How to Take Notes for the TOEFL Speaking Tasks

توضیح مختصر: Taking good notes for the speaking tasks on the TOEFL can make all the difference to your score. Get some tips and tricks for both the independent and the integrated tasks here!

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Speaking Tasks

On the TOEFL, you’ll have to take notes on two different kinds of speaking tasks.

Independent tasks ask you to respond to a question based on your own experiences or opinions. On these tasks, your notes will help you organize your response and remember your talking points, so you make sure you cover everything you wanted to discuss.

Integrated tasks give you a listening passage or a listening passage plus a reading passage and ask you to respond to the material you heard or read. On the test, you’ll get two with just a listening passage and two with a reading passage, as well as the listening.

On all the integrated tasks, you’ll use notes in two ways. First, you’ll be able to take notes while you listen and read to help you remember the material as you plan and speak. Second, you’ll also be able to use notes the same way you do in the independent tasks to help you plan your response. In this lesson, you’ll get some tips and strategies for making the most of your note-taking time.

Taking Notes on Passages

You’ll only get outside material to take notes on for the integrated tasks, but these are four of the six speaking tasks on the TOEFL, so they’re worth practicing for. In some integrated tasks, you’ll get a listening passage only; in others, you’ll get a listening and a reading passage. And for both kinds, taking proper notes can help you a lot when it’s time to respond.

As you are listening and reading, don’t try to write down every word. Instead, write down important key words or major points and show relationships between them with arrows, symbols, bullet points, or outline structure.

Here are some other tips and hints for taking effective notes:

  • If it helps you save time, do use smiley faces, abbreviations, chatspeak, slang, or any other shorthand that works for you. Nobody else will read your notes, and you won’t be graded on them, so as long as you know what you meant, it’s all good.
  • Don’t write your notes in another language. You’ll need to refer to them while speaking English. If you write in your native language, you’re very likely to just get confused.
  • For listening passages, listen for words that are stressed, words that are repeated often, or parts of the passage where the speaker slows down - these typically indicate important information.
  • If you have both a reading and a listening passage, pay attention to key words that pop up in both. This will give you an idea of what kinds of themes the prompt will touch on.

Using these tips will help you take clearer and more useful notes to help yourself plan your response and support it with evidence from the text.

Planning Your Response

Now, let’s move on to the second kind of note taking you’ll need to do on the TOEFL: planning and outlining your response so you have a rough sketch of what you’ll be saying. You’ll have 15 seconds to do this on the independent tasks, and 20-30 seconds on the integrated tasks, so it’s important to work fast.

The purpose of this outline is not to write down every single thing you’ll be saying. It’s to briefly cover the main ideas you want to touch on. Don’t write complete sentences. Instead, write an outline that looks something like one of these models:

Position and support - If the prompt asks you to choose between two alternatives or to take a stance on a particular issue, you’re being asked to take a position. Your outline should include a clear indication of what your position is, plus one to three supporting points. Here’s an example:

Prompt: Would you rather go to school in your own country or abroad?
Position: Abroad
Support: Experiences, diversity, practice language skills

Summary outline - Some prompts on the integrated tasks will ask you to summarize the position of one of the listening or reading passages instead of arguing your own opinion. In this case, your outline should be a list of the other person’s main points. For example, say you had a reading passage describing new parking regulations and a speaking passage giving someone’s opinion on them.

If you have a reading and a listening passage, make sure to use them both in your response. If you haven’t used both, you haven’t really responded to the prompt. Using brief outlines like this will help you stay on track as you speak; you can refer to the outline to know what you wanted to say next.

Lesson Summary

In this lesson, you got some tips for taking notes for the speaking tasks on the TOEFL. You’ll get six of these in total: four integrated tasks and two independent tasks. For the integrated tasks, you’ll have to take notes on a listening passage or a listening and a reading passage.

  • Write down key points and terms, not every word.
  • Use any kind of abbreviations or slang you like, but write in English.
  • On the listening passages, listen for verbal emphasis to guide you to important information.
  • On the reading passages, look for words or phrases that are repeated from the listening.

For both kinds of tasks, you’ll also take notes on what you plan to say in response to the prompt. Again, don’t write down every word. Instead, write an outline of your response; depending on the prompt, it will probably look either like a position with support or like a summary giving someone else’s position and support. Taking effective notes will help you a lot when it’s time to actually start speaking - practice these strategies before test day comes, and you’ll thank yourself when you’re facing the microphone.