TOEFL Speaking Section- Independent Task Strategies

توضیح مختصر: Get some tips for managing independent tasks on the TOEFL Speaking section. The open-ended prompts don't have to be scary if you know how to handle them!

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Independent Tasks

On the TOEFL Speaking section, the two independent tasks ask you to respond to a prompt based on your personal experiences. You won’t have to read or listen to any extra material; it’s just you and the prompt. Most prompts will ask you to make some kind of choice - you’ll either have to pick one side of a prompt or choose a topic to discuss in response to the prompt. Each independent task lasts 45 seconds, and you’ll get 15 seconds before that to prepare your response.

Independent speaking tasks can be a little scary because there isn’t a lot of structure to help you if you’re stuck. How do you know if you’re saying the right things? What if you freeze up and can’t decide on your answer? Here are some tips for making it all work.

Preparing Your Response

Before you start speaking, you need to be smart about preparing your response - this can set you up for a great response or an awkward one. First, pick an answer to the prompt that’s easy to discuss, regardless of what you truly believe. There are no right or wrong answers on the TOEFL Speaking section. You’re graded on how well you make your point, not on what your point is. Whether you’re picking one side of an issue or thinking of an experience to talk about, it doesn’t matter what you choose as long as you can support it well. So make things easier for yourself and choose the answer that will be easiest for you to support, regardless of what you actually think.

You should basically be done picking a side or an experience to discuss as soon as you read the prompt. It doesn’t matter, so don’t get stuck on it. Next, come up with reasons that support your choice:

  • If you’re choosing one side of a prompt, jot down one or two reasons why your side is correct. In other words, fill in the blank: I believe that (insert the position you took) because (give your support argument). You don’t have to do this in complete sentences; you can use chatspeak or abbreviations, or any other method of writing that makes sense to you. Just be sure to do it in English.
  • If you’re choosing an experience to discuss, jot down reasons why your experience is relevant to the prompt. For example, if the prompt asks you to describe a great vacation, you might talk about a fishing trip you took, and your reasons might be things like ‘it was relaxing’ or ‘I got to spend a lot of time with my father.’

Order the reasons from best to worst - the best is number one, the second-best is number two, etc. Remember that the first thing you think of might not be your best reason. As you talk, you’ll start with your best reason to make sure you get it in, and go down the list from there.

If you have any time left, write down any key words that you know you’ll need to say in your response, especially words that you’re worried about mispronouncing. If you’re worried about getting tongue-tied, break the words down into syllables so you can read them right from the page.

While You’re Speaking

Now comes the really nerve-wracking part: the actual speaking. You’ll have your notes right there in front of you, so don’t worry about forgetting what you were going to say. It doesn’t matter if you forget it all out of nerves; you have your notes to remind you. When you speak, first state your answer to the prompt then state your reasons for picking it, starting with the reason marked number one in your notes.

Now let’s talk about timer anxiety. You’ll only have 45 seconds to talk, which isn’t long at all. Here’s how to manage your time well so you don’t need to rush:

  • Practice timing yourself talk for 45-second intervals before the test, so you get a good idea of how much you can say in that time. After you’ve done a few practice runs, you’ll have an intuitive sense of how long you’ll need to talk. You’ll be able to jot down your main points with an eye to how much you’ll actually be able to say in that time.
  • While you speak, keep the timer in the corner of your eye. When the time is about half gone (so 20-25 seconds gone by, with 20-25 seconds remaining), look down at your list of main points. Ideally, you should be halfway through it. If you have more than half of your reasons remaining, don’t worry about it - that’s why you started with your best one, so you could be guaranteed to get it in.
  • Don’t rush to make time for every reason. Speak calmly and slowly. It’s better to make one point well than to make three points badly; if you don’t talk about every reason you came up with, it’s not a disaster.

Lesson Summary

In this lesson, you got some tips on managing the independent tasks on the TOEFL Speaking section. During the 15-second preparation period, choose the side of the prompt you’ll take or the experience you’re going to talk about. It doesn’t matter what you pick; you’re graded on how well you can support it in English, not what your position is. Then, brainstorm a few points in support of your side. Order your supporting points with the best as number one, so you have a mini-outline of your speech ready to go.

This will help you stay calm during the next part of the task, the actual speaking. You have 45 seconds to speak in response to the prompt. Practice speaking tasks before test day so you have a good intuitive sense of how long that is. Follow your outline, and look up halfway to make sure you’re on track with the timing. It takes some practice to get this right, but once you know how it works, you’ll be all set up to master the independent tasks.