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PREPARATION FOR ORAL PART OF THE TOEFL EXAM, SPEAKING

2010.09.21
PREPARATION FOR ORAL PART OF THE TOEFL EXAM, SPEAKING

Everybody knows that the speaking section of the TOEFL is considered to be the shortest part of the exam and at the same time, the most important one. This part measures a university entrant`s ability to keep up a daily conversation at university. It also tests the way the student analyzes information and expresses thoughts in English. Besides, this part checks the student`s knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, turns of speech and the ability to use cohesive devices and fluency of speech. In addition, some tasks are designed to examine reading and comprehension skills.

 


The common difficulty people face in the speaking section of the TOEFL exam is preparation time. A test taker is given only 15- 30 seconds depending on the complexity of the task. This is one of the reasons why it gets so difficult to think over the answer thoroughly. By doing so, they identify your ability to respond naturally to the flows of conversation. This type of task makes sense as it`s unlikely that you will have these 30 seconds to structure your thoughts into one main idea in real life situations. Your respond should also last about 45-60 seconds. It`s obvious that you will not have a lot of time to organize your mind map into a logical sequence for your speech. So, that`s why take the most of the given time to plan your speech. You can learn how to do it in advance as each of 6 tasks in a block presents a typical pattern of the answer. These are 6 tasks of speaking section of the TOEFL exam:

 

  1. Respond to a simple question concerning your preferences, experience (for example, what music do you like? or what makes an ideal teacher?). Preparation takes 15 seconds. Here you need to give a direct response. In this case, you could name your favourite music genre providing with examples or list a number of qualities of an ideal teacher. Do not spend too much time on expressing and defending your opinion. As you have only 45 seconds to give your response, take only 5-10 seconds of them to prepare. Defend your personal choice putting forward an argument with examples. Let us suppose, you say that you like rock music (choice) because this style of music is full of emotions (argument). Besides, do not forget to explain why (e.g. rock musicians compose the music and write song lyrics on their own what identifies their emotions and personal experience as the most dominant role there).

 

 

In accordance with your responses, state your own choice in an answer sheet. Mention 2-3 reasons with explanation to provide yourself with a good support for your linked narration. With a TOEFL preparation course or your online English Teacher you can easily improve your proficiency in writing a plan.

 

2.  The question which asks the test taker to make and defend a personal choice between two contrasting behaviors or courses of action: e.g. what do you prefer, holidays in your country or abroad? Preparation time: 15 seconds. Response time: 45 seconds. Answering the question you need to state your preference and then present your arguments. Here you can follow the tips written for task 1.

 

3. Text reading and listening to the dialogue on the same topic (the conversation is usually university-related). Then you will be asked a question about what you have read and heard. You will need to use information from the text and the talk to answer the questions.  Apart from that, you are expected to express an opinion. To read the text you have 45 minutes, and then you listen to the dialogue. After the listening finishes, you will have 30 seconds to prepare and 60 seconds to respond.

 

For example, you read a full description of a new change which appears at the University. Then, 2 students start discussing this and somebody from them expresses the man`s opinion. This is NOT an opinion task, you are being asked to summarize the information using the recording and the text.

 

Firstly, write down the points- key words which reflect the situation itself in the text (it`s IMPORTANT to paraphrase it. Read below). Then, express briefly the man`s opinion you heard and later on, his presented arguments. While making an oral response, make sure you have a logical organization of your ideas in 1 text.

For example, “Jose thinks that the new change will adversely affect something… (Jose`s opinion, express it in other words, too) because (talk about the points of the situation given in the text, the things Jose doesn’t like + his arguments). You can also mention some positive features of that new change regardless of the fact that the student is not happy with them.)”

 

That combination of the text and audio would be an ideal variant in your answer. You can also express your thought about the whole situation in general, then briefly give the man`s opinion and offer arguments.

The most important is not to spend more than one third of your given time on describing the situation. Besides, focus on going smoothly from one thought to another one.

 

4. Text reading and listening to a part of lecture on the same topic. Reading time- 45 seconds, lecture listening and preparation time 30 seconds, and response time- 60 seconds. Usually you will hear the concrete example of something mentioned in the text (e.g. the text about family of animals and the lecture about one of the types of this family). You might hear about any scientific theory and its related experiment. The text and monologue might either express the same idea or be at variance. Depending on this, you will need to explain how the example proves or refutes information given in the text. Answering the question, try to show how you associate the ideas with each other (like in Question 3). You don`t need to express your own opinion. To easily connect the text and the lecture while responding, you are advised to plan and time your answers carefully. It`s also advisable to write down the points while reading: e.g. write out some theses using the key phrases. When listening to the monologue, put down the main ideas on the paper, too. Draw some lines to guide the theses of the lecture and theses of the text to show whether they corroborate or refute each other. Next to these lines write down some linking words you are going to use in your answer. For example, “however, by the example of the tiger we can see that everything goes on the contrary” or “and this tendency is well demonstrated by the behavior of the family…”.By doing this, you can take examples from the text and the lecture and not to retell them one after another.

 

5. Listening to the conversation with the solutions to the given problem.The task: firstly summarize the 1stspeaker`s problem and the 2nd speaker`s recommendations. Then offer your point of view. Preparation time- 20 seconds, response time- 60 seconds. You can make the following answer plan: draw a table with 2 columns where each of them goes to an individual student. In the first column of a “problematic” speaker state briefly his/her complaints (“little money”). Next to that complaint, in the second column, write a solution (“little money”, “find a job”). Besides, give your brief opinion as well. You can agree with the advice of the speaker (put “+” next to “find a job”, preparation time- 20 seconds) or present your own solution (“cut down on expenses”). It`s certainly not enough to convey the man`s idea and express your own opinion here. Besides, your answer should be pretty long. That`s why, don`t forget about the arguments. For example, if the conversation is about lack of money, you can identify the reason for that situation or the reason why he/she needs money (if these reasons are established in the audio, you don’t need to imagine anything!). Anyways, don`t spend more than 5 seconds on the description of the problem and not more than 15 seconds on the man`s opinion. The main task is to support your point of view with reasons. Even if you simply agree with speaker`s statement, explain why. Present 2-3 arguments. The same scheme works when you deal with your own opinion which you offer in this situation. The most part of your answer is considered to be your viewpoint.


6. Listening to the lecture in English and short reflection on its content. Preparation time- 20 seconds, response time- 60 seconds. If you have ever written the lectures, you probably already know how to briefly write and structure them. Themostimportantabilityhereistoconveythisorally. Firstly, it`s highly recommended to say the main points of the lecture shortly (e.g. «there are 4 types of temperament”- list them even though all of them were not mentioned at once in the lecture: firstly, they named one and gave an immediate description of that). Then, try to tell about each of them briefly. If there is any classification of these points (e.g. weak and strong types of temperament), mention this at the end. You also can name these classifications and talk about each type in accordance with the classification (firstly, talk about the strong types and then the weak ones). You don`t need to express your opinion.

 


General recommendations on speaking while preparing for TOEFL

 

Here are some important speaking featuresthat raters take into account when they evaluate the response:

 

-          coherence and completeness of thought

-          wide use of vocabulary

-          a great variety of grammatical constructions

-          reliable delivery of information (when you retell the lecture, you can`t misrepresent the facts),etc.

 

 

Let's look at each of those in detail.


The rater, who checks your answer recorded on the computer during TOEFL test, knows well that you are able to read. What does it mean? When it comes to conveying the content of the text,it`s quite obvious that there isn`t any difficulty in takingthe phrases out of the context you heard or read. It`s important to show that you not just read, listened to the text, understood the words and retold them but could catch the main idea  of the text and convey the information in other words. You should use advanced English words to impress the examiner in the examination. Demonstrate your ability to use linking words, different phrases and so on. But don`t overdo it, your answer shouldn`t be much longer than the content of the text. Besides, make sure the information provided on this topic is accurate. Here are some tips on how to paraphrase effectively and express the man`s opinion:

 

Use English grammatical structures unlike the ones presented in the text. Change the word order (if it doesn`t misrepresent the facts) if the sentence is complicated. By doing this, don`t forget to paraphrase the other parts of that sentence (Susan has no time to study, because she has a full-time job. -> Susan works full-time, so she doesn’t have enough time to attend lectures.) Make sure you have an internal logic in a sentence as well (cause and effect, like in the example, etc.) The textbook TOEFL iBT issued by Barron`s is an excellent preparation source where you can find all the information you need with a great variety of examples. There,you can also learn synonymous grammatical constructions liketo be going to do smth/to be about to do smth.

 

Use English synonyms and the words polysemy. The training material mentioned above, highly recommends to use phrasal verbs instead of the common ones (there are complete reference books devoted to only this topic: for example, Headway “Phrasal Verbs and Idioms” for advanced students). I would also advise on «Англо-русский тематический словарь» by Т.И. Шаталова.The most popular words are grouped there by one defining category-meaning. For instance, we choose the word “difficult” and at the same time we find all the words which are close in meaning (difficult, hard, tough, severe, stiff, laborious; difficulty-problem-question-headache-an uphill task, etc.). Moreover, we are explained the difference in the usage of these words, e.g. when we should use “tough” and when “difficult”. 

 

 

Make a list of linking words, parenthetical words, phrases which help to express an opinion (opinion of yours or someone else) and explanations of problem, reasons, etc. You can write them out from the course books, articles, forums, foreign TV programs, news and movies. Classify them according to its functions. They will be of a great need for the TOEFL writing section, too. Try to use them frequently to remember them well. With that end in view, chatting with foreigners helps a lot. Apart from that, you can read articles, formulate your point of view and convey its main meaning using these words. By doing this, they will definitely stick to your mind.

One more important note.When providing your answers for the online TOEFL speaking sections, you mustget an advantage over the usual "super pressure" time limits. The computer will show you how much time is left to speak. The ideal response is considered to be the one which fits in time. So, do not make it too long or too short, make the best of your allotted time. This is one of the mark criteria, the maximum of which comes to 30 points for the speaking section.

 

It doesn`t say that it`s easy enough to follow all the recommendations presented here for TOEFL exam preparation. The more you practise and the more constructive approach you apply, the more chances you have to pass it successfully. Do not forget that you can always book a TOEFL preparation course in Skype-Language!

Wait for the new priceless pieces of advice on TOEFL test preparation in the next articles.

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