How to Successfully Prepare for the Six Speaking Tasks on the TOEFL iBT?
published by Usha H
Since ESL students have to speak in many different kinds of academic situations, speaking has become a high priority at many English-speaking universities. As such, the TOEFL makes the speaking 1/4 of your total TOEFL iBT score. So, what speaking skills do you need and how do you make sure you have them when taking the TOEFL iBT.
“What Do I Need to Do During the Speaking Section of the TOEFL iBT?”
(Speaking competencies that Educational Testing Service is looking for.)
For the two independent speaking tasks:
1. My instructor understands me when I ask a question in English.
2. When I speak English, others can understand me.
3. I can talk in English for a few minutes about a topic with which I am familiar.
4. I can speak for about one minute in response to a question.
5. I can give prepared presentations in English.
6. I can state and support my opinion when speaking English.
7. I can participate in conversations or discussions in English.
For the four integrated speaking tasks:
1. While listening to authentic conversations or lectures, I am an active listener by taking notes of the main ideas and critical supporting points.
2. While reading academic reading passages, I am an active reader by taking notes of the main ideas and critical supporting points.
3. Then, using my notes, I can coherently and accurately speak for about one minute as to how the two sources of information are related. Or if I listen to only a lecture, I can coherently and accurately speak for about one minute about its main idea and critical supporting points.
4. When speaking, I am highly intelligible by avoiding awkward pauses and major difficulties
in pronunciation, intonation, and word stress. Additionally, I have good control of basic and complex grammatical structures, have appropriate word choice, and make only minor errors which do not obscure meaning.
“How Can I Prepare for the Speaking Section of the TOEFL iBT?”
The independent and integrated speaking competencies required for the TOEFL iBT are formidable challenges, but the following suggestions, if implemented through a regular course of study over an extended period of time, will help you to achieve the speaking confidence needed for a strong score.
To perform well on the independent speaking tasks, you should consider the following:
1. Create a list of familiar topics and practice speaking about them: “Describe your favorite vacation destination,” and “Describe an important person who has influenced you” are representative of familiar Independent Speaking topics for the iBT.
2. You could also practice by stating an opinion or a preference and then by presenting reasons clearly and in detail. “Which do you think is better: living on campus in dorms or off campus in apartments?” is representative of an opinion-preference Independent Speaking topic for the iBT.
3. Making a recommendation and explaining why it is the best way to proceed is another type of speaking task that you should practice. “What is the best method of travel when going on a vacation? Explain why?” represents this type of Independent Speaking topic for the iBT.
4. Practice giving 1 minute responses to these types of speaking tasks.
Lastly, to perform well on the integrated speaking tasks, you should consider the following:
1. Find a college textbook that includes discussion questions at the end of the chapter. Read the chapter, take notes, and practice orally answering the discussion questions.
2. Read short 100-200 word articles. You can find such articles on the Internet, in the library, or in your TOEFL textbook. After reading the article, make a brief outline which includes its major points Then use the outline to orally summarize the information, after which you can add detail to the outline and orally summarize again.
3. Using the Internet, the library, or your TOEFL textbook + CD Rom, find listening and reading materials on similar topics. The material can provide similar or opposing points of view. After taking notes on the listening and the reading materials, you should do the following:
*Orally summarize the information. Make sure that you paraphrase the information using different words and grammatical structures.
*Orally synthesize by combining information form the listening and reading materials and by explaining how they relate.
4. Increase your knowledge of vocabulary and idiomatic language. Learn to use them in your speech.
5. Learn grammatical structures, particularly basic and complex sentences, so well that you are comfortable using them in your speech.
6. Learn to solve pronunciation problems, paying particular attention to word stress, intonation patterns, and pauses.
7. When practicing for the TOEFL iBT, take about 15 seconds to prepare a response before beginning to speak.
Write down some key words and phrases, but do not write down exactly what you want to say. If you read your response, raters will give you a lower score.
8. Use signal words and phrases to create a coherent flow of information: to introduce new information, to connect ideas, and to emphasize important points.
9. Make regular recordings of your iBT speaking tasks and make sure your pronunciation and fluency are clear and easy to understand. If possible, have ESL/EFL instructors evaluate your speech using the appropriate TOEFL iBT Speaking rubrics.
Practice, practice, and practice doing these suggestions, and you will conquer the speaking section of the TOEFL iBT.
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