5 Ways to Improve Your Practice for TOEFL® Speaking

5 Ways to Improve Your Practice for TOEFL® Speaking


The TOEFL speaking section might be the most challenging part of the test. There are four questions in the speaking section, and you’re given just  seconds to prepare your answers. That means there isn’t any room for error! Students who score well in this section spend a lot of time practicing. Remember that the TOEFL is not just an English test—it’s a test of  academic English, which is even harder. 


For that reason, be sure to spend plenty of time answering practice questions before you go to the test center!


Today’s article is all about helping you make the best use of your practice time. As your test date approaches, try making use of these five quick strategies.


5 TOEFL Speaking Practice Tips  


  1. Make Transcripts of Your Answers

Grammar isn’t just for the TOEFL writing section—it’s just as important in the speaking section! Unfortunately, it can be hard to notice grammar mistakes (especially small ones) when all you’ve got is a recording of your answer. Next time you practice, take a few minutes to create written transcripts of your answer. After that, look for grammar mistakes in the transcript. You will probably find some of them on your own, but you can also make use of an  online grammar checker. If you do this many times, you’ll notice some recurring errors and will avoid making them.


Another great reason to make transcripts of your answers is that you can use an  online word counter (or your favourite word processor) to check how much you’ve actually said. Answers that contain more words generally get higher scores on the TOEFL.


  1. Use a Timer

Of course, you already know about the time limits for each speaking question. And you probably know that your microphone will turn off when time runs out. The tricky thing is to avoidwasting time when you answer questions.  


Next time you practice, use a timer to discover if you are  using your time in an optimal way.


But what, exactly, is  optimal in this section?


Well, you should only spend about 10 seconds stating your “main point” in question one. Anything more than that is probably a waste of time. Most of your time should be used to provide supporting reasons and details. Likewise, you should only spend about 15 seconds summarizing the reading parts of questions two and three. It’s much more important for you to spend time talking about the listening parts. 


Timing yourself as you practice will help you hit these targets. For more timing tips, check out our guides to each question type.


  1. Count Your Pauses

I know, I know... in everyday life, pauses and the occasional “umm” aren’t a big deal. Everyone needs time to think about what they are saying now and then. But on the TOEFL test, they could lower your score a bit. Listen to recordings of your practice answers and count the number of times you say something like “um” or “ah.” As you continue to practice, try to reduce that number. It takes some effort, but it’s possible.


  1. Develop Your Imagination 

The first TOEFL speaking question requires you to talk about your personal opinions and experiences. This isn’t always easy, and students often worry that they don’t  have any experiences. They think their lives are boring!


If that’s an accurate description of your life, put away your TOEFL books. Put away your timer too. Well, just for a moment. Without worrying about the clock, try to tell a few dozen “imaginary stories” from your academic life. Imagine a time that you had a difficult assignment to do. In five or six sentences, imagine how you overcame the challenge. Maybe you went to the library, or maybe you talked to a teacher. Now imagine a time that you helped another student on campus. Imagine how that made you feel.


Now do the same for your family life. And your working life. This will give you an “imagination bank” of stories that you might be able to draw upon when you take the test.


Okay, now you can take out your TOEFL book, grab your timer, and get back to work! 


  1. Practice Your Reading and Listening Skills

Don’t forget that you’ll get three  integrated questions on test day, which involve more than just speaking! Be sure to spend a little bit of time each day practicing your listening and reading skills. Look for short academic articles about the same kinds of topics you’ll get on the TOEFL. For reading, try reading the short articles on websites like  Science News or even short podcasts such as  60 Second Science. Regular exposure to content like this will keep your academic listening and reading skills sharp!