Preparing for the TOEFL exam is difficult, and many of my students specifically want to prepare for the speaking section since they don't have many opportunities to practice speaking English in their home countries. When my students work with me, I strive to go over as many questions as I can, along with giving detailed feedback about their responses and sample answers for them to study.
BUT what really is the key to improving your TOEFL speaking score is the effort that you put into preparing for the speaking section. My students usually fall into two categories: the students who do homework and the ones who don't. The ones who regularly practice speaking and complete all of the homework assignments typically show better improvement in their scores, while the others take a longer time. So what does this all mean? It means practice makes perfect and homework is good for you!
Here are the steps that you need to take in order to get ready for the speaking section of the TOEFL EXAM.
GET COMFORTABLE TALKING IN NOISY ENVIRONMENTS
A lot of my students tell me that once they get ready to begin the speaking section, they have a hard time focusing because of all the other test-takers that are talking all at once. So what should you do? Start practicing speaking in noisy environments! You could go outside to a place like a coffee shop to practice and record your answers, but another good way that I picked up from a public speaking course is to just use your TV!
Turn on the TV to an English station and set the volume to a certain level. Then practice recording your answers to TOEFL speaking questions. It'll feel weird at first because you might try to focus on what's being said on the TV, but after a while, you'll grow to ignore it, which will help you to stop focusing on all the other people speaking when you take your TOEFL test.
START PRACTICING WITH A TIMER
I'm always amazed when I have students who have practiced for the TOEFL speaking section without a timer. Using the timer is CRUCIAL because it'll help you figure out how much time you need for your introduction, the reasons or details, and the conclusion for your answer. Just type in TIMER into Google and you'll see a stopwatch that you can use.
RECORD YOUR ANSWERS
Recording your answers can give you valuable information about your speaking skills. Your teacher or your friend can listen to your recording and point out any mistakes that you may have with pronunciation. A really good audio recording program that I use is Audacity. The best part is that it's free and you can download the MP3 encoding library so that you can convert your audio files to MP3s.
TRANSCRIBE / CORRECT YOUR ANSWERS
This is something that takes a lot of time and effort, but it definitely pays off in the end. When you listen and transcribe your answers, you will start NOTICING mistakes with your pronunciation and grammar. Not only that, you might realize that there are aspects of your speaking you need to fix, such as eliminating any "ums" or long pauses in your recordings.
RECORD AND ANALYZE YOUR ANSWERS AGAIN!
After you evaluate your first recording, think about the score that it should get. Does it deserve a 4 out of 4? If not, you should practice again! It's not enough to practice a set of questions once. A good way to do additional practice is to practice that same set of questions a week later to see if you have improved your pronunciation, speed, and grammar, or if you're making the same mistakes.
For those of you who are preparing for the TOEFL exam, I want to wish you a lot of luck! Want to practice a few TOEFL speaking questions with one of our instructors? Then sign up for a free consultation today!