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The TOEFL Integrated Speaking section can seem scary, but each task actually follows a very specific structure, and if you know it, you can totally ace it!

There are four integrated speaking tasks: Tasks 3 and 5 require you to listen to a conversation about a campus issue and summarize what you’ve heard. In tasks 4 and 6 you will hear and then summarize an academic lecture.

Let’s break these down:

Task 3Summarize opinionA short passage about a campus issue and a conversation between two students about the issue. You will have 45 seconds to read the text. In the audio, one of the students will have an opinion about the issue in the passage. You will need to explain what the issue is, what the student’s opinion is, and why they have that opinion.
Task 4Summarize reading & lectureA short passage about an academic topic and a lecture about the same topic.You will have 45 seconds to read the passage. You will then hear a professor giving more information about the same topic. You should summarize what the professor said and how it connects to the passage.
Task 5Summarize problemAn audio recording of two people talking about a campus-related problem. One speaker will offer two solutions to the problem. You should state what the problem is and summarize both solutions as well as explain which solution you would choose and why.
Task 6Summarize lectureAn audio recording of an academic lecture.You should summarize the main points from the lecture and any relevant details

Here are the top 5 TOEFL Integrated Speaking tips that you need to remember:

  1. These tasks will always follow the same order and structure.

Although the content will be different, the task types, descriptions and instructions will be the same and also will appear in the same order. Knowing this will help you to prepare for each task on test-day. Learning the structures will help you in your note-taking and in preparing your response. You can find more on the tasks here.

      2. Take notes!

You must take notes as you listen so you can refer to them during your preparation and presentation. Listen for main ideas and details.

In TOEFL Integrated Speaking Task 3 (summarize opinion), only one speaker will be presenting an opinion. He or she will usually give two reasons to explain their opinion. Pay attention to these. Also, don’t focus too much on the reading passage. You will only have 45 seconds to read this. Just skim it to get the general idea of the issue that the speakers will be discussing (e.g. a change to the library borrowing policy, or the cancellation of a class). You are not summarizing the reading passage, but rather the speaker’s opinion which is discussed in the conversation.

In task 5, the speakers will discuss a problem. This is the main idea of the conversation and will be presented by one of the speakers. The other speaker will offer two solutions. You should listen carefully to the two solutions offered and note them down.

With the lectures (tasks 4 & 6), you should note down the topic of the lecture (for example, hummingbirds), and three things that the lecturer mentions about it (for example, the hummingbird’s diet, habitat and behaviour). These are the main ideas. The speaker will also give some specific details or examples of these. Knowing what to expect from the task will help you know what to listen for and what notes to take.

In TOEFL Integrated Speaking Task 4, although you will first be presented with a short reading passage, this is just to give you context for the lecture topic. You are not summarizing the reading passage, but rather summarizing the points in the lecture. Just skim the reading to get a general idea. The information that you need to summarize will be in the lecture.

      3. Use the structure.

Task 3: Summarize opinion The speakers are discussing [issue from reading passage]. The man/woman thinks … . They think this because [reason 1 + reason 2]
Task 4: Summarize reading & lecture The lecturer discusses [topic]. First, the lecturer mentions … . Next, the lecturer talks about … . Finally, the lecturer discusses … .
Task 5: Summarize problem The speakers are discussing a problem. The problem is… . The man/woman suggests [solution 1 + solution 2]. Personally, I would go with [solution 1/2] because … .
Task 6: Summarize lecture The lecturer discusses the topic presented in the passage, which is [topic]. First, the lecturer mentions … . Next, the lecturer talks about … . Finally, the lecturer discusses … .

       4. Use your preparation time.

For tasks 3 & 4, you get 20 seconds to plan your answer. For tasks 5 & 6, you get 30 seconds. It doesn’t sound like a lot of time; it’s just enough time to plan your structure. So, refer to your notes and, using the structures in the table above, organize your ideas into a coherent order. You won’t have time to write out a full response, so don’t try to do this because you won’t get to finish. It would be more time-efficient to number the information in your notes while you are doing the TOEFL Integrated Speaking. For example:

Example notes:

TOEFL Integrated Speaking notes


TOEFL Integrated Speaking prepare

During the preparation time, look at your notes and number the ideas. It’s also helpful to name them (next to the notes above, I have added 1) diet, 2) habitat and 3) communication next to the details from the lecture. This way, I can refer to my notes during my talk and keep the ideas clear, organised and in order.

         5. Organize your ideas.

As you speak, use transition words to move from one idea to the next. For example, move from introducing the topic to the first idea by saying “firstly…”. Then, move from the first idea to the second one with words like “next”, or “then”. And finally, move from the second idea to the third idea by using words like “finally” or “lastly”. This will help you stay on track and help the listener follow your ideas.

So, know the order and structure of the tasks; take good notes; use the response structures provided; use your preparation time to organize your notes/ideas and finally, use transition words to organize your ideas as you speak.

Need more tips and tricks? Watch this amazing video from E2Language that helps you prepare for your TOEFL test:

Written by Jamal

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