Lacks TOEFL Speaking Elaboration?

If your TOEFL speaking lacks elaboration, you will not score 4.0 on any of the tasks.  In fact, one of the most common reasons that students score 3.0 on a TOEFL speaking task is because they fail to elaborate or to provide specificity.

Lacks TOEFL Speaking Elaboration

What does elaborate mean?


You should make sure that your TOEFL speaking does not lack elaboration.

Simply put, “to elaborate” means to develop or present a response in detail.  With TOEFL independent speaking task 1, the details typically come from your personal experience. Moreover, you can certainly use details from the experiences of people that you know. Lastly, you can imagine or create details that help you to develop your response. With TOEFL integrated speaking tasks 2-4, the details that you use will come from the most important points in the reading and listening passages.

“Detail,” when used as a noun, refers to an individual feature, fact, or item. Furthermore, “detail” can also be used as a verb. “To detail” means to describe item by item and to give the full particulars of.

In any case, you should elaborate on the ideas you present by presenting telling detail that makes your responses authentic and personalized.

What is it important to elaborate in my TOEFL speaking response?

Take a minute to read the below TOEFL independent speaking rubric, particularly focusing on the highlighted area.  A TOEFL speaking response commonly scores 3.0/4.0 or 23/30 pts. inasmuch as the response “usually lacks elaboration or specificity.”



Similarly, a close examination of the TOEFL integrated speaking rubrics pinpoints the importance of not having a “lack of specificity with respect to content.” In other words, if you do not provide the necessary details required by the integrated speaking tasks, you will end up scoring 3.0/4.0 or 23/30 pts. or lower.

TOEFL integrated speaking rubrics









Therefore, if your aim is to score 4.0/4.0 or 30/30 pts. on the speaking section, you had better get used to being a lot more precise and specific in your TOEFL speaking responses.

How do I elaborate effectively during the TOEFL speaking section?

To understand elaboration, you need to train yourself to think at three coherent layers of meaning: main, support, and sub-support ideas.  The sub-support ideas of your speaking responses should contain the details.

  • Main Idea: I prefer running over bicyling as my favorite exercise.
  • Support idea:  Running is safer than bicyling.
  • Sub-support idea: Instead of sharing the road with cars, I can run on desginated cement, asphalt, or dirt paths in parks, forests, or along beaches. For instance, my friend, who advidly trains daily, runs 10-15 kilometers on a trail in Oxford, Mississippi. No motorized vehicles  are allowed on this path, so my friend can run without having to worry about being killed by oncoming traffic.

Now that you know that you need to provide sub-support details in your TOEFL speaking tasks, you should also understand the concept of using concise, precise wording.

You only have 45 to 60 seconds to deliver each TOEFL speaking task; therefore, you should make every word count. Several important conciseness guidelines will help you to be much more concise:

Replace several ambiguous words with a more precise word.

Generally, using several short and unclear words in your TOEFL speaking response wastes energy and valuable time. More specific words leads to more concise and precise speaking.  The English language has an abundance of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. As a result, most ideas you want to convey have a closely corresponding description.  Download your TOEFL Vocabulary PDF today.

  • (21) Wordy: In my opinion, I prefer running as a favorite form of exercise. I have several reasons to support my point of view.
  • (8) Concise: Running is safer and helps me burn more calories.
  • (14) Wordy: The speaker in the listening passage talks about the benefits of the campus announcement.
  • (6) Concise: The speaker touts the campus announcement.

Examine every word you speak.

As you perform speaking practice tests, listen to your recording. Check to see that every word you use advances your argument. If some of the words you use are dead weight, you should replace or delete them.

  • (34) Wordy: The author in the reading passage explains three specific behavior patterns of Coyotes, and the speaker in the lecture casts doubt on each of the claims mentioned by the speaker in the listening passage.
  • (24) Concise: The author in the reading passage explains three Coyote behaviors, and the speaker in the lecture casts doubt on each of the claims mentioned.

Combine sentences.

Consider combining sentences to be more concise. In addition, combining sentences showcases your control of advanced grammar.

  • (22) Wordy:  Studying alone allows me to concentrate on my studies. When I am studying alone, I am not distracted by others around me.
  • (16 ) Concise: Studying alone allows me to concentrate on my studies since I am not distracted by others.

What is the difference between a response that lacks TOEFL speaking elaboration and a specific response?

To further make sure that your response does not lack TOEFL speaking elaboration, you should understand the difference between a generic and specific response.

  • A generic TOEFL speaking response seems contrived. It lacks TOEFL speaking elaboration. It sounds like many of other speaking responses that TOEFL iBT human raters listen to. Further, these types of TOEFL speaking tasks are unoriginal. In some cases, these responses use memorized templates from popular web sites. Finally, they are low-scoring.
  • On the other hand, specific TOEFL speaking responses are more personalized, usually using personal examples that iBT human raters have not heard before. Most importantly, these speaking responses are fresh, original, and high-scoring.

This response lacks TOEFL speaking elaboration:

Notice how the generic response below lacks TOEFL speaking elaboration.

In my opinion, I believe that running is a better form of exercise. I have several reasons to support my point of view.

First of all, running is a lot safer than bicycling. You do not have to worry about being in paths where there are cars. You can just run away from those areas on other parts. That way you can stay away from danger.

Second of all,  running burns more calories than bicyling, which is better. If you run five miles, you will burn more energy since running involves the movements on many muscle groups in  the body.

Therefore, I believe that running is a more effective form of exercise.

Specific response with elaboration:

Running is safer and burns more calories, so I prefer it over bicycling.

First, running is safer since I do not have to run on streets. For instance, Fairmont Park, which has a I mile dirt path around a lake, is about 1/2 mile from my house. Only walkers and runners are allowed, so when I run there, I do not have to worry about getting hit by vehicles or bicycles.

Second, running involves muscle groups located in the core, arms, and legs, so if I choose to run five miles, I will burn more than 500 calories. Therefore, running helps me to maintain my weight. For instance, I used to weigh 79 kilograms, but, after I started running about 35 miles weekly, I got my weight down to 68 kilograms.

As a result, I will continue running.

TOEFL Elaboration Practice Exercise 1

Each practice exercise begins with an assertion.  Then click on the answer that most effectively elaborates on the preceding assertion. Keep in mind that one of the example answer choices lacks TOEFL speaking elaboration. Do not pick that answer.

1. Printed books are more beneficial to me than audio books.

A. Reading printed books are a more valuable education tool for me.

B. Printed books teach me how to read faster so that I can read more than 350 words per minute with adequate comprehension.


2. Study with others is a much better way to prepare for exams.

A. For instance, I had to prepare for a biology exam a few months ago, and I decided to study with a group.  We delegated out three chapters that we needed to study so each group member only had to summarize 15 pages. Then each group member created a study guide on those 15 pages and made copies for the other group members.

B. To  illustrate, you will benefit more if you choose to study with a group rather than study alone. Studying with a group will make it easier to prepare for the test. Not everyone in the group will have to make a study guide for every single page.


3. Telling the truth is always better than telling a lie.

A. Once my friend Tomas asked me if I thought he was fat. Since Tomas weighed more than 200 kilograms, I told him that he was fat. Instead of getting angry,  Tomas appreciated my honesty and became motivated to begin an exercise regimen of walking one hour every day before dinner.  Eventually, he lost more than 86 kilograms and it was my honesty, argued my friend, that he valued most in our friendship.

B. Telling the turth is always the best option.  My friends always appreciate when I am up front with them. They know that they can  trust me and that I will not tell them something that is untrue.


4. Saving money for a rainy day can be useful in case I need some emergency money.

A. Some day, I might have a budget crisis that will require me to draw upon. So you will want to make sure you have some money saved just in case you fall short at some furture time.

B. Last year, one of my jobs gave me an unexpected paycut of 80%. Fortunately, I had more than $23,000 in my savings account to help make up the shortfall in my budget. In addition, this saving was used to pay the mortage, electricity, and natural gas until I was able to get another job to make up for that financial shortfall.


5. Minors should not be put in jail when they commit a crime.

A. Under the age of 18, children do not fully understand the consequences of their choices. For instance, I had a friend who in high school robbed a store in order to get some cash so he could go to the prom with his girlfriend. At the time he committed the crime, he did not realize that he would have to go to prison for 7 years.

B. Minors should not be jailed after they commit a crime. How can they be responsible for a crime when they are too young to fully realize between right and wrong?  It takes time to develop maturity and some kids are forced into crime.


6. Instead of the stock market, investing in a house is a much better option.

A. Houses appreciate in value a little bit each year, so most owners will make money on a purchased house after 2-3 years.  In addition, homeowners will be able live in their investment.

B. Houses are almost guaranteed to appreciate annually after purchase at a rate of up to 20%. To illustrate, I purchased a home about 10 years ago at a price of $330,000, and currently my home is valued at $600,000. As a result, I’ve accrued about $270,000 of investment on the home that I purchased.


7. Countries should no longer be allowed to sell sugary drinks.

A. Drinks such as Coca Cola can damage consumers’ teeth.  Last year, when I was at the dentist getting my teeth cleaned, my hygenist told me that sugary drinks caused tooth decay. In fact, according to her, consumers who drink Coca Cola are more likely to get 2-3 cavities annually compared to those who do not drink such sugary drinks.

B. There are a lot of sugary drinks out there, and drinking them is unhealthy. You can get problems with your health if you drink too many of those types of drinks. Each drink has tons of sugar and carbonation.


8. Students should not be required to take general education classes.

A.  General education classes represent broad educational skills and will not help students since these classes do not help them to specialize in a certain skill. Therefore, students will not benefit by taking those types of courses.

B. A student majoring in accounting, for example, should not have to take a Philosophy 101 course. Instead, he should take math, computer processing, and business courses so that he can develop the skills that he will need to work for a business.


9. Politicians should be limited to only one term in office.

A. Limiting politicians to one term of two to four years will prevent corruption. For instance, California allows politicians to remain in office for multiple terms, and one politician has served as a senator for than 24 years. Senator Diane Fienstein has been lobbied by corporations in the state for reductions in state and federal taxes and for exemptions whenever the state legislature passes new environmental regulations.  Clearly, her lengthy stint in politics has made her suseptible to potentially corruptible acts.

B. A politician should not be allowed to serve more than one term. These people are voted into office, and it costs money to run a campaign. These politicians have deep pocket donors who help get them elected into office. Once in office, the politicians will need to return favors to the businesses which financed their campaigns.


10. Solar power is a more viable form of clean energy than wind power.

A. Solar power doesn’t have a lot of moving parts that need to be serviced.  Moreover, solar polar is a neat way to generate energy for many years without having to make a lot of repairs to the equipment.

B. Unlike wind power which has moving blades that need to be serviced, solar power has stationary battery cells that simply need to be powered by the sun. In addition, these battery cells deteriotate so slowly that they can continue to produce steady amounts of electricity for more than 25 years. Finally, the cost of solar power is about 40% of the cost of purchasing wind mills.

Good luck!

1 thought on “Lacks TOEFL Speaking Elaboration?”

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