Speaking & Writing Strategies for the TOEFL iBT

The TOEFL iBT assesses a taker’s ability to use and understand English at the university level. It focuses on and evaluates listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills in an academic context. Passing the TOEFL iBT test is not an easy task. If you plan to take the test, it is good to prepare yourself before the actual exam. This article will share some valuable tips that will help you do well in the speaking and writing parts. If you are interested, keep reading!

The picture contains a list of TOEFL iBT Speaking Tips.

📝 TOEFL iBT Versus Revised Paper-delivered Test

The TOEFL exam is available in 2 formats – the one delivered via the internet and a paper test.

TypeDescriptionSectionsTime LimitGrading system
TOEFL iBT Test
  • done on a computer and is delivered via the internet
  • assesses academic English-language skills
Listening
Reading
Writing
Speaking
Around 3 hoursEach section has a score range
0-30
TOEFL Revised Paper-delivered Test
  • paper format
  • measures a taker’s ability to understand and use English in an academic context
Listening
Reading
Writing
2 hours 25 minutesEach section has a score range
0-30

🖇️ TOEFL Sections Overview: Speaking & Writing

TOEFL Speaking Section

The TOEFL iBT Speaking section is designed to evaluate your ability to speak English in academic settings. It consists of 4 tasks and 2 parts.

Independent Task

The first part is called an “independent speaking task,” and it includes two questions. In this part, the participants must rely entirely on their ideas, opinions, and experiences while giving answers. You will be asked to provide your opinion on a particular topic. There are 15 seconds for you to prepare the response. Then you would record yourself speaking for 45 seconds.

When you answer the two questions, you should clearly state your opinion. After that, you should give reasons that support your opinion. Giving an example is always a good idea, as well. The example should be detailed and relevant. It is also good to keep in mind that there is no right or wrong answer. The most important thing is to support your idea and develop the thought.

Integrated Tasks

The second part of the section is called “integrated speaking tasks.” It consists of four questions. Subjects for integrated tasks are usually course topics or campus situations. The four questions require participants to combine their English-language skills — listening and speaking, or listening, reading and speaking.

You’ll get around 30 seconds to get ready for your answer and from 45 to 60 seconds to record the answer. The responses should be recorded using the microphone in your headset. The answers are later sent to ETS, where they are scored using AI scoring and certified human raters to ensure quality and efficiency.

TOEFL Writing Section

The Writing section of the test lasts 50 minutes. The Writing section is designed to assess your ability to write in English. Based on reading and listening tasks, you will have to write two essays. You will need to express and present your ideas in a clear, well-organized manner.

TOEFL Integrated Writing

The first part of the section is known as an “integrated writing” task. The students should write an essay based on a short reading passage and spoken lecture excerpt. Typically, the recommended length for the essay is 150 to 225 words. The participants have 20 minutes to complete this task.

Your response is judged based on the quality of the writing. It is necessary to keep in mind that the essay should summarize the points made in the lecture and explain their relationship to the reading passage.

TOEFL Independent Writing

The second part of the section is usually referred to as an “independent writing” task. The students will have to write an essay based on their personal experience or opinion in response to a writing topic. The time limit for this task is 30 minutes.

There is no maximum word count, but the essay should be at least 300 words in length. To earn a high score, you should develop a multi-paragraph essay. According to a survey, the questions are usually related to education, work, and lifestyle topics.

✔️ Speaking & Writing Strategies for the TOEFL iBT

Top 5 TOEFL Writing Tips & Strategies

Below is a list of tips that will help you with preparing for the TOEFL writing section.

The picture contains a list of TOEFL iBT Speaking Tips.

Tip #1 Learn the TOEFL iBT Writing Format

It is no secret that getting a high score for a test like TOFEL is not an easy task. To do well in the written part of the exam, the knowledge of the English language is not enough. It is crucial to understand the structure of the test. This article has mentioned some good points that will help you familiarize yourself with the exam format. Remember that the writing section lasts 50 minutes and consists of two parts: integrated and independent writing.

Tip #2 Plan before You Start Writing

Planning is essential when it comes to the writing part of the exam. It’s always good to make a small plan or an outline before writing your TOEFL response. Don’t immediately start writing. First, try coming up with the arguments and writing them down on paper.

Writing TypeExample of The Outline
Integrated WritingIntroduction
The reading and the lecture are both about _____. / The author of the article feels that ______.
The Body
  • Para 1: The article mentions that ____. / The lecturer challenges this specific argument.
  • Para 2: Secondly, the author suggests ______. / The lecture, however, asserts that ______.
  • Para 3: Finally, the author posits that _____. / In contrast, the lecturer’s stance is _____.
Conclusion
In conclusion it can be said that _____. / To sum everything up _____.
Independent WritingIntroduction
The introduction part can have 3 sentences. The “hook,” the main point or thesis, and the transition to the body.
The Body
  • Para 1
  • Para 2
(Both paragraphs should include a topic sentence, an explanation, and a personal example.)
Conclusion
It is important to restate the thesis statement and the two reasons you used previously in the essay.

Tip #3 Create a List of Key Vocabulary

Apart from planning, vocabulary plays an important role. If you want to score well, you need to consider paying attention to your vocabulary. The more words you have stored, the easier it is to understand or write a text and express your thoughts. While writing an essay, you can use more expressions and powerful words to showcase your vocabulary. It will help you score more points, as well as make the writing process more manageable.

Your list of key vocabulary can look like this:

  • Sustainable
  • To adopt
  • To receive
  • Consumers
  • To expose
  • Motivated
  • To cater
  • To obtain
  • Advertising
  • Recycling

It is best not to use the same words too many times. For that reason, studying synonyms is a good idea. Moreover, it is better to avoid using boring words such as ‘thing,’ ‘good,’ ‘bad,’ ‘nice,’ etc. Instead, try using transitional words like ‘firstly,’ ‘secondly,’ ‘moreover,’ ‘therefore,’ etc.

Tip #4 Practice TOEFL Writing Topics

The writing section requires the participants to write two essays. The topics of essays may differ. There are five essay categories in general. While practicing, make sure to study and write works from each of the five categories. It will help you to get ready for any type of TOEFL essay topic on exam day.

TypeDescriptionSample Question
Agree or DisagreeYou need to agree or disagree with the statement. While expressing your opinion, don’t forget to support them with arguments.Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? All students should be required to study art and music in secondary school. Use specific reasons to support your answer.
PreferenceYou need to choose the statements with which you agree the most. Using supporting ideas is essential.Some people think that the family is the most important influence on young adults. Other people believe that friends are the most important influence on young adults. Which view do you agree with? Use examples to support your position.
Description/ExplanationYou are required to discuss a specific topic and give reasons for your choice and arguments.People work because they need money to live. What are some other reasons that people work? Discuss one or more of these reasons. Use specific examples and details to support your answer.
If/ ImaginaryYou are given an imaginary situation, and you need to discuss your choice and explain why you would have made a certain decision.If you could study a subject that you have never had the opportunity to study, what would you choose? Explain your choice, using specific reasons and details.
Compare and ContrastYou are given a situation, and you need to discuss the advantages and disadvantages. You may be asked to state your opinion as well. In that case, you will have to mention both your opinion and the opposite one. Don’t forget to support opinions with ideas and examples.Some young children spend a great amount of their time practicing sports. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this. Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

Tip #5 Don’t Forget about Structure

To score high on the exam, you need to pay attention to your answers and their structure. Each answer should include an introduction, the main idea, and a conclusion. It is important to remember that the main objective of the Integrated Writing Task is to summarize and compare main points from reading and listening materials.

In the Independent Writing Task, the objective is to state and defend an opinion by providing reasons and examples. Don’t forget to use transition phrases. In the second essay, especially, it is good to divide the body part into at least three paragraphs.

Top 5 TOEFL Speaking Tips & Strategies

Tip #1 Check the TOEFL iBT Speaking Format

If you want to do well in the speaking part of the test, it is better to prepare yourself using the TOEFL iBT speaking format. That way, you will mentally prepare for the actual exam and familiarize yourself with the test structure. There are two parts in the speaking section. You will have around 20 minutes to finish the whole part. Not a lot of time is given to prepare the answer, so try to stay focused and practice as much as possible before the examination.

Tip #1 Learn the Time Management

The TOEFL iBT exam is taken online; that’s why it is extremely important to keep track of the time. While answering the question, the participants will have limited time to prepare and record the response. Usually, 15 to 30 seconds is given to prepare the answer and 45 to 60 seconds to record the response. If you are studying for the exam, it is highly recommended to use a timer to track the time.

Tip #1 Use the TOEFL Speaking Template

Time is limited during the actual exam and every second count. That’s why it is better to study some speaking templates before the test.TOEFL speaking templates can increase your score in all four of the speaking questions.

Transition PhrasesExpressing OpinionReasoningConcluding
  • However
  • Consequently
  • I feel this way for several reasons
  • Likewise
  • Nevertheless
  • Particularly
  • As a result
  • I might also add that
  • I agree with the idea that
  • I think it is better to
  • Think it is a great/terrible idea
  • I hold the view that
  • As far as I am concerned
  • Speaking personally
  • As for me
  • First
  • For example
  • Second
  • To be more specific
  • Since
  • For a start
  • The next argument I’d like to state is
  • My final thought is that
  • Let me recap/ recapitulate my point
  • In a nutshell, what I am trying to say is
  • Finally
  • To sum up

Tip #4 Don’t Neglect Notes

To do well on the TOEFL, simply being good at English is not enough — you also need to know how to take clear and effective notes. During the test, you are allowed to take notes for every section of the exam, so use it. It’s important to use the space on your scratch paper wisely; try to save as much space as possible on your scratch paper. It is also essential to keep your notes neat and clear.

Tip #5 Learn the TOEFL Speaking Topics

Before going into the exam, it is important to familiarize yourself with TOEFL speaking questions that may come up during the test.

Type of QuestionSample QuestionsUseful phrases
Agree or DisagreeDo you agree or disagree that students should bring their cellphones to school?
  • I agree/disagree that
  • I agree/disagree with the idea that
  • Some people believe that …, but I disagree.
PreferenceSome people prefer to buy new books while some people would like to buy used books, what is your opinion?
  • I prefer to
  • To me
  • I would rather
If/ImaginaryIf you had a small amount of money, would you spend it right away or save it? Use details and examples to support your explanation.
  • If + Subject + simple past
  • If + Subject + would/could/might + verb
Three ChoicesYou will need to accomplish an assignment for a presentation. Which one will you choose? (1) Act out a scene from a play (with a partner) (2) Explain your review of a novel you recently read (3) Read a selection of poems.
  • I would choose to
Description or ExplanationDo you think bicycles will still be widely used in the future or replaced by other means of transportation?
  • In my opinion
  • In my view
  • To my mind
  • I believe that
Advantage and disadvantageSome students work while attending university. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of having a part-time job at school.
  • One advantage is that
  • However
  • It definitely has some pros
  • On the one hand/ On the other hand

Use Free Websites for Practicing

Using the right resources to prepare for your exam is extremely important. Here are some resources that will help you prepare for the exam:

On these websites, you can find mock tests and example questions. You can also work on your reading and listening skills using TED and BBC.

Getting a high score on TOEFL might not be an easy task, but nothing is impossible if the right strategies are applied. This article introduces some of the valuable tips for writing and speaking sections that can help you tremendously with the exam. If you use them, we guarantee that your results will improve. Leave comments and share some of your favorite tips and strategies.

🔗 References

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