How to Improve TOEFL Speaking Skills & Scores?

Speaking is generally accepted as the hardest skill among the four skills of English language. Whether this statement is true or not is discussed by a lot of experts. But one thing is clear. TOEFL Speaking is the nightmare of many students. However, through regular practice and planned studying, it is not too hard to overcome the so-called hardest part of the exam. In this post, we are going to take a look at some materials and methods that can be or should be used to practice for TOEFL Speaking test.


You are going to respond to 2 independent (personal preference and choice) and 4 dependent questions (campus situation explain, academic course general, campus situation problem/solution and academic course summary) during Toefl speaking test. It means that in some questions you will just speak for 40-45 seconds, in some others you will read a passage or listen to an audio file and then explain these situations or find some solutions to some problems and talk about them for 45-60 seconds. You will have 15-30 seconds of preparation time before you answer the questions. Your responds will be evaluated in terms of delivery, language use and topic development.

Some important things to do before starting to prepare for the speaking test:

There will be four main activities that you are going to do in order to improve Toefl speaking test scores:



1. Imitating competent English speakers' speaking styles (your teacher, the person who gives sample answers in the material you use, online teachers etc.).
2. Practicing speaking every day.
3. Getting reviewed by someone who is a competent English speaker.
4. Trying to eliminate your mistakes as much as possible.

Both of these activities are of equal importance as well as getting known to the overall style of the test and to the question types in the exam. That's why, the first thing you should do is to get a competent English speaker (a teacher preferably, a friend, an online friend etc.) to guide you about the question types, your mistakes, your weak points that you need to work on by checking your answers to sample Toefl speaking questions. You can do this through direct contact (sample speaking exams), online (through skype) or through voice records (via email, whatsapp etc.).

Preparation Period

Now that you have your guide and you know what you are going to do in general you can start collecting materials. You can choose your materials among these (I advise you to try to use all of them:

  • Official Toefl preparation books and programs: These are the best materials to get ready for the Toefl speaking test. You can practice through questions that are similar to the actual speaking test questions. You can also get better by listening to sample answers by competent speakers. Don't forget to record your voice and analyze it with your guide to improve your speaking while studying with official preparation books and their computer programs. Their only negative side is they generally cost too much. 
  • Sample Toefl speaking test videos on Youtube: There are many English teachers who provide free Toefl sample speaking test videos on Youtube. Through these videos you can practice speaking and you can learn other ways to answer questions and different words and phrases to use apart from yours. While practicing through these videos, follow this sequence: When you hear the question stop the video and try to answer it. When you stop answering, listen to the speaker's answer to the same question to improve yours. Always remember to use a timer to answer the question by using the time effectively. 
  • A person who is a competent English speaker: Well, I think this is the best material to practice speaking with :). If you have a teacher, a friend, a colleague (anyone who is a competent English speaker), you should try to spend some time with him or her (of course without annoying him or her). While speaking English with this person, urge him to tell you your mistakes while speaking (pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary etc.). By doing this you can improve your speaking in a short period of time. 
During the test:

Toefl Speaking test generally lasts 20 minutes. It is the shortest part of the exam. But it's generally the most stressful part due to active production and simultaneousness. That's why the most important things is to be calm during the speaking test.

Check your microphone properly before starting the speaking part of the test. If there are any problems, get help from one of the examiners.

Make use of the preparation time. Don't try to write down everything you will say while answering a question. Just write the most important word that will make you remember your general intended answer. Draw yourself a route to answer the question. Make sure that you involve at least 2 reasons or 2 solutions on your paper.

Mistakes are OK. Remember, in order to get a 30, nobody wants you to be perfect. You can make some mistakes. Just try to minimize them while speaking. When you do mistakes, just let it go and keep trying to answer as best as you can. 

Try not to hear others around you. Most Toefl speaking test rooms are crowded. That's why most test-takers will also be answering the questions with you during the speaking test. Try not to hear them and focus on your own questions and answers. You can get better at this by practicing speaking in noisy environments. It will make you concentrate on your own speaking in an effective way. 


All in all, I believe that the points listed in this post will be helpful for you to improve your Toefl speaking scores. If you have any further questions, feel free to comment or contact me through my email adress.

Good luck.

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