Signal Phrases for TOEFL Speaking and Writing

Do you know how to use signal phrases for the TOEFL integrated speaking and writing tasks? This blog post will teach you what, why, and how to use these important voice markers during the TOEFL integrated speaking and writing tasks.

Signal Phrases for TOEFL Speaking and Writing

What are signal phrases for the TOEFL integrated speaking and writing?

A signal phrase is a voice marker that attributes information to a source other than your own.

  • Thompson (2021) suggests that wearing masks can prevent the wearer from emitting airborne droplets from the Coronavirus (p. 21).
  • Susan told me that she would attend the gathering at the university if she were invited.
  • Most plants, explains the author in the reading passage, adapt easily to new environments so long as the processes are slow, gradual changes.

In the first example, readers learn that Thompson published an article/book in 2021. In addition, on page 21 of that text, readers are informed that wearing masks can prevent the spread of Covid19. The second example represents reported speech. In this case, listeners/readers learn that Susan might attend a university gathering. Finally, in the third example, readers learn that the author in a reading passage believes that plant adaptations are possible.

Why do I need to use them?

Signal phrases for the TOEFL integrated speaking and writing tasks are important for several reasons because they:

  • Make it easier to understand how different ideas from different sources are connected (i.e., reading and listening passages).
  • Frame the responses appropriately as summaries using a more formal, objective tone.
  • Showcase your advanced academic writing competencies and syntactic varieties for ETS’s E-rater and iBT human raters.

Where do I place these signal phrases into my sentences of my TOEFL Speaking and Writing Responses?

Signal phrases for the TOEFL integrated speaking and writing tasks can be placed in the beginning, middle, and end of the sentences they attach to.

  • Beginning: According to the speaker, flowering plants contained psychoactive agents that may have poisoned dinosaurs after they ate them.
  • Middle: Flowering plants contained psychoactive agents, according to the speaker, that may have poisoned dinosaurs after they ate them.
  • End: Flowering plants contained psychoactive agents that may have poisoned dinosaurs after they ate them, according to the speaker.

How many of these signal phrases should I place into a paragraph of a speaking or writing task?

Using these types of voice markers helps you explain your information from the authors’ and speakers’ points of view. Therefore, the more signal phrases you use, the more your responses sound like summaries. In addition, these signal phrases create a formal, objective tone so that your listeners will know that you are NOT trying to argue something from your own point of view. As a result, I recommend that you strategically place voice markers in 3-4 prominent positions of your speaking and writing paragraphs.

According to the author in the reading passage, most bears are solitary animals that are not likely to attack humans, even ones who live nearby. In addition, bears will not be aggressive toward humans, explains the author, even when these predatory mammals are fed. However, the speaker in the lecture believes that bears are likely to attack humans who live close to the bears’ habitats. In addition, bears will eventually begin attacking humans who feed them because these large beasts will start associating human beings as viable food sources, concludes the speaker.

In the above example integrated writing paragraph, the test-taker uses four signal phrases, two which acknowledge the author in the reading passage and two which acknowledge the speaker in the lecture. Consequently, readers can easily see how the main points in the listening passage relate to the most important ones in the reading passage.

What verb tense should the reporting verbs be?

Unlike reported speech in which you explain what someone says using past tense reporting verbs, you should use simple present tense verbs to summarize content from TOEFL reading and listening passages.

  • Reported speech: John said that he would most likely finish his report by the end of the month.
  • Summary sentence from TOEFL integrated speaking task: The reading passage explains a new policy on campus about bicycle parking, and in the listening passage two speakers react to the new notice.

Some writing handbooks suggest that writers can also use past tense verbs when summarizing and paraphrasing academic content. The key is consistency. Therefore, if you choose to use past tense verbs to summarize content from the TOEFL, make sure that all reporting verbs are in the past tense. Likewise, if you choose to use present tense verbs to summarize the most important points from TOEFL reading and listening passages, make sure that all your reporting verbs are in the present tense.

Will you give me feedback if I send you TOEFL Speaking and Writing Practice Tests to Grade?

The short answer is yes. I have a TOEFL Speaking and Writing Feedback Service to help you by

  • Allowing you to email me ONE TPO speaking and ONE writing practice test every 24 hours while you are subscribed to my service
  • Giving you feedback so that you can figure out what you need to do to improve
  • Having access to an Online TOEFL Course called “The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT,” which contains more than 800 vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, listening, reading, speaking, and writing lessons
  • Giving you email access and limited Zoom virtual face-to-face access to support you during your TOEFL journey

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