TOEFL Speaking Exam - Advice

The Speaking section in the TOEFL exam examines a candidates' ability to verbally express themselves in an academic environment. Speaking is the fourth aspect of language testing and it is common across all major language tests. Speaking tests, in general, are designed to examine a candidate’s ability to verbally communicate in an English-speaking environment. This is an essential skill in all aspects of social, academic and professional interaction.

The Speaking section comprises of four tasks that closely imitates practical situations within and outside the classroom in typical university campuses.

Exam Structure:

The tasks designed in TOEFL can be divided into two groups: the first, requiring candidates to freely speak on topics to express their ideas coherently (referred to as independent speaking task); the second requires candidates to respond verbally to questions that combine other English language skills such as reading and listening (referred to as integrated speaking tasks).

There will be a total of four questions in the section:

Independent speaking task

One question, candidate needs to gather ideas and speak on the given topic or premise.

Integrated speaking tasks

Three questions, candidate needs to read and speak, listen and speak, or listen, read, and speak.

For each of the questions, there will be a preparation time allowed which will be around 15–30 seconds. The final spoken response will have to be between 45-60 seconds in length.

The section should ideally be completed within 15-17 minutes.

These responses are recorded and evaluated by human experts and also screened using artificial intelligence (AI) -based technology.

There are some common misconceptions regarding the speaking test. Let’s look at a few of them below:



One has to speak with a native speaker’s accent.

Completely untrue. A candidate has to speak in a clear, understandable accent with proper pronunciations.

One has to speak difficult words and expressions.

Untrue again. Candidates are expected to speak simple and clear English to convey their ideas.

Candidates are tested on difficult tasks and scripts.

Untrue. Candidates are tested for tasks that are similar to what they will face in a real-life scenario.

One has to master various subjects to be able to understand and strike a conversation.

Untrue. Even though a basic knowledge or awareness of commonplace topics helps in striking intelligent conversation anywhere, in-depth knowledge is not required in these tests.

There could be a subject specific task which is unfamiliar.

Untrue. Tasks are designed for a neutral group so that the tests remain fair.

Candidates can be interviewed by native speakers whose accent or tone will be difficult to understand.

Untrue. The examiners are experts and talk in accents that are easily understandable.

One could speak using wrong grammar or wrong pronunciation and still get away if the meaning is clear.

Untrue. Even though conveying the message correctly is one of the virtues tested, correct use of grammar, good vocabulary and pronunciation are also marked. So, candidates will be penalised for poor grammar and vocabulary.

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