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SPEAKING SECTION OF TOEFL

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) test has been designed to test English communication abilities of students seeking higher education admission in English-speaking nations. At least 130 countries and over 9,000 colleges rely on TOEFL scores to admit students to their courses.

The TOEFL test, which is conducted several times through a year at various centers across the world, has reading, writing, speaking and listening sections which together help assess a student's overall ability to communicate in daily classes in colleges where English is the medium of instruction.

Aim of the speaking section

The speaking section of the TOEFL test aims to understand a student's communication, effective, metacognitive and cognitive strategies. It examines the efficiency level of a student's communication through the independent and integrated exercises.

Test structure

The TOEFL speaking section is a highly important part of the examination. Students are scored on a scale of 30 based on their written answers to six questions in this section. Two graders evaluate each solution on a scale of 1-4. The responses are scored by quality and strength.

The first two questions test general communication skills. They are based on general topics where students need to express their thoughts.

The third and fourth questions test a candidate's listening and speaking skills. In this unit, examinees need to listen to a short audio piece and respond to the questions asked. The time limit is 20 minutes.

The last two questions test a student's reading, listening and speaking skills. Candidates need to read a short essay, then listen to an audio clipping about that essay and answer the questions put forth.

Examinees are given about 15-30 seconds to prepare an answer for the question asked and are then required to speak for about 45 seconds to a minute. This means that a fluent speaker can easily speak more than 100 words.

Scoring

Speaking tips

Listen carefully: Questions require a specific point of answer. Listen to the audio clippings and questions carefully to comprehend the exact question. This will help you frame your answer well.

Organize thoughts: Jot down brief points you wish to stress on in your answer. Use these as reference points. Don't read out sentences or memorize answers. Speak naturally.

Simple language: Don't try to use high sounding words and words whose meaning you're unsure of.

Clarity: Students often worry about accent, but that's not a contention in the TOEFL speaking test. However, students must ensure that every word they speak is clear. Maintaining a rhythm, speaking every word with clarity and forcefully, and ensuring the syllables are all present bolsters scoring points.

Avoid stammering: Getting the 'uhms' and 'uhhs' out of the spoken language is vital. Though you don't lose on scores for stammering, too much of it can hinder your speech.

Intonation and pauses: It's important that you pause between sentences. Don't be too fast or too slow. Intonate clearly while you speak.

Use effective conjunctions: Answers should flow naturally and with effective connecting phrases like 'Because', 'By this I mean', 'For instance', 'After that', 'So', etc.

Develop thought: Start by stating your topic for answer and develop on that thought. Give it an ending. Don't let the concluding sentence hanging.

Don't speak to fill in time: If you have completed an answer before time and you have nothing more to add, stop. Don't try to fill in the time if you have nothing substantial to say.

Preparation tools

There are many test samples and speaking test simulators available online. But an easier way is to choose simple topics and time yourself. Collate thoughts for 10-15 seconds and record your speech. The more you practice, the better your thought and speech process coordinate.

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