In my 14 years of dealing with TOEFL Speaking, as one of the most challenging parts of TOEFL preparation, I learned that there are TWO TYPES of test takers: those who thrive on structure and those who prefer to “freestyle”. Depending on which category you fall into, you’ll have distinct problems in the TOEFL Speaking section.
TOEFL Speaking when you rely on structure
Typically, those who rely on structure do better in the INTEGRATED part of the TOEFL Speaking section. Here they have something to go by – the reading/listening prompts. This means they don’t have to come up with new, relevant ideas in the very limited time they get on the test day. People in this category usually find the INDEPENDENT Speaking (and Writing) much more challenging. They typically cite the lack of ideas as their biggest problem. Their INDEPENDENT Speaking answers are usually very limited in terms of content, because they simply can’t think quickly of the right supports, even in their first language.
TOEFL Speaking when you ‘Freestyle’
On the other hand, those who like to share their opinion on any topic under the Sun, (typically the “big talkers” in their first language) have no trouble answering the INDEPENDENT Speaking question (or writing the INDEPENDENT essay). Coming up with ideas, supports and details is not a problem for them. On the contrary, a lot of times they have so much to say that they can’t fit their answer in the “only” 45 seconds given. Typically, these test takers have trouble managing their time, in both the INDEPENDENT and the INTEGRATED portion of the TOEFL Speaking section.
Solution for both types
Luckily, there is a solution that works for both types (and no, it’s not a “magic pill”) – it’s the good old PRACTICE. The more questions you are exposed to, the more comfortable, and faster with answers you get. At the same time, if you practise under the realistic conditions, with the time limit, you get a better feel for how much you can say within 45 seconds.
If you have been preparing for TOEFL for a while, but you still can’t get the required TOEFL Speaking score, you probably realized that it is crucial to get professional feedback, correction and evaluation. Ideally, you want to enlist help from a TOEFL prep specialist, a teacher/tutor who will listen to YOUR ANSWERS and give you specific feedback, rather than model the answers for you. This is exactly what I do in the Independent Speaking Workshop. YOU get new INDEPENDENT Speaking questions (one at the time), 15 seconds to prepare and 45 seconds to answer. I LISTEN to your FIRST answer, which is the most realistic one, and give you INSTANT FEEDBACK on the three main aspects of your answer. You can find more details about the Independent Speaking Workshop here: