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Mar 22 2016

Passing the TOEFL: Independent Speaking Tasks

English Lessons Houston  –  Passing the TOEFL: Independent Speaking Tasks
TEOFL speaking 1

Are you getting ready to take the TOEFL test?  As you know, there are four parts to the TOEFL test and one of those parts is a speaking test.  In this lesson, I will give you some hints to help you do very well on the “Independent Tasks”,  so that your score on this test will improve.

There are six tasks on the TOEFL Speaking test.

There are two independent speaking tasks on the TOEFL test.  For each task, you have 15 seconds to think about your answer and write notes and 45 seconds to speak your answer. The first one is a personal preference task, which means there is a question that allows you to choose from your experience.

Examples:

  • Name a skill you have learned and why it is important to you.
  • Describe a class you have taken and why that class was important for you.
  • Describe a teacher you had and how that teacher influenced you.

The second independent speaking task is a personal choice task, which means you are to choose between two things and talk about one of them.

Examples:

  • Some students like to work on group projects and other students prefer to work alone. Which kinds of projects produce more learning and why?
  • Some people work for a business and some people work in their own business. Which would you prefer to do and why?

If you feel very nervous when you are speaking into the microphone, it is good to follow a pattern that will help you to feel more calm.  Here is the pattern you should follow to give a successful answer.

TOEFL speaking 4
Sample speaking task:  Name a hobby you have and why it is important to you.

1) Give an introductory sentence.

My favorite hobby is cooking for my friends and family.

2)  Give detail #1.

I enjoy cooking because it helps me to learn about other cultures.  Cooking recipes for Indian, Mexican or Chinese food helps me to understand the diets of other people around the world.

3)  Give detail #2.

Also, cooking is a social activity because, when I cook for my friends or my family, we all get together and talk and laugh and enjoy good food.

4)  If you have time, give detail #3.

Furthermore, cooking is a creative process because it gives me a chance to try different techniques, spices and flavors.  I like to try different dishes from all over the world. 

5)  Give a concluding sentence that is similar to your introductory sentence.

For these reasons, cooking is a hobby that I really enjoy.

Okay, let’s put it all together:  TOEFL speaking 2

My favorite hobby is cooking for my friends and family.  I enjoy cooking because it helps me to learn about other cultures.  Cooking recipes for Indian, Mexican or Chinese food helps me to understand the diets of other people around the world.

Also, cooking is a social activity because, when I cook for my friends or my family, we all get together and talk and laugh and enjoy good food.

Furthermore, cooking is a creative process because it gives me a chance to try different techniques, spices and flavors.  Different flavors and spices give different results.

For these reasons, cooking is a hobby that I really enjoy.

Time:  44 seconds

  • It’s important to include an introductory sentence and a concluding sentence. This shows that you are able to organize your thinking.
  • Don’t speak more than two sentences for each detail you give. This is important!  If you say more than two sentences for each detail, you will not have enough time.
  • Keep it simple! Don’t try to say everything.  Just choose the main points.
  • Remember to take a breath when you begin, which will help you to be calm and you can think more clearly.

Let’s look now at the personal choice independent speaking task.

TOEFL speaking 3Sample task:  Some people work for a business and some people work in their own business.  Which would you prefer to do and why?

1) Give an introductory sentence.

I would prefer to work for a business rather than work in my own business. 

(Note:  It’s okay if your introductory sentence follows the same structure as the question.)

 

2)  Give detail #1.

Working for a company provides more security.   I can focus on my work while other employees take care of paying the company bills and marketing. 

3)  Give detail #2.

Also, working for a company can offer many benefits.  Employees receive paid vacations, sick days and health insurance.  These are important for families.

4)  If you have time, give detail #3.

Finally, there is less stress working for a business than working in your own business because a business owner must worry about all areas of the company and the company’s survival. 

5)  Give a concluding sentence that is similar to your introductory sentence.

For these reasons, I prefer working for a company.

Okay, let’s put it all together:sheep with headphones

I would prefer to work for a business rather than work in my own business.  Working for a company provides more security.  I can focus on my work while other employees take care of paying the company bills and marketing.

Also, working for a company can offer many benefits.  Employees receive paid vacations, sick days and health insurance.  These are important for families.

Finally, there is less stress working for a business than working in your own business because a business owner must worry about all areas of the company and the company’s survival.

For these reasons, I prefer working for a company.

Time:  42 seconds

This answer had three details but not too much information about each detail.  So I was able to say everything in 42 seconds.

Other helpful hints:

  • It’s fine to use transition words like first, second, moreover, in conclusion, etc. This shows the person who is listening that you are well-organized, and you will receive a higher score for this.
  • Talk at a steady pace, not too fast. And remember to breathe!  If you talk too fast, the listener may not understand what you are saying and this will hurt your score.  If you slow down, the listener will be more likely to understand what you are saying and you will get a better score.
  • Use words that you are familiar with. Don’t use words that you are not sure about.  Just keep it simple and this will help you to get a higher score.
  • The person who is scoring your test does not care how smart you are, so don’t try to sound like a genius. Organize your thoughts, speak plainly and simply, include an introduction and conclusion and two to three details and your score will be good.
  • Choose some independent speaking tasks from TOEFL books or practice tests. Prepare for 15 seconds and see if you can complete your answer in 45 seconds.  Try to talk for at least 40 seconds. Do this again and again!
  • The more you practice, the more relaxed you will feel when you take the real TOEFL test. Good luck.

Next time, we will look at the integrated speaking tasks of the TOEFL.

Worldwide English teaches private lessons to expats and their spouses in their home or office in the Houston, Texas area.  We can help you to prepare for the IELTS or TOEFL exams.

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