My TOEFL iBT Preparation Class: The Shyest Student Is the Best Speaker!

Michael Buckhoff’s “7 Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT

Exam!” “Give me a power-packed TOEFL lesson!”

Speak coherently during TOEFL iBT speaking tasks.
Speak coherently during TOEFL iBT speaking tasks.

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My students delivered impromptu TOEFL iBT speaking tasks in my TOEFL class on Friday: “Which place would you prefer to visit? What is your favorite vacation destination? What change would you want your country to make? What would your dream job be like?”
But no one stood out. No student was worthy of the score of 3.0/4.0 or 4.0/4.0 TOEFL iBT score. Many had given speeches with sufficient detail. Some even had fluent speech with fairly clear pronunciation.

All the these students had one thing in common: they did not have a clear pattern of organization around which to organize their 45 second TOEFL iBT speaking tasks. Instead, they presented details without any generalizations. Lacking topic statements to begin their speeches, these students did not use repetition of key words and phrases, rephrased key words, determiners and pronouns, or transitions to link the ideas together. To put it bluntly, they did not use cohesive devices to organize their ideas.

I had just about lost hope–especially since the last speaker of the day was a shy student from Taiwan whose speaking skills I had not had a chance to observe. Always sitting in the back and keeping a low profile, she was the quiet one in my TOEFL iBT class. She never said much at all. There were 10 minutes of class instruction left, and now it was her turn to speak. “Would she speak at all or would she simply stare and say nothing?” I thought as I got ready to give her a speaking task.

“Su Jen, your speaking task is the following: If you could meet one person in your life, who would that person be and why?” I asked. “You have 1 minute to prepare your response” (I always give my TOEFL students more time to prepare their speaking responses in the first few weeks of the session and gradually reduce their preparation time down to 15 seconds by the end of the session.).”

At that point, Su Jen began to jot down some notes as she contemplated the topic. Then, I told her, “You now have 45 seconds to speak.” Nervously she stood up and began to give her speech. She discussed that she would want to meet a famous singer in Taiwan and how she could learn some tips on how to be a better singer from this entertainer.

After her speech, I was very surprised: the quietest student in my class had just given the most coherently organized speech. She began with a topic statement restating the question. She also included transition words and other cohesive devices as she explained three reasons why she would want to meet this singer. She even ended her speech with a short conclusion. Upon her completion, I applauded her, and the entire class joined in unison. Some of her classmates seemed to be almost as surprised as I was at how skilled Su Jen was in delivering her well-developed and organized TOEFL iBT speech.

Sometimes, you cannot judge a book by its cover. And how true this statement was today.

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Michael Buckhoff’s “7 Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT

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4 thoughts on “My TOEFL iBT Preparation Class: The Shyest Student Is the Best Speaker!

  1. Yes, your approach to the TOEFL iBT independent speaking tasks is organized. If you find that, after giving and supporting your second reason, you still have some time left, you might consider giving a third reason. However, most TOEFL iBT test-takers do not speak fast enough to give a third reason and finish the speaking task within the 45 second time constraint. And, as long as you use advanced grammar structures, advanced vocabulary, and clear pronunciation, you will be guaranteed a high score. Thanks for sharing!

  2. my opinion on the iBT speaking test is to find two reasons to support my topic. And we use to give a topic sentence at first. then use details to support the reasons. we also need the transitional words, right? at last we must have a summary sentence.

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