TOEFL Independent Speaking Tips

Learning and applying these TOEFL independent speaking tips will help you score higher. There is only one independent speaking task.  As a result, it is important that you perform well on this task.

TOEFL independent speaking tips

The model responses that you see here are based on the following independent speaking task:

Some students prefer to live on campus in dorms when they attend universities. Others, on the other hand, like living in apartments away from their universities. Discuss the advantages of living in dorms when attending universities.

TOEFL Independent Speaking Tips: Understand how you are graded

Before you complete the TOEFL exam, make sure you know how you will be graded during the speaking exam.  As you can learn here, you are graded according to delivery, language-use, and topic development.  Make sure you understand how you should perform on these three important categories of the speaking rubric.

TOEFL Independent Speaking Tips: Do not provide details without framing them around a topic.

You do not want to start your response with details.  For example, read the below response:

Living in the dorms is beneficial for students. 

To illustrate, I lived in the dorms while attending University of California, Riverside (UCR).  I got to eat my meals three times day in the cafeteria, which was not too costly. Sometimes, even if I woke up late, I could still get to class without being too late for my 8:00 am classes.

Because I lived on campus, I could easily attend the library when I needed to do research, and in other cases I would visit my professors when I had questions about course content. 

In the above response, notice how the speaker does not make any generalizations before getting to the details. Without any topics, the speaker is unable to create a coherent organization. In addition, because the speaker does not repeat any key words from the speaking prompt, it is not clear whether or not the speaker is addressing the speaking task.

Do not provide too many reasons without specific details.

The speaker who tries to say everything in 45 seconds actually says nothing.  Or, at the very best the speaker simply explains some very general ideas without using any specific examples. Observe how, in the below response, the speaker explains several advantages of living on dorms.

Living in the dorm has many advantages, which I will explore right now.

First of all, dorms give students a less expensive alternative compared to students who live in apartments. Second of all, students who live in dorms will not need to go very far when they attend their classes  or when they use facilities on campus such as the library, the recreation center, or the student union center. Third of all, my friend who lives in a dorm has made a lot of friends since she moved there after beginning her studies. Finally, living in dorms helps students when they are in need of counseling since there are resident advisers on the premises.

Therefore, many students prefer to live in dorms when they attend college.\

Limit your focus and frame your response around 1-2 reasons.

Unlike the other responses, the below response organizes around one specific reason and then uses a specific example to support that reason.

Some students prefer to live in dorms while they attend college because it is more convenient.

Students attending dorms can conveniently attend their classes which are located only minutes away. For example, I lived in dorms while I was attending the University of Southern California. Since I was a science major, most of my classes were located in the chemical and physical sciences buildings.  Living in the dorm made my walk to my science classes only 5 minutes away. If I had chosen to live off campus, it would have been much less convenient for me inasmuch as I would have had to drive to the campus and then walk to my classes after that.

Therefore, many students find it very convenient to live on campus in dorms.

The above example response only focuses on one general idea–convenience.  Then the speaker uses the example of how it is convenient to walk to his science classes. To sum up, these important TOEFL independent speaking tips advise you to

  • Make sure you frame your response around a generalization (i.e., convenience).
  • Limit yourself to discussing 1-2 details to support that generalization.
  • Take time to develop your example; in the model response above, I used 85 words to explain that example.

Good luck!

Michael Buckhoff,

Teaching Experience

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