Doing well at the Toefl speaking section

Here are some tips to demystify this dreaded TOEFL section.

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The results at the TOEFL speaking section are good (at least, they are not bad) !

In a previous article, we had quoted an ETS study revealing that the average score of candidates worldwide at the TOEFL test was 80 for male candidates and 81 for female candidates in 2012. It was split up in this way:

Male candidates

  • Reading: 20
  • Listening: 19.4
  • Speaking: 19.7
  • Writing: 20.5

Female candidates

  • Reading: 19.8
  • Listening: 19.6
  • Speaking: 20.6
  • Writing: 20.9

The speaking section does appear to be weaker than other sections for candidates worldwide. But the marks are close to those of the other sections, and even better than in the listening section. In France, candidates got an average score of 22 in all the sections in 2013; in Germany, the speaking section was even the section where candidates got their best score (25).

What do the markers expect from you in the TOEFL speaking section?

To do well at the TOEFL speaking section, you must understand markers’ expectations and prepare accordingly.

TOEFL actually offers specific scoring grids to evaluate candidates’ performance. Analysing these grids has allowed us to deduct what markers want. You will be marked on 3 different criteria:

1. Your diction

The examiner will give extra credit to clarity, intonations and pronunciation.

  • Tip: Adopt a regular speaking pace and make sure that you do not start an explanation and then hesitate after the second or third sentence.
  • Revision tool: There’s nothing better than listening to English-speaking media to work on your intonations and pronunciation (as well as your favourite American TV show at night if you have worked well during the day!)

2. Your command of the language

The examiner will give extra credit to complex grammatical phrases and vocabulary.

  • Tip: Do not try to give complicated answers if you have not mastered a grammatical structure or the complicated vocabulary. It is better to be simple and right than complex and wrong!
  • Revision tools: That good old grammar book, as well as vocabulary lists on the themes relating to student life.

3. The relevance of your answer to the question asked

Candidates should remember what is essential: answering the question! On this point, the examiner will pay attention to two things: the relevance of your answer on the one hand, and the coherence of your arguments (ability to connect your ideas in a clear and logical way) on the other hand.

  • Tips: Listen to the question and actually answer it! Regularly use connecting words, which structure an explanation (introduction, expression to give a new argument or example, conclusion, etc.)
  • Revision tool: Create a vocabulary list with all the connecting words and learn them all.

Global-Exam, your partner to do well at the TOEFL speaking section

Global-Exam’s teaching team has written explanatory notes for you:

1. A note to understand everything about the TOEFL speaking section and its exercises;

2. A note to explain in details how this section unfolds on the exam day;

3. A note with the best tips to prepare and manage your time during these exercises.

Above all, when training on Global-Exam, you will have the possibility to practise on several mock exams under real exam conditions to prepare better and do well at the TOEFL! For instance, you have the possibility to record your audio answers to listen to them again and work on them, which proves very useful. Just like in the official TOEFL test, you will have to adhere to the allotted time for the preparation of your answer and then for speaking.

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