Three Common Speaking Errors

Avoiding these three common speaking errors will help you to improve your proficiency. That way you can score higher on the speaking section of the TOEFL exam.

Three Common Speaking Errors

This lesson and the video comments focus around this speaking prompt:

Some students choose to prepare for exams by studying on their own. However, others choose to study in groups. Which method of study do you think is better? Use specific reasons and details to support your explanation.

Choosing an inappropriate point of view

Avoid using the formal third person “one” point of view during the independent speaking task.

  • “One” third person point of view:  When one studies alone, one will learn the study materials faster because there are fewer distractions.
  • Revised: When I study alone, I will learn the study materials faster because there are fewer distractions.

The “one’ point of view will distance yourself from the personal experience speaking task. Instead, you should use the “I” point of view so that you can give some specific examples to illustrate those ideas.

In addition, do not randomly switch to the second person “you” point of view.

  • Random switch to “you” point: If you study alone, you will not have to worry about being interrupted by others. For example, when I was preparing for my biology test, I studied alone so I did not have anyone else bothering me.
  • Revised: If I study alone, I will not have to worry about being interrupted by others. For example, when I was preparing for my biology test, I studied alone so I did not have anyone else bothering me.

Avoiding the shift to “you” creates a more unified speaking task. In addition, avoiding “you” and using “I” keep your focus on your specific personal experiences.

Shifting to incorrect verb tenses

Another problem revolves around incorrect verb tenses. This happens when you use present tense verbs to talk about actions or examples that happened in the past.

Incorrect verb tense shift:  Studying alone creates fewer distractions, so I can complete my studies with more efficiency. For example, last semester I prepare for a chemistry test without anyone else. Instead of spending more than four hours to review the most important concepts, I spend only two hours and mastered everything with ease.

Revised: Studying alone creates fewer distractions, so I can complete my studies with more efficiency. For example, last semester I prepared for a chemistry test without anyone else. Instead of spending more than four hours to review the most important concepts, I spent only two hours and mastered everything with ease.

Like using appropriate point of view, consistency in verb tenses not only shows control over your language use but also unifies your sentences cohesively.

Three Common Speaking Errors: Neglecting to provide elaboration

The third and maybe the most damning error to lower your TOEFL score is your inability to provide specific supporting detail. In other words, you do not elaborate on the reasons that you provide. This lack of specificity weakens the development of your argument and reveals limitations with your vocabulary.

Lacking elaboration: For example, if I study with others, I will have distractions, and then I will not be adequately prepared for my exams. Group members may discuss irrelevant topics that will lead me from my focus on mastering the course materials. Without a clear focus on what I am studying, I will not be able to grasp the concepts I need to study in order to learn what I need to learn to score high on any upcoming tests.

Revised: For example, last semester I attended a biology class and to get ready for the final exam, I needed to review two important concepts of cell division: meiosis and mitosis. To prepare for the exam, I attended a group study session with four other classmates. During our marathon three-hour study session, most group members talked more about their social lives than they did about cell division. Because our study session was so off-topic, I was ill-prepared for the cell division exam and consequently scored 73/100.

In the revised paragraph above, the speaker discusses about how it was difficult to learn cell division in her biology class when she studied with a group of classmates. Unlike the previous paragraph which lacks elaboration, this paragraph clearly has specificity to support the argument that the speaker makes.

Watch a video of a student who makes three common speaking errors. Pay attention to the feedback I provide him.


Michael Buckhoffmbuckhoff@aol.com

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