How’s your English?
For many English language learners, speaking is the hardest part. You can read and write in English at school in your native country. You can listen to actors in American movies at home. Speaking, on the other hand, requires you to engage with another person from another culture, and that can be scary.
Do you want to travel, go to university abroad or further your career?
English dominates your world. It’s inescapable. If you want to travel abroad, you need to be able to speak English. If you want to study at a top-notch university, you must be fluent in English. If you want to gain a leg up in the job market, English competency is a must.
What’s the TOEFL exam?
The TOEFL, Test of English as a Foreign Language, is an academic proficiency exam designed to determine whether international students are competent enough in English to enroll in American college courses. There are four sections in the TOEFL exam: Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing. This courses focuses solely on the speaking section.
Why should I take the TOEFL exam?
This is only an introduction class so in this course I'll walk you through the first two speaking tasks. Together, we will review and analyze each of the first two speaking questions. I will model answers and show you all the necessary elements you need to include in your response on test day.
Besides teaching about the content of the exam, I also focus on you, the English language learner. Our goal should not just be to improve our TOEFL speaking score, but to become more competent English speakers in general. For you to speak English with more confidence, we’ll talk about mindset and culture.
By the end of this course, you will have gained a deeper understanding of the structure of academic English and the power of a growth mindset.
Welcome to TOEFL Speaking Success. I know you're excited to get started, but before we get into the actual test, make sure you download the book, TOEFL Speaking Success, in the downloads section of this lecture. We will be using the book extensively throughout the course.
"Let me show you what NOT to do."
This lecture begins with an example of what NOT to do on test day. Many students struggle when they first begin to practice for the speaking section of the exam because they're not used the question style. Here, I will walk you through two real TOEFL independent speaking examples and show you exactly how to respond.
"Your introduction is your first impression, so let me teach you how to perfect it."
The first sentence of your response is crucial. Your introduction is the first impression the TOEFL grader will have of your English speaking fluency, so you don't want to make any mistakes. Am I scaring you?Don't worry, by the end of this lecture you'll know exactly how to begin for any independent speaking question.
"Do one question multiple times."
Together, we're going to take a deeper look at your response and how to structure it to fit the requirements of the TOEFL exam. This lecture includes a lot of content, so pay attention, take notes and listen multiple times. I'll talk about the two example response, how to be persuasive, best note-taking structure and how the American education system may differ from your own.
"Personal examples will make your response powerful."
After I review how to structure your first sentence, I'll discuss one of the most crucial aspects of your independent speaking response: providing a personal example. No matter what the question, you must try to include at least one personal example in your response. From there, I'll discuss time management and how to pace your response so you say everything you need to say in 45 seconds.
"Good stories take time."
Here, I show you how to give the ultimate response, one that includes just one reason and one example. This response structure will be more difficult to master because it forces you to provide a lot of details in your personal example. However, after you watch me model the one example response, you'll agree that it sounds more natural. Keep in mind that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. If this is too difficult then answer in a way that makes you comfortable. When you start studying for the TOEFL, your comfort is most important.
"When you explain your opinion, you must explain why you feel the way you do."
In this lesson I wrap up with the independent section by reviewing key points, reciting another ideal response and pointing out some additional tips that'll help you prepare and perfect your speaking response. Repetition is a crucial aspect of learning so be sure to review the material. Do the quizzes and self-assessments and don't forget to record yourself speaking.
"Don't focus on what you did wrong; focus on what you're going to do next."
In this lesson we'll go over the grading rubric for the independent speaking tasks, which is outlined on the ETS website. I'll explain and simplify each category to help improve your understanding of what the TOEFL graders expect to hear. For more information about the TOEFL, you can visit the ETS website
"You need to be actively engaged in your learning."
The self-assessment is a vital tool for you to utilize if you expect to improve your speaking. You can't just do one task and move on to the next. You must practice, record yourself, listen to yourself and assess what you did and didn't do well.
"The content is important, of course, but you must also focus on yourself. The way you think about growth and intelligence will effect the way you study."
This is probably the most important lesson of the entire course. Here, I discuss the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. When you focus more on communicating and less on being correct, you become a much better TOEFL taker and English speaker. Remember, knowledge takes time to stick. You must learn how to cultivate a growth mindset in order to embrace challenges, fight through obstacles, view effort as the path to mastery and learn from criticism.
"Don't do a different question everyday. Instead, pick a couple of questions you want to perfect."
This is a comprehensive list of over 150 real TOEFL independent speaking questions that have been on previous exams. I've taken the time and effort to separate these questions into different themes and categories. Once you see how I've grouped these questions, you should have a more intimate understanding of the reoccurring themes in the speaking section.
"If you want to know more about a culture, look at its advertising."
This is one of the last videos in the course and probably the most controversial. In this lecture, you'll see me outline a list of generalizations about American culture. This is NOT a complete list of everything you need to know about American culture. Instead, this is about how American culture influences the TOEFL and how American cultural values are reflected within the structure of the exam. Once you learn about these values, you'll have the information you need to prepare answers that align with American expectations. And again, these are just generalizations, not every American will share all of these values.
Josh MacPherson is the Academic Coordinator of the Intensive English and TOEFL programs at a community college in midtown Manhattan. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education and a master’s degree in ESL Curriculum and Instruction. Over the past ten years Josh has taught English, American History and TOEFL test prep in New York, Korea and Japan. In his free time, he utilizes the same advice he gives to his students to study Japanese. If you’d like to learn more about Josh and his methodology, you can learn more about him at Vocabulary Ninja.