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Your Brain at Work

What you’ll do on this question:

1st: you will hear a question, which will be made up of about 20-30 words.

2nd: you will be given 15 seconds to prepare your answer.

3rd: you will be given 45 seconds to record your answer.

4th: the computer will save your response and go to the next question

Let’s put it together and practice a question. Record your 1st try on your computer so that you can have it as a record and compare it to later records after you finish this program. Do your best and don’t worry about making it perfect. Simply try the question and continue through this page.  Good luck! 

The kind of question to expect on your TOEFL:

Question 1 tends to provide you with only two possible answers. Let’s look at our sample question to get a clearer idea of this.

Example 1:

Do you prefer a friend who is similar to you or different from you?

Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

Only two possible choices exist, right?

Some students ask whether it is okay to answer that both points of view are good. The answer is, of course, yes. If you can deliver a speech that supports both sides intelligently, it shows a higher degree of fluency than just supporting one.

However, it is more difficult and supporting one side is enough to earn a perfect score, so my response is always the same: master supporting one side first and then you’ll understand how to support both well. However, once students master supporting one side, they don’t feel the need to do more work to learn how to support both. Remember that it’s all about doing what’s easiest THAT WORKS so that you can show your command of English best.

Another more common format these days tends to be a simple do you agree or disagree question followed by a statement:

Example 2:

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

Children learn more from their teachers than their parents now compared to the past.

Use specific reasons and details to support your answer.

The topics of these questions vary, but the most important thing to realize is that this question is meant to discover how well you can speak English naturally. That’s why they don’t give you any text or listening to explain: they simply want you to discuss a topic persuasively.

By learning how to explain just a few questions well, you’ll be able to answer ANY question the TOEFL gives you and deliver a top-scoring answers.

Here’s one more type of question that’s important to expect: we call it a situation question or background question because it provides some text for you to read to understand the question better.

Example 3:

Since its introduction in the 1960s, the Internet has grown to influence every part of our lives and society. In fact, schools are using the Internet more and more in their classrooms to support their lessons. Do you believe this growing use of the Internet in classrooms is a positive or negative trend? Use specific reasons and details in your answer.

We will work through each of these questions so you understand how to answer each. No matter what, you’ll need to think carefully, but with the technique we’ll teach you, you can 100% master this question to earn your dream score on your next TOEFL.

Also, please remember that the TOEFL creates these questions, so even though the TOEFL follows a specific format for this question, it might be on your next TOEFL that the TOEFL decides to introduce a slightly different kind of question that no one expects. Stay flexible. Stay focused. And KNOW if you read the question carefully and follow what you learn below, you WILL succeed.


How to best use your 15 seconds to prepare:

First, remember that you don’t need 15 seconds to prepare. Everyday you have conversations with your friends and family. In those conversations, you might think for a few moments before you speak, but you probably never prepare for 15 seconds, right?

That’s the key to success in this question: to speak as naturally as you do with others… while also delivering an academic answer that connects with all parts of the question. Here’s how.

1) Understand the question 100% by reading it carefully as the narrator reads it out loud to you. AND, if necessary, read the question again during your 15 seconds. BUT, you want to avoid this because time passes so quickly: only do this if you feel you need to.

2) Write in your scratch paper 1 to 3 words that represent your answer.

3) Write 1 to 3 words that represent the first reason or point why you feel this way.

4) Write 1 to 3 words that represent the second reason or point why you feel this way.

If you struggle with coming up with reasons, please click here and complete our powerful critical skills lesson on:

Infinite & Strong Ideas by clicking here

By the end of that lesson, you’ll be a master of using your 15 seconds well and feel MUCH greater comfort with question 1.

Here’s an example:

Delivering your strongest answer possible in 45 seconds:

To succeed, remember that the TOEFL will score your answer on three factors:

  • Delivery – how naturally you speak and the clarity of your pronunciation
  • Language Use – the clarity and accuracy of your grammar and vocabulary
  • Topic Development – how well you explain through connection and details

Now, the TOEFL uses both a computer and human rater to evaluate your answer according to these factors.

The computer rater (e-rater) is responsible for evaluating your Delivery.

The human rater is responsible for evaluating your language use and topic development, but it’s likely that your grader will be influenced by your delivery, at least a small amount, as well.

By being aware of these 3 answers, our explanation of how to delivery your 45-second answer will make a lot of sense:

First for Delivery, prepare yourself to speak naturally AND academically BEFORE your 15 seconds ends:

1st: While you’re preparing your answer, take deep calming breaths and remind yourself: “I can do it”

2nd: Imagine your speaking with a friendly coworker about an important project

By doing steps 1 and 2, you will lower your stress and develop the right mindset to speak. Thinking of a friendly coworker (or perhaps classmate) will help you to speak naturally and positively. Imagining that you’re talking about an important project will remind you to stay focused and clear: you wouldn’t want to speak quickly or unclearly with your coworker, right?

If you struggle with your speaking, don’t worry; we’ve developed an incredibl exercise to support you. You will learn how to improve EVERY element of your delivery to reach your dream score. Simply click on the link below and KNOW you will improve:

Delivery Training General

Second for Topic Development, answer with a clear structure with balanced time for each part of your answer:

1st: Answer – finish by 37 seconds

2nd: 1st Reason

3rd: Support – finish by around 20 seconds

4th: 2nd Reason

5th: Support – finish by 3 seconds

6th: Conclusion  – finish by 0 seconds

Several students ask whether they can simply give one reason and a long example. You can and still earn your dream score. But, if you do, you may limit your development. Your explanation, vocabulary, and details will be more varied if you develop 2 reasons.

Does that make sense?

HOWEVER, sometimes it is ideal to develop one reason rather than two. To succeed, always prepare yourself to explain your answer with 2 reasons. BUT, if as you speak, you notice that you need more time to explain your 1st reason well, then 100% use all your time to develop the 1st reason.

Develop a strategy to always come up with 2 reasons, and then be flexible to use only 1 if necessary while you answer. This is the best overall strategy for success that we’ve discovered with you and other students.

A discussion on templates:

The structure above can be considered a template when you apply memorized phrases such as these shown in italics:

1st: Answer – finish by 37 seconds – In my view,

2nd: 1st Reason – First,

3rd: Support – finish by around 20 seconds – For example,

4th: 2nd Reason – Second,

5th: Support – finish by 3 seconds – For example,

6th: Conclusion  – finish by 0 seconds – That’s why…

But we consider a structure and a template different to teach the TOEFL.

Templates are simply memorized phrases that help you move from one part of your answer to another. The parts of your answer form the structure; the memorized words you use to move from one part of your answer to another are phrases in a template.

Does that also make sense?

The template above works: it always has and always will BUT remember templates don’t improve your score. Again, templates don’t improve your score. They simply help you move from one part of your answer to another. AND, they require care because questions on the TOEFL are unique and a memorized phrase may work for some questions and not others.

Third for Topic Development, mention each part of the question throughout your answer:

This creates the connection necessary in your answer to get your dream score.

In our example question:

Example 1:

Do you prefer a friend who is similar to you or different from you?

Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

How many parts are there to this question?

Answers will vary, but we can agree there are at least two major parts: a similar friend AND a different friend, right?

So, if you prefer a friend who is similar, you still want to mention a friend who is different to earn a top score. This shows the grader you are able to discuss the topic fully. It’s not easy, but important to earn a top score.

Be aware that you don’t need to mention every part of the question equally. You simply want to have your answer filled with each part of the question so it contains important key words from the question the grader can hear.

This might be as simple as developing an answer fully about why you like a friend who is similar and concluding with:

I wouldn’t have these benefits with a friend who is different from me.

For other questions, you might have several parts. You see this in our 2nd example question about children. For still other questions, you might have many parts, but only a few that are related to the question being asked. You see this in the 3rd example question about the Internet and its use in the classroom.

We’ll discuss this point further in our example answers below.

Fourth for Language Use, think first (quietly) and speak second:

This is absolutely critical.

Think first (quietly) and speak second.

This will improve your delivery because instead of saying “um” or “uh” in your speech, or repeating yourself when you don’t know what to say, you will simply think silently. Silence IS MUCH BETTER than repeating words or “um” and “uh” in your speech.

It’s 100% okay to have a few in your speech. You can earn a 30 out of 30 on your TOEFL with some of these, BUT not with many that show you have a habit of speaking this way unfortunately.

In addition to working on the Delivery Training General exercise that we linked you to in our first factor, thinking first (quietly) and speaking second will dramatically reduce these parts of your speech.

Finally, explaining yourself well with your clearest grammar takes thought. If you speak before you have time to think carefully about what you’re saying, your score will stay the same.

Remember: saying a lot doesn’t earn your score, speaking well will earn your dream score.

Now here’s an example putting it all together: