How TOEFL Tests Your Speaking Skills

How TOEFL Tests Your Speaking Skills

Which TOEFL format tests speaking skills?

TOEFL is delivered in several formats – a paper-based test (PBT) and an Internet-based test (iBT). The speaking section is available only on the iBT TOEFL. The iBT TOEFL is the more accessible test internationally. It is offered over 50 times a year throughout the world.

Where can you take an iBT TOEFL?

Although the name of the format – iBT - suggests that it is done via the Internet, iBT TOEFL is administered in testing centres authorised by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). This means, that you cannot do the test from home or elsewhere. You should register in advance and select a test centre where you will take the test on the date you booked during registration. The test is done on a computer.

What is the Speaking section?

The iBT TOEFL has four sections (Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing). It is over 3 hours long with just one break of 10 minutes after section 2. The Speaking Section comes third and it starts immediately after the break.

You will have 20 minutes to complete 6 tasks which evaluate your speaking skills. There are three types of tasks - reading texts and replying to questions 1 and 2, reading texts and listening to talks on the same topic and replying to questions 3 and 4, and listening to conversations and lectures and replying to questions 5 and 6.

How are your responses evaluated?

For the speaking section you will use headphones and a microphone. When you speak, your responses are recorded. Your responses are then scored on your ability to accurately convey information, and to speak clearly and coherently.

For each of the six tasks, you have time to prepare your response and time to speak. You can take notes and use them when you speak. For questions 1 and 2, preparation time is limited to 15 seconds and the response time is 45 seconds. For questions 3 and 4, you have 30 seconds to prepare and 60 seconds to reply, and respectively – 20 and 60 seconds for preparation and response to questions 5 and 6.

Practical considerations

Some test-takers feel uncomfortable to talk “to the computer” without any real interaction. It is good to practice getting used to this setting. Another embarrassing factor is that test-takers often get distracted by the hearing the voices of the rest of the test takers in the centre. So you should practice keeping your concentration despite the circumstances. It is also a good idea to check how the IELTS tests your speaking skills, before you select which test to take in order to perform at your best.


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