Maria overcomes three problems in order to score 26 on the speaking section of the TOEFL iBT.

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Maria had worked so hard to prepare for her first TOEFL exam, but she was not prepared for how difficult the speaking section of the exam was. The duration of the speaking section was about 20 minutes to answer six speaking tasks: independent speaking tasks 1-2, integrated speaking task 3 (reading, listening, speaking-casual), integrated speaking task 4 (reading, listening, speaking-academic), integrated speaking task 5 (listening, speaking-casual), and integrated speaking task 6 (listening, speaking-academic). However, since the speaking section moved so quickly, Maria did not have a lot time to think through her responses. As a result, she scored 21/30 on the speaking section, which was short of her requirement of 26 in order to meet the license requirements to become a practicing dentist in the United States. Based on her results, it was quite clear why she had scored so low: Maria had not done well on the integrated speaking tasks 4 and 6, both of which contained conceptually dense academic content. It would take 2-3 months of TOEFL iBT speaking practice before Maria would be able to solve her note-taking, language use, and organizational problems that were keeping her integrated speaking tasks low during the official TOEFL exam.

First, Maria needed to improve her note-taking abilities so that she could accurately identify the main and most important supporting points of academic reading and listening passages. Therefore, her TOEFL iBT speaking mentor advised that, when completing integrated speaking task 4, Maria draw a line down the center of the page which would help her to analyze the information from the reading and listening passages. Then, in the first column, Maria was instructed, in two or three words, to write down the main idea of the reading passage. After, she was told to write down two or three supporting points again in two or three words. Most importantly, Maria was told that she should use her own vocabulary and grammar as she explained these ideas so that the iBT human raters would not accuse her of plagiarism. In the second column, Maria was coached to use two or three words to identify the main point of the listening passage, after which she also used a few words to identify its supporting points. Her iBT speaking mentor informed her that she should listen for ideas in the listening passage that correlated with the points mentioned in the reading passage and that again she should paraphrase or summarize these ideas to avoid plagiarism.

Second, since the integrated speaking tasks 4 and 6 were more academic, Maria had had considerable sentence structure issues when making these responses during the TOEFL exam. Consequently, her TOEFL iBT speaking mentor, after listening to several of her integrated speaking practice tests, discovered that her main problem was sentence combining. For example, when answering an integrated speaking task, Maria used the following sentence in her response: “The reading passage discusses the political effects of advertising. The listening passage discusses the economic effects of advertising.” To help Maria be more concise, her TOEFL iBT speaking mentor told her to rephrase her idea by combining the main points of the reading and the listening passage into one sentence: “The reading and listening passages discuss the political and economic effects of advertising.” To further help her with her sentence structure, Maria was advised to study TOEFL Grammar Lessons 8, 10, 12, 15, and 26, all of which focus on compound sentences, adjectives clauses, noun clauses, adverb clauses, and sentence variety. Slowly but surely, after careful study, Maria started to use a combination of basic and advanced grammar with fewer and fewer errors. In short, she started to practice as she posted integrated speaking practice tests what she had been learning in her grammar lessons. Hence, she got more and more positive feedback about her language use from her TOEFL iBT speaking mentor.

Third, now that Maria had learned how to take effective notes and that she had learned how to more effectively combine her ideas to avoid language-use problems, she now needed to organize her ideas more effectively. Her main topic development issue stemmed from her inability to create a note-taking template to organize the main and supporting points of the reading and listening passages. However, she had learned how to do that now. Another topic development issue was to make sure that Maria could catch the main and most important points from the academic listening passages during the TOEFL iBT exam. In other words, Maria had a listening comprehension problem that causing her to score lower on the integrated speaking tasks that involved academic listening passages. Therefore, Maria, using the listening note-taking strategies that she learned in TOEFL Listening Lesson 1, was urged to spend time going through the 40 listening practice tests in her Online TOEFL Course. Then she used her notes to answer the multiple-choice comprehension questions, after which she practiced speaking about the main and the most important supporting points. As she practiced speaking about the listening passages, Maria recorded her responses at a self-study Better TOEFL Scores Voxopop Talk Group. Making regular recordings helped Maria to get more comfortable speaking to a microphone. More importantly, she became more aware of delivery, language use, and topic development problems she was having, which helped her to minimize these problems when completing future integrated speaking practice tests.

And that was just about all Maria could do to improve her integrated speaking proficiencies for the TOEFL exam. Her TOEFL iBT speaking mentor and she had worked hard together to improve her note-taking, language use, and organization and development of her TOEFL iBT integrated speaking, so now it was time for her to re-test. Finally, this time taking the TOEFL exam proved to be the last time she would ever need to take the TOEFL exam, for Maria was able to exactly meet her mark on the speaking section by scoring 26/30.

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