What's Tested on the TOEFL Speaking Section

What’s Tested on the TOEFL Speaking Section

The first thing you must do in the Speaking section is to adjust the microphone on your headset. At the beginning of the section, an instruction will appear, asking you to give a short sample of your speech in order to adjust the recording equipment to your voice. The question may ask you to speak for only 30 seconds about a familiar topic, such as your hometown. This preliminary exercise does not count towards your mark; it is only used to ensure that the computer can record the volume of your voice accurately. This adjustment is done automatically as you respond to the question that appears on the screen. An instruction will appear to inform you when the adjustment is complete.

There are six tasks in the Speaking section. In each case, you listen to and read both the directions and the task question. The first two Speaking tasks are independent, meaning that you speak about familiar topics without listening to or reading any extra material. You have 45 seconds to give each independent response. The remaining four Speaking tasks are integrated, meaning that you must listen to and/or read material before you speak: two of the tasks include reading passages and a conversation or lecture, and two others include a conversation or a lecture only. You have 60 seconds for each integrated task.

The timing throughout this section is preset. That is, unlike in the Reading and Listening sections, you do not choose when you have finished one question and are ready to move to the next. Instead, you have a given amount of time to listen to the task, prepare your response, and respond before the next task begins.

While conversations and lectures that are part of tasks play, photos of people in academic settings appear on the screen. These photos provide minimal context to the conversation or lecture. They do not offer any information that is directly relevant to answering the questions. A Help button in all sections takes you to a list of topics for which helpful explanations are available.

 

Speaking Tasks

The Speaking section contains six tasks on a range of topics. Tasks 1 and 2 are independent speaking tasks—you respond to a short prompt by speaking about a familiar topic. You are scored on your ability to speak clearly and coherently. Tasks 3 through 6 are integrated skills tasks—you read and/or listen first, then speak about what you have read and heard. You may take notes while you read and listen, and use your notes to help prepare your responses. You are scored on your ability to speak clearly and coherently, as well as your ability to accurately synthesize and summarize the information you’ve read and heard.

Following is an overview of the six tasks in the Speaking section.

Speaking TaskDescriptionTime
Independent Task 1: DescriptionSpeak about a familiar topic.15 seconds to prepare; 45 seconds to speak
Independent Task 2: OpinionExpress and support an opinion based on a familiar experience.15 seconds to prepare; 45 seconds to speak
Integrated Task 3: Reading & ConversationRead an announcement (of 100 words or less) about a university life topic, listen to a conversation (about one minute in length) on the same topic, then respond to a question by summarizing what you have read and heard.45 seconds to read the announcement; 30 seconds to prepare; 60 seconds to speak
Integrated Task 4: Reading and LectureRead an academic passage (of 100 to 125 words), listen to a lecture (about one and a half minutes in length) on the same topic, then respond to a question by summarizing and synthesizing information from both passages.30 seconds to prepare; 60 seconds to speak
Integrated Task 5: ConversationListen to a conversation (about one and a half to two minutes in length) between two students discussing a problem and two positions or solutions, then respond to a question by summarizing what you have heard and by expressing and supporting an opinion on a student’s decision.20 seconds to prepare; 60 seconds to speak
Integrated Task 6: LectureListen to a lecture (about one and a half to two minutes in length) on an academic topic, then respond to a question by summarizing what you have heard.20 seconds to prepare; 60 seconds to speak