Five Fallacies about TOEFL Speaking

Five Fallacies about TOEFL Speaking in this blog post will help you to understand what is involved when you are preparing to score higher than 26 on the speaking section of the TOEFL iBT.  You have probably read social media comments about students who prepared for the TOEFL for 1-7 days and reached 100+ and 26+ on the speaking section. These students pretend that they only practiced their English for a few days and got these incredible scores. Unfortunately, language-learning does not work like that. Like many students, you will likely find it challenging and frustrating to score 26+ on the speaking section.

Five fallacies about TOEFL speaking

1. I can easily reach 26 on TOEFL speaking.


As you can read here, only 12% of all test-takers ever reach 26 on the speaking section of the TOEFL.  Therefore, it I can be quite difficult statistically to reach 26.

    • Learn about a student who was able to improve her speaking by focusing on one important area: CLICK HERE
    • In the below video, you will learn about Javier, who spent nearly two years of speaking practice before he was able to score 27 on the speaking section:

These two examples show that reaching 26 on TOEFL speaking is NOT easy. Instead, you will have to practice a lot. In short this is one of the five fallacies about TOEFL speaking.


2. Memorizing templates will help me to reach my speaking target score sooner.


Many students believe that they can memorize templates and use them on the speaking section of the TOEFL.  Consider the below questions:

  • Will you be able to rely on templates when you talk to  patients when you are a doctor, nurse, physical therapist, or pharmacist?
  • Do you think that the TOEFL iBT human raters will not recognize that you are using templates during the speaking section?

A while back, I wrote a article Avoid TOEFL Templates  in which I discussed several problems with using TOEFL templates:

    • During the speaking section, ETS is measuring your academic speaking proficiency, not your ability to memorize sentences for the four TOEFL speaking tasks.
    • Using templates reveal your grammar and vocabulary limitations since you are not confident enough in your own speaking proficiency. Therefore, you will score lower if you rely too much on templates.
    • Learn more here about why you should not use templates during the speaking section of the TOEFL iBT.

Now you know the second of five fallacies about TOEFL speaking.

3. I do not need qualified TOEFL mentors to coach me.


Many students try to go it alone and take the TOEFL exam multiple times, each time falling short of their target speaking score.  Take a minute and listen to the following speaking practice test sent to me last week by a student:

Do you believe that BK could have learned what his delivery, language-use, and topic development problems were on his own? Like BK, many students have no idea what specific speaking problems they have. Nor do they know why they are not able to score 26+, as you can learn in the below You Tube video:

In short, a TOEFL mentor (like me!) can show you what your speaking problems are and what type of practice you should complete for improvement.  This is the third of five fallacies about TOEFL speaking.

4. I can reach my speaking target score only by completing TOEFL Practice Online (TPO).


You will be surprised that many students believe that simply completing TPO practice tests over and over will help them reach their target score of 26.  To illustrate, take a few minutes to listen to actual recordings of students who sent me practice tests:


Example A:


Example B:


Example C:

Do you believe that these three students will be able to reach 26+ on the speaking section simply by completing TPO speaking practice tests?  Of course not, right? These students will need to improve their grammar and vocabulary usage. In addition, they will need to improve their pronunciation and overall speaking fluency. Finally, they will need to make improvements in how they develop and organize their ideas.  These students will need to get important feedback so they know what to do to improve. This is the fourth of five fallacies about TOEFL speaking.


5. I do not need a TOEFL Speaking Study Guide to help me.


Not having a TOEFL speaking study guide to help you is like driving to a unknown destination with no map to get there. Consider the following absurd conversation between John and Kellie:

  • John:  Are you ready to go on our trip?
  • Kellie: Yes, I am.  Where are we going?
  •  John: I do not know. Let’s go now.
  •  Kellie: OK.

Obviously, the above conversation is not logical. Like having a destination when you go on a trip, using a TOEFL speaking study guide will help you get the practice you need. For example, take a few minutes to look through a TOEFL Speaking Boot Camp course study guide.  Consider the following questions:

  •  Why do you think the first practice activity is a pronunciation pre-test for vowel and consonant sounds?
  •  Did you notice that I have specific vocabulary and grammar lessons that my TOEFLers complete?
  •  What type of reading and listening practice does my speaking course provide my users?  Why do I want them to complete those reading, listening, and note-taking exercises?
  • What type of speaking feedback do I provide my students after they complete an independent or integrated speaking practice test?

Clearly, having a specific TOEFL speaking study guide will help you to pinpoint your weaknesses and give you the practice you need to improve.

Now that I have given you five fallacies about TOEFL speaking, I challenge you to once and for all, for the love of God and everything that is holy upon this Earth, to consider becoming one of my TOEFL speaking students.  I will help you finish the TOEFL so you can move on with your life.

May the next TOEFL exam you take be your last!

Michael Buckhoff,

Teaching Experience

TOEFL Speaking and Writing Feedback Service

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