How to Improve a TOEFL score from 14-17 to 23 pts on the Speaking Section

Srikanth, one of my Online TOEFL Course students of The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT, has been working hard to improve his academic English language abilities. Thus far, Sri has been scoring between 14-17 points on his independent and integrated speaking tasks.  What can be said about his speaking proficiency based on his score and what does he need to do in order to improve his delivery, language-use, and topic development? In other words, what will Sri need to do in order to score higher than 23/30 on the speaking section of the TOEFL iBT?

The first problem that Sri has with his speaking is his delivery, which is characterized as having stress and intonation problems. These stress and tone difficulties result in choppy and fragmented  speech which makes it difficult understand his ideas. Solving this problem will take time, and Sri will need to complete all the pronunciation lessons in his Online TOEFL Course to improve: vowels, consonants, syllable division, grammatical word endings,  word stress, sentence rhythm, thought groups, and blending. Using his Online TOEFL Course will not be enough, however.  Sri will need to watch 3-5 English movies weekly, he will need to practice singing  out loud in English using You Tube videos with lyrics, and he will need to speak English more with native speakers of English.

The second area of concern for Sri’s speaking deficiencies is his limitations with both grammar and vocabulary. To illustrate, Sri’s range and control of vocabulary is extremely limited in the sense that he cannot fully express his ideas.  In some cases, these limitations prevent him from connecting the different parts of his responses together. In other cases, he relies heavily on memorized expressions or templates that he has practiced.  He lacks spontaneous and natural sounding English, which prevents him from fluently communicating to others.  To make progress with his language use, Sri will need to master the vocabulary and grammar lessons in his Online TOEFL course, and mastery does not simply mean that he should complete all the practice tests in those sections of his course. Sri will need to practice using the vocabulary and grammar while he is speaking until it becomes more natural to use the words and grammar structures that he is studying. In addition to using his course to improve, Sri will need to regularly read newspapers, magazines, and books in order to get more used to natural sounding vocabulary and grammar.  Moreover, Sri can also watch television programs such as documentaries, news broadcasts, science shows to continue to get used to the spoken language of English.

Similar to delivery and language use, Sri also has problems relating to topic development in that he expresses his ideas on a basic level. Put another way, Sri is not providing specific details to support his generalizations. Moreover, Sri is not able to clearly show how the ideas in his speaking responses connect together. Improving topic development will happen as Sri continues to post speaking practice tests for his mentor to listen to and comment on.  To help Sri improve, he should take extra time writing down, organizing, and developing his speaking responses right now in an attempt to ensure that his responses are well organized and developed. Eventually, Sri will develop more control and specificity with his speaking responses, which will help him to score higher.

In short, Sri will need to make improvements in delivery, language use, and topic development if he indeed improves his TOEFL score from 15 to 23 points on the speaking section. Of course, it will not be easy, but if Sri’s follows the suggestions in this article, he will get better in time.