Imagine you are on Prompt three of the TOEFL speaking and you have this reading. What would you do? Ignore it? Only write down the title? NO! You must summarize this for the rater. Please read this example of a reading for Prompt three:
Ecosystems are delicate, and when they are disrupted, it can cause a great reduction in their ability to function. One type of disruption is an invasive species. An invasive species is a species that is not native to a particular area, and may cause great economic and environmental harm. These species tend to adapt to the new area easily and reproduce quickly. As a result, they are often able to outcompete native species for resources and consume so much of the area’s resources that other species cannot survive. Invasive species have been introduced both accidentally and on purpose, through human intervention, to various ecosystems.
How do you summarize this?
First, write down the title on your paper (I ALSO LIKE TO UNDERLINE IT)
Then, look for those words in the reading. As you can see, they are in the second sentence. But the second sentence does not have any useful information. However, the words "invasive species" are in the third and fourth sentences as well, and that is where we have the main part of the definition. You can note down:
- Species not native to particular area
- Causes economic/ environmental harm
- Adapt easily/ reproduce quickly, consume resources, other species not survive
- Both accidentally and on purpose
Then, when you speak, you say:
“According to the reading, an invasive species is a species that is not native to a particular area that causes economic and environmental harm. They adapt easily and reproduce quickly and consume resources so other species can’t survive, and are introduced accidentally or on purpose.”
Is this easy? NO! Is it possible? YES! It’s what you have to do if you want a high speaking score. If you need 26 or more, you will have to practice.
Now, read the transcript. Imagine it in a professor’s voice! This is one I wrote, so you haven’t seen it before:
“Invasive species can cause major problems to local ecosystems……… So let’s… ah…. start with one that was introduced accidentally. You may have heard of it. It’s called the zebra mussel… well, zebra mussels are native to the Black Sea, in Asia. Years ago, there were ships that traveled between the Black Sea and the Great Lakes. These zebra mussels… they stuck to the bottom of these large ships that travelled between the two. Once zebra mussels were in the Great Lakes, they reproduced quickly. This caused enormous problems in the Great Lakes, as zebra mussels filter a lot of water a day each… absorbing phytoplankton and algae… and other nutrients… nutrients which were previously the food for native species of fish …and fish have declined significantly as a result.
However, sometimes species are introduced on purpose, and become invasive. So, ah… One example of – let’s take the example what happened on an island in South Africa. A group of scientists who were on the island to study birds were bothered by some rodents… mice, rats… that were on the island. They figured a simple solution would be to introduce a few cats to the island. Unfortunately, the cats reproduced quickly, and in the end these cats began to hunt for the birds the scientists were there to study, causing devastation… a tremendous amount of unfortunate damage… to the bird population on the island.”
As you read this transcript, imagine a professor reading it. It contains all the things in a typical TOEFL prompt three… note especially the pauses and the repetition of content.
For instance, the professor says “…ships that traveled between the Black Sea and the Great Lakes….. large ships that traveled between the two….”
She also says “causing devastation…….. a tremendous amount of unfortunate damage…….”
Repetition of content like this is typical to prompt three. Note there are other repeated comments in the original lecture besides these two examples. It's very common.
It’s your job to SUMMARIZE. That means you do NOT repeat content like the professor does. You do not have time to do this. Instead, you would summarize by saying:
“Zebra mussels stuck to the bottom of ships that travelled between the Black Sea and the Great Lakes.”
“These cats have caused damage to the bird populations.”
Do not repeat the professor word-for-word.
Another trick to save time is to talk in one LONG sentence.
NOTE: That does not mean you should not use intonation. However, every time you start a new sentence you have to use a subject and verb. Note the difference in how long it takes you to say these two examples by reading them out loud:
“The professor illustrates this with zebra mussels. These zebra mussels are native to the Black Sea. They travel between the Black Sea and the Great Lakes. Then they reproduce quickly. This causes problems for the native fish.”
“The professor illustrates this with the zebra mussels, which are native to the Black Sea and travel between the Black Sea and the Great Lakes, and then reproduce quickly and cause problems for the native fish.”
NOTE: Please make sure you are still speaking with good intonation. Do not speak robotically!
So, what’s a good answer that would get a very high score? READ THIS OUT LOUD!
“According to the reading, an invasive species is a species that is not native to a particular area that causes economic and environmental harm. They adapt easily and reproduce quickly, and consume resources so other species can’t survive, and are introduced accidentally or on purpose. The professor gives two examples to illustrate this. Zebra mussels were introduced accidentally as they are native to the Black Sea but they stuck to the bottom of ships that travelled to the Great Lakes. Once zebra mussels were there, they reproduced quickly and this caused problems because they filter a lot of water every day and absorb nutrients that native fish needed, and caused the fish to decline. The second example happened on purpose when cats were introduced to an island in South Africa, because scientists were bothered by some rodents such as mice, but the cats reproduced and began to cause devastation to the bird population.”
That’s it! You should be able to read this out loud in less than sixty seconds. If it takes you longer, read it again, FASTER this time. Keep practicing.