Learn Structure of The TOEFL Speaking Section before starting the preparation

Get an overview of what you'll see on the Speaking section of the TOEFL. This lesson covers the timing, types of tasks you'll encounter, and what kind of prompts you'll be responding to.

Structure of The TOEFL Speaking Section

TOEFL Speaking

The TOEFL Speaking test can be intimidating, but if you know what to expect, it gets a lot easier to tackle. The TOEFL has four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. Speaking is the third section. First, you'll complete the Reading and Listening sections; then, you'll have a ten-minute break. After the break, you'll dive into the Speaking section. The Speaking section tests how well you can speak English in an academic setting. On this section, you'll have 20 minutes in total to work on six speaking tasks. All the tasks are designed to imitate some kind of situation you might encounter at school in an English-speaking country. For each task, you'll have to record yourself speaking in response to a prompt.

Two of the tasks are independent tasks. On independent tasks, you respond to a prompt based on your own opinions. The other four tasks are integrated tasks. On integrated tasks, you respond to a prompt using additional information that you hear, read, or both. For example, you might have to read a passage and talk about it. First, we'll go a little deeper into the independent tasks; then, we'll tackle the integrated tasks.

Independent Tasks

Independent tasks on the TOEFL don't require you to understand anything but the prompt. Your response is based completely on your own opinions, and there's no wrong answer. It doesn't matter what side of the prompt you choose to argue. You won't be scored on that. The important thing is to put together a well-supported argument in correct English for whatever side you choose. You'll get two independent tasks on the TOEFL:

  • One personal preference task - Here, you'll get a category of things, and you'll have to state your preference about objects in that category. For example, the category might be 'pets,' and you might have to explain whether you prefer cats or dogs. Then, you'll have to explain why you chose what you did and back up your preferences with reasons from your own experience.
  • One choice task - On the choice task, you'll be asked to make a choice between two possible things you could do in a given situation. For example, you might get a question like, 'When someone is unfair to you, is it better to ignore the behavior or confront them about it?' You'll have to pick one side and explain why you chose it.

For both of these tasks, you'll have 15 seconds to prepare your response and then 45 seconds to speak.

Integrated Tasks

That was the independent tasks. Integrated tasks are a little longer and more involved. On these tasks, you'll have to integrate your skills in speaking, reading, and listening. There are four integrated tasks in total. Two of the integrated tasks will be academic course tasks, tasks that simulate speaking inside a classroom. The other two will be campus situation tasks, tasks that simulate academic speaking outside of the classroom.

Here's a quick rundown of how the four integrated tasks are organized. Two tasks will ask you to read, listen, and speak. In the first, you'll get a reading passage and a listening passage on the same campus-related topic. You'll have to explain the speaker's opinion on the issue relative to the description in the reading passage.

On the second task, you'll get a reading passage giving you background on a subject and an excerpt from a lecture with specific examples and information about that subject. You'll have to give a combined summary of important information from both the reading and the lecture. On these two tasks, you'll get 30 seconds to prepare and 60 seconds to respond. Next, you'll get two tasks that only ask you to listen and speak. In the first one, you'll listen to a conversation about possible solutions to a student-related problem. In your response, you'll explain the problem and which solution you would choose. In the second, you'll listen to part of a lecture explaining a concept with examples. You'll have to summarize the lecture and show that you understand how the examples relate to the topic. On these tasks, you'll get 20 seconds to prepare and 60 seconds to respond. After the speak/listen tasks, you'll be all done - that wasn't so bad, was it?

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