Three TOEFL Delivery Tips

The three TOEFL delivery tips in this blog post will help you to improve your TOEFL speaking score. In my previous article TOEFL Speaking Rubrics Analysis, I discussed how important delivery is toward helping you score high. Today I am adding more to that article. So, I will explain why you should improve your sentence rhythm, intonation, and thought groups and blending.

Three TOEFL Delivery Tips
Three TOEFL Delivery Tips

Three TOEFL Delivery Tips: Use natural sentence rhythm

Sentence rhythm is the stress and unstress of words when you speak.  You should place less stress on auxiliary verbs (i.e. is washing, has read, would go),  prepositions (i.e., to, over, under, at, in…), and determiners (i.e. many, several, a, an, the…).  In contrast, you should place more stress on nouns (i.e., truck, money, cat, book… ), adjectives (i.e., happy, studious, perplexed, amazing… ), adverbs (i.e., too, very, so, really, hardly… ) , and verbs (i.e., eat, spoke, pass,… ).  As a result, the combination of stress and unstress words when you speak gives you a natural sounding sentence rhythm.

In the below sentence, you should put more emphasis on the larger bolded words since they are examples of content words.TOEFL sentence rhythm

TOEFL sentence rhythm

Three TOEFL Delivery Tips: Vary your tone

In addition to having the appropriate sentence rhythm, you should try to vary your tone even though they are speaking into a microphone.  Here are some general tips:

  • Even though you are speaking to a microphone, imagine that you are talking to a real person.
  • Do not speak in a monotone voice. After every 4-5 content words, a thought group, make a slight pause with an inflected tone.
  • After the last thought group in the sentence, end with a slightly falling intonation.

Notice in the below sentence how the tone is inflected at the end of every thought group. Then the tone falls at the end of the sentence.

TOEFL intonation listening passage
TOEFL intonation listening passage

Three TOEFL Delivery Tips: Group your ideas into thought groups of 4-5 content words

During the speaking section of the TOEFL iBT, you want to make sure that you have good pacing.  In  other words, you should not have too many awkward pauses and hesitations. However, during the integrated speaking tasks, you will have some awkward pauses as you recall information from reading and listening passages. The TOEFL iBT human raters understand that. As a result, they allow some minor problems with pacing in this regard.

To avoid too many pauses, you should pause after every 4-5 content words or after natural grammatical breaks in sentences. For example, it is natural to pause after introductory prepositional phrases.   Look at the following sentence to see the natural pauses indicated by forward slash marks “/.”

TOEFL passage thought groups
TOEFL passage thought groups

Three TOEFL Delivery Tips: Blend words together within each thought groups

The last important tip to help you speak as naturally and as fluently as possible is blending.  Within each though group, you want to blend the words together so that you are not making any pauses within that thought group. In the below sentence, there is only one pause indicated by the forward slash “/.”  Consequently, you should blend the words together within each thought group. Blending helps you to speak naturally and fluently.

TOEFL blending example
TOEFL blending example

Three TOEFL Delivery Tips: Practice all of this in this video

Watch the following 22 minute video so that you can practice everything that you have learned in this blog post:

Good luck!

Michael Buckhoff,








1 thought on “Three TOEFL Delivery Tips”

  1. Pingback: TOEFL Speaking Intonation Patterns - Better TOEFL Scores Blog

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