In an email, a student asked me, “How long to increase TOEFL speaking score from 25 to 26?” Feeling frustrated, many students have also gotten stuck at 25/30 points on the speaking section of the TOEFL exam. Therefore, they also wonder the same question. However, answering this question is not easy. Getting past 25 points may depend on what type of delivery, language-use, and topic development errors are holding you back and how much effort you are willing to put forth in order to improve.
How long to increase TOEFL speaking score from 25 to 26 may depend on what types of delivery errors you are having.
First of all, your being able to speak clearly (or intelligibly) may depend on what types of pronunciation problems you have. Generally speaking, several problems may be interfering in your ability to speak with clear, understandable pronunciation.
- Inaccurate pronunciation of vowel and consonant sounds
- Forgetting to pronounce syllables and grammatical word endings
- Problems identifying the stressed syllable in a multi-syllabic word; difficulties making the stressed syllable clearer, longer, louder and higher-pitched
- Using inappropriate sentence rhythm with content (stress) and function (unstress) words
- Inability to vary intonation
- Failure to use thought groups of 5-6 stressed words; not being able to blend words within thought groups
Generally, the more delivery problems you have, the more you will have to practice to improve. In addition, how long you have been having pronunciation problems plays a pivotal factor in determining how long it will take to improve. For example, if you have only been speaking English for 1-2 years, you will be able to improve your pronunciation in just a few short months. However, if you have been having a multitude of these pronunciation problems for 10 years or more, it may take a year or more before you can re-teach your brain to pronounce English more clearly.
What types of language-use errors do you have?
Second of all, in addition to delivery issues, do you have any problems with vocabulary or grammar?
Common Vocabulary Problems
- Overuse with basic vocabulary
- Inaccurate, misuse, or imprecise vocabulary
- Avoidance of college-level or advanced vocabulary
- Over-reliance on basic grammar structures
- Too many same-sounding, short 10-15 words sentences
- Problems with basic verb tenses, word forms, and word order
- Inability to use an appropriate tone that matches the speaking tasks
- Blatant omission of function words such as determiners, prepositions, and auxiliary verbs
Again, if you have several vocabulary and grammar problems and have been having these problems for 10 or more years, it will be difficult, if not almost impossible, to make improvements. Moreover, you will have to exert a tremendous effort to make improvements in these areas. Finally, you may not even be willing to put forth the effort that you need in order to get real results. However, if English is relatively a new language, you have a good chance of improving your vocabulary and grammar so long as you get the right guidance, practice, and feedback. Because of limitations in both grammar and vocabulary, many students end up in TOEFL Hell.
Do you have any topic development issues?
Finally, whether you have topic development issues also affects your ability to score higher than 25/30 points on the speaking section of the TOEFL exam. There is bad and good news regarding your ability to improve in these areas.
- First, let’s talk about the bad news. If your topic development issues are connected to your grammar and vocabulary limitations, then you will have to study and practice for a very long time before you are able to fully develop and organize your ideas.
- Second, the good news is this: if you are already competent in your basic and advanced vocabulary and grammar usage, then improving your topic development may merely be learning some new strategies. In this case, once you learn the concepts of coherence and cohesion, you should be able to improve your topic development in just a few weeks or at worst a few months.
So, how long will it take you to improve your TOEFL speaking score from 25 to 26 points?
At the very minimum, it could take you fewer than three months to improve your TOEFL speaking score from 25 to 26 points. At the very worst, you may never be able to reach that score if your delivery, language-use, and topic development problems are a result of fossilization. Somehwere in between the two extremes, it may take you more than one year to improve your stubborn delivery, language-use, and topic development issues.