TOEFL Speaking Rate Tips

What is the ideal TOEFL Speaking Rate? Why is your speaking rate important to your TOEFL Speaking score? Should you change your speaking rate as you complete the TOEFL speaking tasks 1-4? How can you get feedback on your TOEFL practice responses? You will learn the answer to these questions as you complete this lesson. Do not forget to complete the speaking rate practice exercises at the end of this lesson.

TOEFL speaking rate









What is the ideal TOEFL Speaking Rate?

Since the TOEFL iBT uses SpeechRater, an artificial intelligence scoring engine, you want to sound like a native speaker. One key aspect of becoming more fluent involves developing a native-speaker speaking rate. To perform optimally on the speaking section of the TOEFL iBT, you will need to be able to speak between 140-160 words a minute.

Why is your speaking rate important to your TOEFL Speaking score?

When your TOEFL Speaking tasks are scored, ETS uses both artificial intelligence and human raters. Human raters evaluate whether your response addresses the speaking tasks. In addition, human raters verify the completeness, accuracy, and coherence of your content. To address the linguistic features, ETS uses an artificial scoring engine called SpeechRater.

Among other things such as vocabulary and grammar, indeed SpeechRater evaluates your speaking rate and how natural sounding it is compared to native speaker English. Therefore, your speaking rate is important to your TOEFL speaking score. In order to speak comfortably at a rate of 150 words a minute on average depends on a number of factors affecting your delivery:

  1. The ease at which you can pronounce the vowel and consonant sounds in the words that you speak
  2. Whether you are pronouncing the necessary syllables in longer words
  3. If you are stressing the appropriate syllables in words by making them clearer, longer, louder, and higher pitched
  4. How well you place more stress on content words such as nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs and less stress on function words such as determiners, prepositions, and auxiliary verbs–to create a natural sounding sentence rhythm
  5. That you use varying intonations in your sentences throughout your speaking tasks
  6. Your clearly identifying thought groups of 5-6 content words without too many noticeable awkward pauses or hesitations
  7. That you use linking within thought groups

As you improve your delivery in these seven areas, you will also improve your speaking rate.

Should you change your speaking rate as you complete the TOEFL speaking tasks 1-4?

Typically, native speakers in a conversation will speak slower when they want to emphasize certain ideas. In other situations, they will speak faster when showing excitement.  Like native speakers, you should vary your speaking rate depending on your purpose. Finally, if you vary your speaking rate, you are more likely to also vary your tone.  Finally, varying speaking rates and tones will make your response less distracting and more lively to your audience. You do not want to sound like you are delivering a speech at a funeral, do you?

How can I get feedback on my TOEFL practice responses?

You can begin getting feedback on your TPO speaking and writing practice tests by joining my TOEFL Speaking and Writing Feedback Service. This service allows you to get feedback on 60 seconds of TPO speaking practice daily. Moreover, you can have ONE writing practice test evaluated every 24 hours.

TOEFL Speaking Rate Practice Exercises

  • This practice exercise consists of 10 paragraphs.
  • Each paragraph comprises 140 to 160 words.
  • Using your phone or computer, record yourself reading the paragraph.
  • Aim to read the paragraph in roughly the same time that the native speaker reads it in.
  • Compare your voiced recording to the native speaker recording.
  • Completing this exercise will show you the acceptable TOEFL speaking rate that you should use during the speaking section of the TOEFL iBT.
  • If you cannot read the paragraphs out loud in roughly the same time as the native speaker, you are not ready to take the TOEFL exam.

Speaking Rate Exercise 1:

At the same time, many women who had not worked prior to the War returned to their homes and housework.  Mt. Vernon was much like many of the major war industry cities such as Detroit and San Francisco, although there were some key differences. In population size it was small. Its economy at the time was predominantly agricultural although there were three major industrial plants – Cooper-Bessemer (a producer of diesel engines), Mt. Vernon Bridge and Steel produced Landing Ship Tanks and Shellmar produced protective capes and gas masks for soldiers. Factories such as these are what made Mt. Vernon similar to the major war industry cities.  Likewise, making Mt. Vernon comparable to the rest of the nation was the role women played in such industrial work by filling in for men who left to fight. To recruit women into the labor force, propaganda in magazines, advertising, radio programming and films was used for this was the most efficient method of encouraging women to take a war job.

  • 168 words
  • Target Time: 66 seconds

Speaking Rate Exercise 2:

We don’t ask ourselves where languages come from because they just seem to be there: French in France, English in England, Chinese in China, Japanese in Japan, and so forth. Yet if we go back only a few thousand years, none of these languages were spoken in their respective countries and indeed none of these languages existed anywhere in the world. Where did they all come from?

In some cases, the answer is clear and well-known. We know that Spanish is simply a later version of the Latin language that was spoken in Rome two thousand years ago. Latin spread with the Roman conquest of Europe and, following the breakup of the Roman Empire, the regional dialects of Latin gradually evolved into the modern Romance languages: Sardinian, Rumanian, Italian, French, Catalan, Spanish, and Portuguese. A language family, such as the Romance family, is a group of languages that have all evolved from a single earlier language, in this case Latin.

  • 160 words
  • Target Time: 62 seconds

Speaking Rate Exercise 3:

The platypus is one of the two animals in the order Monotremata. It is the only member of the mammal family Ornithorhynchidae. Platypus is from the Greek platys meaning “broad” and “pous” meaning foot, referring to the animal’s webbed foot. The platypus has several reptilian characteristics which include using the same opening for reproduction and eliminating waste products, the ability to lay eggs, cervical ribs, and local ascorbic acid synthesis in the kidney. Even though the platypus has these reptile characteristics, it is overall much more mammalian than reptilian. This unique animal has a lifespan of 10 to 15 years. The platypus is about the size of a household cat. The male platypus’s body is about 50 – 60 centimeters long and the female is about 40 – 50 centimeters long. An adult male platypus weighs about 2 kilograms and a female platypus weighs about .9 kilograms.

  • 147 words
  • Target Time: 65 seconds

Speaking Rate Exercise 4:

Meteors are small particles of matter in the solar system that are only directly observable when they fall into the earth’s atmosphere.   A meteorite is a meteor that reaches the surface of the earth without being vaporized. Meteorites are particularly valuable geologic specimens because they represent samples of planetary bodies (mostly asteroids) which we have not yet obtained through either manned or unmanned space missions. Neither is it likely that samples of these bodies will be available by any other means than fortuitous falls for at least a generation. Thus, as a scientific resource, meteorites provide us with some of our first glimpses of the diverse array of planetary material scattered throughout the inner solar system.

The oldest meteorite specimens are remnants of the very first geologic processes to occur in our solar system 4.6 billion years ago. (The origin of the solar system should not be confused with the origin of the universe, commonly known as the Big Bang.)

  • 160 words
  • Target Time: 68 seconds

Speaking Rate Exercise 5:

  • 145 words
  • Target Time: 61 seconds
  • Many of the sports which the ancient Greeks practiced and which made up a part of their own Olympics still survive in some way or other in the sports which we practice today. Their motivation, however, was for practice for war and it is in such motivation that one can understand the emphasis on martial skills such as wrestling, Pankration, boxing, the javelin and running, while still including such less directly applicable sports as discus and jumping. Overtime, as interest grew in sport and competition alone, new sports were added, but it was these core sports, which stood the test of time, and which have continued to be practiced, in similar form, right up to the present day. _ Wrestling must be regarded as the most important sport practiced in ancient Greece; the very name palaestra “wrestling school” must indicate its importance in Greek life.

Speaking Rate Exercise 6:

Picture the most violent of all tornadoes:  A violent whirling column of air with speeds of 100 to 300 miles per hour, a funnel which extends downward from a cumulonimbus cloud, almost always seen as rapidly rotating;  a slender, a funnel shaped cloud which usually destroys everything in its path.   More than anyone else in the history of meteorology, Tetsuya Theodore (Ted) Fujita increased our knowledge of severe storms, especially tornadoes. Here is a brief list of what Tom Grazulis, Director of the Tornado Project, considers to be some of his most notable achievements: Professor Fujita was brought to the United States in the early 1950’s by Horace Byers of the University of Chicago. He proceeded to change the course and the speed of severe storm research like no one else in this century. Shortly after his arrival, he began analyzing single thunderstorms the way larger systems had been studied for decades.

  • 152 words
  • Target Time: 69 seconds

Exercise 7:

More than thirty-six years after he made history as the first American to orbit the Earth, Senator John H. Glenn, Jr. will return to space as part of a multi-national crew with the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery in late October. The flight, designated STS-95, will involve more than eighty scientific experiments investigating mysteries that span the realm from the inner universe of the human body to studies of our own Sun and its solar activity.  

Back on February 20, 1962, when Glenn flew in his Friendship 7 Mercury capsule, the largest mystery facing the young NASA space program was whether humans could even survive in the hostile environment of space. In the 121 space missions since Glenn’s flight during the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and Shuttle programs, more than 200 Americans have flown – and thrived – in space. Glenn inspired many current astronauts to pursue space flight as a career.

  • 150 words
  • Target Time: 68 seconds

Exercise 8:

We have always had a strange love-hate relationship with wetlands. We may wax poetic about the moss-draped cypress trees in the moonlight, and thrill to the sight of a huge alligator slithering off the banks of the bayou. But at the same time, we also fear the dark, impenetrable reaches of the swamp, and curse the boiling clouds of mosquitoes that hang over the water. “Bad vapors” drift out of the swamp, a miasma that sickens those who live nearby. Before the advent of modern medicine, residents believed that these “vapors” could literally make you sick. Early settlers in New Orleans often awoke to the sound of cannons being fired in the vicinity of Canal Street, in the hopes that their sulfurous smoke would cleanse the air and prevent “malaria” and other diseases. We usually fear what we do not know, and what we do not understand in many cases.

  • 150 words
  • Target Time: 58 seconds

Exercise 9:

The Great Basin Desert lies predominantly in the Intermountain West, a region bounded on the west by the Sierra Nevada-Cascade mountain axis and on the east by the Rocky Mountains. The mid-nineteenth century explorer Captain John C. Fremont perceived the landscape to be a giant enclosed basin; convinced by his 1843-44 exploration that the area lacked an outlet to the sea, he named it the Great Basin.

In fact, the name is somewhat misleading in that it suggests a single large basin. Actually, the Intermountain West is composed of 150 basins and approximately 160 discrete mountain ranges. This landscape of alternating mountain ranges and their adjacent basins is the physiographic zone known as the Basin and Range Province.

The  Province has valley floors at high elevations, often more than 4000 feet. Protruding from the basins are mountain ranges, which were raised through the process of faulting.

  • 146 words
  • Target Time: 68 seconds

Exercise 10:

Achilles Tendonitis causes inflammation and degeneration of the achilles tendon. The achilles tendon is the large tendon located in the back of the leg that inserts into the heel. The pain caused by achilles tendonitis can develop gradually without a history of trauma. The pain can be a shooting pain, burning pain, or even an extremely piercing pain. Achilles tendonitis should not be left untreated due to the danger that the tendon can become weak and ruptured.

Achilles Tendonitis is aggravated by activities that repeatedly stress the tendon, causing inflammation. In some cases even prolonged periods of standing can cause symptoms. It is a common problem often experienced by athletes, particularly distance runners. Achilles Tendonitis is a difficult injury to treat in athletes due to their high level of activity and reluctance to stop or slow down their training.

Individuals who suffer from achilles tendonitis often complain that their first steps out of bed in the morning are extremely painful.

  • 160 words
  • Target Time: 68 seconds


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