockulit: I am not worried about the other parts. It's only the speaking part that I am really worried about.

Jasonrenshaw: One of the ridiculous parts of the TOEFL is the requirement to take the whole thing over again if you don't get the score you require in one particular part. It is hurting a lot of test takers, especially people who need a speaking score of 26 for pharmacy or something.

Chockulit: I am doing those sample exercises you had in Chinswing and as you said, if we are in the actual TOEFL examination, the pressure will be different.

I usually stop in the middle if I am lost for words. Jason, if the examinee usually says, "uhhmmmm," would that affect the score too?

Jasonrenshaw: It depends. You know, I did my own speaking responses for test items with 0 preparation time, and I was saying "ah" and "um" quite regularly.

Chockulit: Yeah, I've noticed that as well.

Jasonrenshaw: It's a natural part of spoken discourse, and I don't think you get penalized for it - so long as it doesn't happen after every second word, or the ums are very long and very hesitant sounding. We are not giving dinner speeches in the British Embassy here - it is natural speaking without any preparation or scripting.

Chockulit: Hahaha...nice one Jason!

Some are also saying that we should use the words, "moreover, however, in addition, etc." But I don't use those words too often.

Jasonrenshaw: Sure, those linking words can be useful. Moreover gets overused, tho, and sounds a bit strange to me when it is used too much.

Chockulit: I see then. Thanks. You're site is really helpful. I hope you could also grade our recent responses in Chinswing.

Jasonrenshaw: Mmm, grading Chinswing responses. That brings up a very important point I want to make for all people wanting to practice their speaking online. People are way too reliant on me. I don't see anyone offering feedback or encouragement to other test takers. People are not helping themselves/each other. They are coming to my sites looking for charity basically. That worries me - really worries me.

Chockulit: I myself haven't given feedbacks yet. I have only used the website for my responses. How can we give feedbacks to other Chinswing users?

Jasonrenshaw: Just refer to the number of the recording and state that it is feedback. Simple.

However, on another point - Chinswing has literally hundreds of different topics and threads to communicate in. Have you recorded in any of them besides just my TOEFL topics?

Chockulit: No, I haven't.

Jasonrenshaw: Technically, there are opportunities to practice your communicative fluency for hundreds of topics in Chinswing. (I'm not just talking to you Chock - this is for everyone).

Chockulit: I think I should explore them too. I am most of the time a lurker, but you're right Jason, we should start giving feedbacks to each other!

Jasonrenshaw: Here's the biggest tip of the evening... The key is to improve your spoken fluency and familiarity with recording online under time limits with many different kinds of topics. This is much more important than getting grades/ratings from one teacher (like myself). If you speak about 10 different topics every day for a couple of weeks leading up to your test, you will improve your score immensely.

Yellowflower - ready with a new question?

Yellowflower: how many points should we put in our delivery?

Jasonrenshaw: Good question. Delivery is all about pronunciation, intonation and fluency. Technically it is of equal value to the criteria of topic development and language use. However, I think it comes after topic development as the second most important issue. This, in particular (delivery) is what hurts many people, particularly people who already think their delivery is fine.

Yellowflower: Also, When we answer a question, how many supporting points should be given?

Jasonrenshaw: That depends on the particular question. Question 1 and 2 should ideally have 2 supporting reasons expressed. Question 3 requires 2 reasons for a speaker's feeling about a notice. Question 4 usually explores 3-4 issues that correlate across a reading passage and lecture. Question 5 would require 2 supporting reasons for your preferred course of action based on the conversation.

Yellowflower: Great info. Thanks!

Jasonrenshaw: Okay - back to you Pharn, Shoot!

pham179: ya, which type of question requires conclusion?

Jasonrenshaw: Technically, none of them do. It's hard enough to get main ideas out and support them in the time limits involved. HOWEVER, a quick conclusion is ideal if you finish up a little early. Let's say you have 5-10 seconds left on your time limit. Rather than just going blank/quiet, you could wind things up with "... and that's basically why ...." Make sense?

pham179: thats great. give me one strategy to improve on the 4 question

Jasonrenshaw: Question 4 is a bit of a killer. A lot of it comes down to good note-taking. Draw a line down the middle of the notepaper. On the left, script main ideas from the reading passage. On the right, take down your listening notes. Then, in the 30 seconds prep time, link up the ideas you can see from your reading and listening notes. With the key ideas and details from each source linked up like this on paper in front of you, it will be a lot easier to speak and a lot easier to cover all the important information.

Okay Sunit - you're up!

Sunithasiva: i gave toefl 4times. but not able to get score in speaking (24)

Jasonrenshaw: 24 each time you take the test... As I mentioned above, the difference between 23-24 and 26-28 is usually one of these two things: topic development or delivery.

Sunithasiva: iprepared for the topics given by you for one minute and practised in home

Jasonrenshaw: You either just aren't covering the topics properly, or you have a pronunciation/delivery issue that is holding you back. That's what I usually find, anyway.

Sunithasiva: so how to improve. can i record and send it to u?

Jasonrenshaw: That is your first problem. You think without a teacher you can't progress. Let me ask you - how many online recordings do you make, every day, about various topics?

Sunithasiva: 5-6 topics

Jasonrenshaw: AND, how many other people's recordings do you listen to - every day?

Sunithasiva: i hve not done that

Jasonrenshaw: EXACTLY. You are caught in your very own Twilight Zone. You ave no external input or models to learn from or compare your speaking to - just yourself. Progress won't happen that way. There are dozens of well scored speaking submissions in my forum and the Chinswing links already. You should listen to all of them (the scores of 3 or higher). Take notes about each one, then compare to your own recording. You may be very surprised what you learn from that experience.

Sunithasiva: k. iwill listen. can usuggest me. ihve done already but no reply.

Jasonrenshaw: Sunit - work to help yourself, and then eventually it will help to make your speaking work.

Sunithasiva: k thanks

Jasonrenshaw: Right, Song

Songthanh: how can I take notes while I'm listening??? Sometime I forgot what I heard or write.

Jasonrenshaw: Yes - did you see what I wrote above as notetaking tips for question 4?

Songthanh: sr im late so i didnt see that. could u please tell me again

Jasonrenshaw: Scroll up or look back through the transcript. However, it sounds to me like you're not taking enough notes, or not writing down the most useful information. Or just panicking! It's easy to do under that test pressure. So, how often per day or week do you listen to lectures in English and do note-taking?

Songthanh: 3 times/week

Jasonrenshaw: If it's a weakness, you should be listening to 1-3 hours of listening material every day and doing note-taking every time. Eventually, you will find your own strategies for getting down the most important information - and more importantly, you will develop more confidence. 3 times a week is good, but will not result in dramatic improvements. Daily is better.

Songthanh: thanks for your advice

Jasonrenshaw: Let me know how you get on. You could start with all the Reuters news articles I have in my World News section in the forum. There is enough to keep you busy listening for many hours in there!

Okay Angels - you there? Waiting patiently? This will be our last question for the session, unfortunately. I've been typing like a maniac for the past 90 minutes!

Angels67: It's okey. I will be taking my 3rd iBtT on Dec. 21.. for both I got 23.. I need 26. I felt that I was not focused because I got panicked in specially in the 2nd.

Jasonrenshaw: Right. Same as above for other students with the same issue. It is either topic development or delivery that is pinning back your score. It's easy to panic in this test. Have you been practicing under stressful/pushy circumstances? Like really pushing yourself to perform?

Angels67: Right now, I want to focus in your tips and wish to stay calm during the exam. I got distracted when my husband is around I can't record well. Actually I am not confident when he's around so I can't speak well.. However, I was able to try harder today.

Jasonrenshaw: That's GREAT! Your husband is helping you more than you can guess. Once you can record answers well even with your husband walking around, looking for his socks, or asking when his dinner will be ready, or asking why he is so silly, you are likely to be able to do well on the actual test as well.

Angels67: I will continue browsing the topic you posted and will follow your tips. . Thank you very much for your advices. Tomorrow, I might stay in the mall's foodcourt and will try my speaking there.

Jasonrenshaw: EXCELLENT idea!! You will feel silly, but practicing in public is excellent for your actual test prep. What is more important - getting that 26 score or looking slightly insane in the middle of a food court?

Angels67: Yes!!! You're right. I saw it in posted here. Thank you again and I pray and wish that this would be my last iBT. Getting 26!!! I need it badly..

Jasonrenshaw: Well, that's all I have time for this evening, everyone. Thanks for your questions and patience. You've been very polite. Let's do this again someday.

Stay active in the forum, help each other as much as you can, and let's all catch up again soon. Good night to all of you, and very best wishes!

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