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6 Speaking Tips for the TOEFL

1. Organize your response.

Yes, I know you only have 15-30 seconds and that’s not a lot of time. Welcome to TOEFL. There’s never enough time. So, use the time you do have wisely. Take that moment before you start speaking to organize your thoughts and place in order what you will say first, second and third.

2. Start speaking right away.

We live in a fast-paced world. Think of how annoyed you become with a friend who doesn’t respond to your text immediately. That same feeling of annoyance is what your TOEFL grader experiences when you wait longer than 3 seconds to start speaking. You only have 45 seconds-60 seconds to speak, so show your grader how fluent you are by filling that time from the beginning up until the very end.

3. Sound certain even when you’re not.

You are trying to summarize a lecture you don’t understand. That’s very typical. Instead of sounding like you don’t know what you are talking about, sound like you know EXACTLY what you’re talking about. You do not necessarily have to understand the lecture, but you do have to perform the summary of it well. Sometimes, we fake it until we make it. For example, when you are on a job interview and your potential boss asks you to describe your experience in the field and you don’t have any experience in the field, do you respond to your boss with soft whispers of uncertainty? No! You will describe your non-existent experience with a tone that is confident and self-assured. The same goes for TOEFL. Your tone must sound like the expert even when you have no clue. There’s nothing more painful than listening to a person who cannot state a sentence with certainty in their voice.

4. Aim for a variety of words rather than a fancy set-up.

Many students believe that they need long, difficult vocabulary words or complicated grammatical structures in their sentences to achieve a high score. This is simply not true. What you need is to make yourself very clear and easily understood. Fancy words and sentences will weigh you down and trip you up. It’s like having on too many big, fat gold necklaces and jewels. One or two might be nice, but 10 or 20 are not easy to wear. They are too heavy and they get tangled. The same goes for words. Aim for a variety of simple, clear words. Use these words correctly in short sentences that relay the information and get the job done.

5. Keep speaking and flow! If you get stuck, use these two magic words.

No matter what, keep speaking! If you finish all you had planned to say and there are still 20 seconds left, keep flowing. Repeat the main idea using other words. Go back to the details you might have left out. Whenever you get stuck, use these two magic words: “Well, anyway…” and then move on. That will get you out of ANY situation. I always use “well, anyway…” when I can’t think of a word, when I’ve lost my way, when I need to get back on track. Those two words save me every time.

6. Saying something is better than saying nothing.

Don’t give up! You’ve worked too hard and spent too much money to take the TOEFL to do that. Whatever happens, commit to saying something. You might have to get creative and even a little crazy, but when you make the attempt to speak, you have the opportunity to earn points. Staying silent earns no points. The speaking section is meant to demonstrate your fluency as a speaker. So, speak out loud and proud. A speaking response that you may think is a total disaster could actually score enough points for you to reach your TOEFL goal.

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