Why it is hard to pass TOEFL speaking

Why it is so hard to pass the TOEFL speaking section wonder  students in so many parts of the world.  These desperate students wanting to improve their speaking scores post their questions at Quora. These students complain at Face Book about why it is so hard to pass the TOEFL speaking section. Why is it so hard, for example, to score 26/30 points of higher on the speaking section of the TOEFL exam?

Why it is hard to pass TOEFL speaking
Why it is hard to pass TOEFL speaking

Why it is hard to pass the TOEFL speaking section: Scoring 26 or higher ranks you in the 88% percentile.

Scoring 26 points on the speaking section puts you into the 88% percentile when you compare yourself to the 1000’s of other students who take the test annually.  That means about 10%  of all the students who take the TOEFL ever score this high. Therefore, statistically, you need to rank much higher than the majority of the test-takers to reach this high speaking score.

Why it is hard to pass the TOEFL speaking section: You could have problems with your pronunciation.

One factor that may explain why it is so hard to pass the TOEFL speaking is pronunciation. Delivery is the first category of a speaking rubric that human raters use to evaluate your speaking.   Most likely, you are having trouble pronouncing the vowel and consonant sounds clearly in the words that you utter.  In addition, you could be having problems with syllable division and grammatical word endings. You could also be having trouble with word stress, sentence rhythm, and intonation.  Lastly, you could be having trouble with thought groups and blending.

During the integrated speaking tasks, you are sometimes trying to re-explain academic concepts and examples from reading passages and lectures. Many of these words have Latin, Greek, Spanish, and Arabic origins. Therefore, these academic words can have unpredictable pronunciation patterns.  As a result, your delivery issues make it hard for others to understand you. Hence, you receive a lower speaking score.

Why it is hard to pass the TOEFL speaking section: You may have some vocabulary issues.

Another factor which may affect your score is vocabulary.  English has almost 1,000,000 words in its language.  However, you only need to have a vocabulary base of about  2,000 words.  Nevertheless, many students who take the TOEFL exam do not have a good vocabulary base. Consequently, these test-takers, because of a limited vocabulary, cannot fully express their ideas during the independent and integrated speaking tasks. In some cases, the TOEFL test speakers may be using an inappropriate word or phrase. In other cases, they may leave important words from reading and listening passages simply because they do not understand the words or because they do not know how to pronounce these college-level words. Whatever the reason, many students score lower on the speaking because of their vocabulary problems.

Why it is hard to pass the TOEFL speaking section:  Grammar issues may he holding your score down.

A third factor affecting your speaking is grammar.  If you do not understand, for example, how to use gerunds and infinitives, you will avoid or misuse these common grammar structures. For instance, one  of my online TOEFL Course students, Aljadar, completed an integrated speaking practice test earlier today.  In part of his response, he said:

By use an example of an animal changes his coat to white in the winter, the professor shows how camouflage works.

By changing “use” to “using” and “changes” to “changing,” the sentence should read like this:

By using an example of an animal changing his coat to white in the winter, the professor shows how camouflage works.

Sometimes in his responses,  Aljadar would use simple present verbs to summarize the reading and listening passage. In other parts, he would use simple past tense verbs to explain the most important points from the reading and the listening passage.  Therefore, the inconsistency with his verb tenses caused his TOEFL practice test score to go down. In addition, his inability to use gerunds acutely magnified his grammar limitations. If you have these and also types of grammar problems in your speaking, you will not score 26+ on the speaking section of the TOEFL exam. Not sure if your grammar skills are at-level for the TOEFL exam? CLICK HERE

Why it is hard to pass the TOEFL speaking section: Your first language is vastly different from English.

A fourth factor which may affect your ability to score high on the speaking may be the first language that you speak. For example, Spanish, like English, is part of the Indo-Eruopean language family.  Thus, English and Spanish shares many similar looking  words: “telefono”versus “telephone” or “automovil” versus “automobile.”  Consequently, Spanish speakers can have an easier time learning vocabulary words in English than  Japanese, Chinese, and Korean speakers who are learning English.   If your first language has a very different grammar than that of English, it may make it more difficult for you to score high on the speaking section.

To illustrate, Korean and Japanese use a subject, object, and verb word order, so it would be quite natural for these speakers to say, “I sandwich ate.”, instead of saying “I ate a sandwich.”  Chinese does not use verb tenses.  In this language, it would be natural for Chinese speakers to say, “I go store yesterday.”, I go store today,” and “I  go store tomorrow.”

Consequently, the differences that exist between your first language and English may be making it difficult for you to score high on the TOEFL speaking section.

Why it is hard to pass the TOEFL speaking section: Goal disjunction could be stalemating your English.

A fifth factor affecting your speaking score is goal disjunction. This refers to two goals which are in direct conflict with each other.  For example, suppose you want to work in a company in your country. This company does not require that you speak  English. Or,  maybe you are thinking of completing a graduate degree in pharmacy in the United States. To clear your pharmacy credential, you will need a score of 26 on the speaking section of the TOEFL exam.  If you are unsure of what you want to do in your future, you will find it difficult to score high on the speaking section.  To get a high speaking score, you will need to be fully committed to this target subtotal score. Do not let other goals conflict with this goal.  Some students think, “If I can score 26 on TOEFL speaking, then I will……..”  However, that type of mindset shows doubt. You must change you thinking to “When I score 26 on TOEFL speaking, then I will……..”

Why it is hard to pass the TOEFL speaking section: You may be following the wrong study path to improve your speaking.

Finally,  the sixth factor affecting your score is the very real possibility that you are on the wrong path. To score 26, some students re-take the TOEFL exam over and over hoping they will achieve a high score. When they fall short of their speaking subtotal score, they pay additional money to have their speaking section re-scored. This usually fails.

Other students will watch Note-Full vides at You Tube to learn how to score higher than 26 on TOEFL speaking. They may pay some money to join Magoosh TOEFL to learn more about the speaking section. They will watch more videos to get TOEFL test-taking strategies. Moreover, they will memorize templates that they will use on the actual TOEFL exam. These students usually will end up taking the TOEFL exam many times and will be unable to score 26 on the speaking section.

What is missing in these examples so far? These You Tubers, NoteFull, and Magoosh users are not practicing their speaking before they re-take the TOEFL exam. They are not getting any feedback from a TOEFL speaking mentor so that they can monitor their progress. These students have chosen the wrong path to improve their speaking.

Why it is hard to pass the TOEFL speaking section: Get on the right path!

Think about the following questions:

  1. Are you tired of being in TOEFL hell because you cannot score 26 on the TOEFL speaking section?
  2. Have you taken the TOEFL exam repeatedly and still have not passed the speaking section?
  3. Do you want to be able to send your speaking practice every day to a TOEFL speaking mentor who will provide you 6-8 minutes of feedback? In his feedback, this mentor will correct your pronunciation, language use, and topic development.
  4. Are you willing to invest $45 monthly until you reach your target speaking score of 26?
  5. Do you want to hire a TOEFL speaking mentor for $45 monthly with more than 25 years of TOEFL teaching  experience?
  6. Do you want a TOEFL speaking mentor who will never give up on your goals?

I specialize in making the impossible possible for many students who have been unable to pass the TOEFL speaking section.  Sometimes I can help students score 26 in as little as one month. In one extreme case, however, I had a student who had to complete more than 266 speaking practice tests over 6 months before he scored 26.   No matter how long it takes, I will score and provide feedback on every speaking practice test that you send me to grade. If you join my course, it will be my mission to help you reach your desired speaking subtotal score.

Good luck!

Michael Buckhoff, mbuckhoff@aol.com

TOEFL Speaking Boot Camp Course: This course is designed to help students who have not been able to score 26 on the speaking section of the TOEFL iBT. Join this course today so you can start solving your pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and topic development problems.

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