Many of my students need to get over 26 on the speaking section, but this is not easy! It takes a lot of work. I’ve been teaching TOEFL for ten years, and students who get over 26 follow these tips.
#1: STUDENTS WHO GET 26+ PRACTICE—A LOT. There is no substitute for practice. If you aren’t willing to practice, you will not get your score. It’s really that simple. You must practice. But how? Here are some tips.
- Find a speaking partner. Look for someone who is also studying for TOEFL, and practice with them several hours per week.
- Find a TOEFL tutor. Here are HOUSE OF TOEFL, we offer tutoring on Skype. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Listen to sample responses, and repeat them. Students of HOUSE OF TOEFL are given one hundred speaking samples to imitate. Listen to these and imitate them in your own voice.
#2: INCREASE YOUR VOCABULARY. Vocabulary is extremely important. On the first two independent questions, you need to have a great deal of vocabulary. It’s very difficult to give a coherent, well-developed response without good vocabulary. For the integrated questions, some vocabulary during the lectures is at the academic level. It’s very difficult for students to summarize lectures they did not understand because they were not familiar with the vocabulary in the lecture.
#3: DO NOT IGNORE THE READING PART ON QUESTIONS 3 AND 4. Many of my students do not describe the reading that they are given on prompts three and four. However, you must summarize the reading portion on these prompts in order to get a good score. Many students tell me that the actual question doesn’t ask them to summarize the reading portion. Despite this, students are expected to do so. Trust me – the ETS would not show you a reading for 45-50 seconds if they expected you to completely ignore it.
#4: WORK ON YOUR PRONUNCIATION. Pronunciation is important for students who need 26+. It can be difficult to know what your pronunciation errors are, so hire a tutor or work with a native English speaker to improve your pronunciation. Repeat words you find particularly difficult on a regular basis.
#5: ALWAYS PRACTICE WITH A TIMER. Make sure you understand how much time is allotted to each question - both for preparation and response time. The basic guide to the TOEFL is here: https://www.ets.org/s/toefl/pdf/toefl_student_test_prep_planner.pdf Page 25 has a chart which reviews the timings for each question. You must get used to speaking within the time limitations. This takes a lot of practice.
#6: DO NOT BECOME TOO RELIANT ON TEMPLATES. Many students ask me which templates to use. For the TOEFL speaking, I prefer to call them “useful phrases.” If you use templates like a robot, your speech will not sound natural. My videos on YouTube describe the useful phrases that will help you on the TOEFL. They are available on this website. Simply click on the “VIDEOS” link.
#7: WORK ON YOUR INTONATION. A lot of students develop robotic speech which lacks the intonation patterns of a native speaker. Watch videos on YouTube that describe English intonation and thought groups. In addition, watch movies in English, listen to the radio in English, and talk to native speakers often. Make YouTube your best friend. It is an amazing resource.
Here are a few videos I find helpful that deal with intonation and thought groups:
#8: IMMERSE YOURSELF IN ENGLISH. Many of my students take lessons with me, but then speak their mother tongue at home or at work. It’s like taking two steps forward, and one step backwards. Speak English as much as possible, every day.
#9: KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT FROM EVERY QUESTION. Many students are not familiar with the test; some do not even know the difference between prompt 3 and prompt 5. You must become a TOEFL expert. You can start with the book, “The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test” published by the ETS. I strongly recommend the videos of TOEFL RESOURCES to familiarize yourself with the speaking section. Here is a link to the channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpi4cyj1hTscwo0XRDqlSsA
#10: KNOW HOW YOU ARE BEING ASSESSED. Do not take the TOEFL without looking at the rubric! You must know what characteristics the graders are looking for. The rubric can be found here: https://www.ets.org/s/toefl/pdf/toefl_speaking_rubrics.pdf
#11: BECOME A GOOD NOTE-TAKER. As you may know, the integrated questions require you to take notes. Otherwise, it’s very easy to miss important information. Practice taking notes. My videos include sample notes, and there are many resources online to help you become a good note-taker for the TOEFL test. One video I find very helpful is here:
#12: SOUND CONFIDENT WHEN YOU TAKE YOUR TEST. How do you gain confidence? By speaking in English with native speakers! Once you start conversing with native speakers and you are able to engage in conversation, you will see that English is not so scary, and this will develop your confidence. If you find it difficult to meet people, you can join a group on www.meetup.com This website has all kinds of activities for people such as book clubs, women’s groups, hiking clubs, and much more! It’s a great way to get out of the house and talk to native speakers in a casual environment. Remember, if you are not confident, you may stutter or say “uh, umm,” a lot in your response. This will lower your score.
#13: RECORD YOURSELF AND LISTEN TO YOUR OWN RESPONSES. This is a great way to eliminate some obvious errors you might be making repeatedly, such as subject/verb agreement errors, repetition, or “uh, ah, umms,” in your speech. Once you hear yourself making these mistakes, you can practice again, this time consciously making an effort to reduce them.
REMEMBER—ON THIS ENTIRE LIST, PRACTICING IS BY FAR THE MOST IMPORTANT!