Speaking Questions

We get this questions a lot from our students. All of the important points you’ll always need to know about questions 1 & 2 are as follows:

1) The questions will always ask about familiar topics. This means that the subjects will be every day topics like sports, transportation, education, technology, and so on. An unfamiliar topic would be something like biology or architecture. 

2) The question task never changes, but the way the task is framed may vary. For example, in 2007, they might have asked you:

If you could make one important change in a school that you attended, what change would you make? Use reasons and specific examples to support your answer.

However, in 2014, they may ask you:

If your university decided to use this year’s donations to make one major improvement, in which of the following ways do you think your university should use its money: an updated library, an olympic-sized swimming pool, or a new technology lab? Provide reasons and specific examples to support your answer.

As you can see, the topic is still familiar; the task is still the same. However, the wording has changed. The second question also may seem more difficult at first because it’s much longer, but in reality, it’s the same level of difficulty as our first question. In short, the way they frame the question is a bit different. Don’t let this alarm you. Continue to use the great strategies you’ve been mastering so far.

3) Sometimes we’ll see new trends in the question format like the one mentioned above. What we’re seeing now may change next year, so if you think you’re seeing a new trend, don’t panic! Let us know and if there’s any way to help you modify your response structure, we’d be glad to point you in the right direction. Good luck!

Many people encounter NoteFull by our famous YouTube videos. In those videos, we provide a very practical and basic structure to follow for each question type. Because the tasks change slightly, you may find that the language you use can also vary slightly.

For those of you who are already registered, you will notice that we’ve provided a wider variety of tasks and ways to modify the structure in Step One of your speaking system. If you’re registered, please visit Step One of your system for further details.

For those of you who are unregistered, we strongly recommend that you do so. You’ll find more extensive help that goes beyond what you’ve seen on YouTube. Please click on the following link for more details: Complete TOEFL Mastery

When in doubt, the best way to learn is to try it out on your own rather than asking us to create a model answer for you. Create a response with your question by using or modifying our template on your own first. You’re more than welcome to send it to us for some feedback. We’d be glad to let you know if you’re on the right track.

This is a common concern for a lot of students. If you’re registered, please take advantage of the content in Step One and also remember to visit the Common Mistakes page for a video on coming up with examples. 

If you are not registered, we strongly recommend that you do so to ensure you receive as much help as possible. Please click on the following link for more details: Complete TOEFL Mastery 

For some fast help, take a look at the following explanation. It’s actually impossible not to have an experience to relate. Let me give you an idea. I answered this question during tutoring with a student a short time ago that really helped illustrate the idea. Let’s say that you get a question that asks you this:

Would you rather live on Mars or Jupiter?

Have you ever lived on Mars or Jupiter? No, no one I know ever has and I don’t know any aliens who did. But, if you get this kind of question and you follow what we teach, you will be able to answer it easily. Let me give you the idea.

In my view, living on Mars would be better than Jupiter for 2 reasons.

First, it’s closer to Earth.

For example, I remember when I was in elementary school, I learned about the planets. I had to build a little diagram showing where they were and I still remember that Mars was closer than Jupiter and I would like to stay close to Earth.

Though I didn’t live on Mars that didn’t stop me from coming up with a real experience and referencing it. You don’t have to have a perfect example for the question. You just need to refer to something from real life. Don’t forget that the only reason we do this is that if we remember something, it’s easier to talk about, our vocabulary is better, it’s asked for in the question, and we will avoid repetition. It’s critical to do this to get the highest rating possible on questions 1 and 2.

I hope that helps and if you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask. We’re here to help the best that we can. Also, stay strong and focused in your studies. It will all get easier soon.

For those of you who have had a tutoring session or a review with NoteFull, our master instructors will all tell you “tell the truth in your examples.” Even though many of you have learned this, we still see students making up false stories in their responses. This is something you MUST stop doing today if you want to get the highest score possible. Why? It’s simple. If you make up a fake story in your example a grader will notice! Here’s how: 

  1. When students make up a story, they often hesitate–hesitation or a lack of fluency, smoothness, and speed is a surefire way to earn a “fair” score.
  2. When students create content, they often repeat themselves–repetition or not using a wide range of vocabulary will hurt your score. 

So, when we tell you to be honest, this isn’t because the grader is going to consider whether you’re telling the truth or not. Remember, the TOEFL is not a test of your ability to tell the truth, but a test of your ability to speak clearly, fluently, and to use a wide range of vocabulary.

We strongly urge that you use two part answers. This may mean that you provide two reasons and two examples, one reason and two examples, two characteristics plus a reason and example for each, or two pieces of advice plus a reason and example for each.

NoteFull recommends this because when you divide your answer into two parts, you will have a better chance at providing a wider range of vocabulary and you’ll (ideally) limit your repetitions.

You can respond however you’d like with whatever structure you feel comfortable. Remember, NoteFull’s strategies are not rules, but ways to help and guide you. Ultimately, you should use what helps you earn your score. Just remember though, these strategies have been tried and tested and they get results. So again, we hope you’ll try your best to master the two-part answer strategy. Don’t give up; mastering strategies can take time. We’ll be there to help you through it.

This type of question is rarely seen on the TOEFL these days (if at all). However, to help you prepare, here’s a quick tutorial and template to guide you:

1) Only one advantage and disadvantage is necessary with a short example for each

2) Here’s a quick example of the format that we teach:

There are disadvantages and advantages to building a large factory near my community in Maryland but the disadvantages are greater.

The greatest advantage would be the addition of jobs.

For example, . . . 

The worst disadvantage would be the pollution it would add to the area.

For example, . . . 

That’s why, in the end, I think it would be a terrible idea.

Good luck with your studies. Let us know if you have any other questions or concerns; we’re here to help the best that we can.

Our answer to this question is short and simple: Skip it. Start by announcing your title and then move on to the student’s opinion from there. It’s much better for you to speak clearly and with confidence, but missing a few details, than it is to speak without clarity, with pauses, and little confidence. Don’t sacrifice your speech for incomplete, misunderstood details.

To improve this ability over time, keep practicing. This is a great system to start with: Complete TOEFL Mastery

If you’re unable to catch the change entirely, then this may mean that you need much more practice and reading comprehension improvement. It’s true, it can be tough; when we’re feeling stressed, it’s difficult to absorb the content that the reading passage is presenting. Remember, your best bet is to use the title as a guide. This should be your first key word to help you scan the text quickly. Don’t read the entire passage from start to finish; this will be a waste of time. Learning to read quickly and efficiently is crucial. We hope this helps!

Yes; tense matters. However, does it have to be perfect? No. Just keep in mind that with Question 3, the students will often be discussing past or on-going examples and they’ll be considering future changes and results. Therefore, the best way to stay precise is to take notes that mirror the tense used by the students. 

If you’re having a big problem with mastering verb tenses, NoteFull encourages that you take a look at our ESL Power system. This is a great way to break old habits and improve your grammar overall. Here’s a link for further details: ESL Power

Note-taking is probably one of the most difficult tasks to improve quickly because there are so many different elements involved:

With note-taking we are using our comprehension skills.

We have to learn to write fast, but also write clearly.

We must write down meaningful words and content that will help us answer the questions.

We also have to be careful with how we organize and structure our notes. 

These are probably some of the major reasons why students often write in to let us know that they prefer NOT taking notes. However, if you hope to get the highest score possible, you should learn to master effective note-taking (if you’re taking the TOEFL to get into any sort of academic program–consider this as preparation for your university classroom, too!).

To improve, we strongly urge you to register for a system that includes our awesome “Great Notes” cycle of improvement. Any system that includes 3-steps of listening, speaking, or writing will come equipped with this powerful improvement tool. Here is a great system to help you get started:  Complete TOEFL Mastery

If you’re registered and you’re still struggling, please let us know what step of the “Great Notes” cycle has been giving you the greatest difficulty. We’d be glad to clarify it for you. You may also consider tutoring; in a session, our instructors are trained to help you find the precise reason you’re struggling with note-taking. We’ll be here to help you every step of the way! Good luck!

This is a great question. Knowing what to say can be a great source of confusion for students. 

We, at NoteFull, recommend that you avoid paraphrasing your content. In an academic setting, we usually have the time and freedom to show our originality and creativity. Also, we also learn to be cautious about using someone else’s words without citations; plagiarism is a big concern in academia. However, with the TOEFL, this is not something you should worry about. Here, it’s important to apply strategies that will help you maintain accuracy and precision in your spoken and written English, under tight timed conditions. Therefore, you should always use the lectures and conversations you hear as a direct source when writing your notes. And you should use those notes as a direct source to build your spoken responses. This will not hurt your score, but will instead help you maintain accuracy. The TOEFL raters will not be looking for originality, and so it is our recommendation that you simply use the subjects, verbs, and objects you hear and read to create your responses. 

Our answer to this question is short and simple: Skip it. Start with your title and then move on to the example from there. It’s much better for you to speak clearly and with confidence, but missing a few details, than it is to speak unclearly with pauses and little confidence. Don’t sacrifice your speech for incomplete, misunderstood details.

To improve this ability over time, keep practicing. This is a great system to start with: Complete TOEFL Mastery

For all registered students, if you review Step One and Top Content of Step Three carefully, you’ll find your answer. Please write in if you need clarification; we’re always here to guide you through the process

If you’re not registered, NoteFull recommends that you consider registration, because this will require more instruction and practice. Here’s a link to register today:   Complete TOEFL Mastery 

As a quick tip, think about how the definition and the keywords (nouns and verbs) in the definition connect to the example you just heard. We hope this helps!

Again, for all registered students, if you review Step One and Top Content of Step Three carefully, you’ll find your answer. Please write in if you’d like help with a specific question in your NoteFull practice tests.

This skill requires some instruction and practice. If you’re not registered, this is one great reason to consider going for it. Here’s a link to register today: Complete TOEFL Mastery.

The answer to this question is similar, though, to the previous one. The definition should function as your guide. Use what you read there to help you listen more intelligently. Good luck!

You don’t have to do this, but we strongly recommend it. Students who struggle with the structure tend to experiment with the format in order to develop a method that works for them. Ultimately, this is okay–you should deliver using a structure that works for you, but keep in mind that if you don’t talk about both solutions, you will have to come up with a lot more content on your own. When you discuss both solution one and two, you will be much better able to fill the time. So, our goal for you is that you keep working hard to master the strategy.

With that said, you may find that you’d like to modify the amount of content you say for each solution–especially if you’re struggling to manage your time. One of our key tips to follow is to skip the “even though” statement for the first solution. This should help you focus on the most important points and still manage to finish before the time is up.

Keep working hard to develop a consistent pattern that works for you. No matter what, we’re here to help if you’re still struggling. 

Pronouns can be tough to remember, especially if your native language doesn’t use them in the same way we use them in English. 

To get over this difficulty, try using “the student” as your subject rather than “he/she.” Also, when in doubt, just keep going. One little inaccurate pronoun won’t kill you, so don’t stop and try to correct yourself if you make a mistake here and there. 

Finally, if you’re having a big problem with pronouns and other grammatical rules, NoteFull encourages that you take a look at our ESL Power system. This is a great way to break old habits and improve your grammar overall. Here’s a link for further details:  ESL Power

NoteFull provides a template that will allow you to form an opinion using the points and examples from the talk. It makes the task of answering this question a bit easier and smoother. However, some students prefer to provide their own opinions. This is fine; there are many students who succeed with this method. However, keep in mind, that if you incorporate your own opinion, you may find that you lose your fluency a bit. Transitioning from reading your notes to speaking from your mind will create a natural shift in your delivery. This may, as a result, have a negative effect on your score–which is the most important point! 

In short, it’s up to you to decide how you’d like to deliver your responses–whether you choose to use templates or not–choose a method that you can repeat consistently and use to speak fluently. Good luck!

Our answer to this question is short and simple: Skip it. Start with your title and then move on to the first subtopic from there. If you can’t catch a few technical terms as you’re taking notes, try to mention the subject in simpler terms if possible, but keep moving forward. Don’t let doubt stop you. It’s much better for you to speak clearly and with confidence, but missing a few details, than it is to speak without clarity, with pauses, and little confidence. Don’t sacrifice your speech for incomplete, misunderstood details.

For Question 6, we recommend that you do not try to say everything. Many of you look at the TOEFL Speaking section as a listening test–in other words, a test of your ability to listen and catch all the details and then present them in your speech. However, this should not be your goal. Here are some tips to remember:

1) Above all else, this is a speaking test! Remember, that if you try to say every detail and in the process sacrifice your speaking ability, quality, or intelligibility–your grader will not be able to understand all of the detail you’re trying to pack in anyway! 

2) This is a summary question. What does this mean? This means that one of the skills you’re being tested on here is your ability to summarize a large amount of content and detail. So, keep in mind, if you try to hear, write down, and say every point this will not only be difficult, but it will also be foolish! Summarizing is the key to doing well on this question.

3) Use your “magic number.” Those of you who are registered should know to find this strategy in Step Three, “Timing Mastery.” Keep practicing and let us know if you’re struggling with this skill. However, if you’re not registered and you are unfamiliar with the “magic number,” we urge you to register. Here’s a great system to check out to improve: Complete TOEFL Mastery