TOEFL iBT speaking practice: The one thing that you cannot do without

This article is written specifically to those TOEFLers who need to score higher than 26 points on the speaking section.

To get this high of a score requires a lot of effort. In fact, some TOEFL iBT specialists say that, for each point higher than 22, one will need at least 45 hours of speaking practice. Therefore, according to this assertion, to improve from 22 to 26 points will require approximately 180 hours of speaking practice. Of course, some may reach their goal with fewer hours of preparation, whereas others may need even more time. My own experience as the founder, owner, and materials writer of “The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL” suggests that improving from 22-23 to 26 points on the speaking section can take many students anywhere from 1 to 4 months of practice if these learners seek out the right instruction and if they get feedback from qualified TOEFL iBT speaking specialists.

Nevertheless, many TOEFL students try to reach their speaking and writing goals on their own. However, will these students, if they need their brakes replaced in their automobiles, repair them on their own? What if some of these students are diagnosed with a rare form of cancer? Will they treat themselves without consulting medical professionals? In most cases, whether they need automotive repair or medical treatments, these students will consult auto technicians and medical doctors. Similarly, TOEFL iBT speaking specialists are highly educated English as a Second Language instructors. For example, in my case, I have a BA Degree in Spanish and a Master’s in English Composition with an emphasis in Teaching English as a Second Language. In addition, I have more than 22 years of TOEFL teaching experience. Therefore, I consider myself a TOEFL iBT speaking specialist in the sense that I have a complete mastery of phonetics, phonology, morphology, and syntax as these linguistic areas relate to the English language. Hence, I can accurately pinpoint and treat pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, coherence, and topic development problems that are causing students’ speaking scores to plummet. Most learners are not able to diagnose these types of language issues. In fact, these learners are not even aware that they have these problems in the first place.

If you want to prepare for the TOEFL test alone without any professional help, then stop reading this article. If you can accept the fact that using a TOEFL iBT speaking specialist is in your best interest, keep reading because I have an important recommendation to help you get the most out of the feedback that you get from the TOEFL speaking specialist that you hire.

Since the TOEFL integrated and independent speaking rubrics focus on delivery, language use, and topic development categories, I recommend that you keep a speaking journal that focuses in those three areas. Therefore, every time you submit a speaking practice test to your iBT speaking mentor, you should write down the feedback that your mentor gives you.

First of all, after completing a speaking task, your TOEFL iBT speaking specialist may give you comments to help you improve your production of vowel and consonant sounds of American English. Case in point, one of my Online TOEFL Course students manifested problems distinguishing between the tense and lax vowels [i] “beat” and [I] “bit.” Therefore, when giving the student audio comments, I suggested that the student review Pronunciation Lesson 11 which gives the student practice with these two vowel sounds. The student should write down this information in her speaking journal so she knows what lesson she should review.

Second of all, students should write down any feedback that relates to language use, specifically as it relates to grammar and vocabulary usage. For instance, after a student completed an independent speaking task which asked him to discuss advice he would give a friend if s/he did not know what to study at the university, I noticed that the student was having trouble with the subjunctive mood in noun clauses after verbs of urging. As a result, I asked the student to use Google to type in the following information: “What is the subjunctive mood in noun clauses in English Grammar?” Again, the student should write down this information in the language-use category of his/her speaking journal. In addition, after another student completed an integrated speaking task, I discovered that the student was unable to paraphrase the information from the reading and the listening passages for TOEFL Integrated Speaking Task 4. To address this issue, I advised that the student study Vocabulary Lesson 4-6, all of which focus on college-level vocabulary. After getting this valuable information, the student should write this down in his/her speaking journal.

Third of all, students should also get topic development comments from their iBT speaking specialists. Typically, I give comments in this area as they relate to the organization and development of ideas. For example, one of my TOEFL students when describing an important person and explaining why the person was so important used very basic vocabulary and did not provide any specific details to develop the topic. Hence, I told the student to limit his focus and be more specific in using details for the two support points in the response. Upon hearing this information, the student should record this information in the topic development area of his speaking journal. In other situations, many of my students have difficulties framing the topic statement for the independent speaking tasks and often use contrived introductions such as “I have two reasons to support my point of view.” Thus, I advise that these students review my TOEFL Speaking Lesson 2 so that they can learn how to create more sharply-focused topic statements using advanced grammar. When these students get this advice, they should write it down in the topic development category of their journals.

In the final analysis, keeping a speaking journal will help you to take inventory of your delivery, language use, and topic development issues that are bringing your speaking score down. Having this record will help you to know what to study and to know what not to do when completing your next TOEFL speaking practice test. Most importantly, by becoming more aware of these speaking issues BEFORE you take the official TOEFL iBT exam will make it more likely that you will eliminate or at least minimize many of these problems when you finally take the TOEFL