Phrase Length (SpeechRater™ Dimension)

Phrase Length in TOEFL Speaking

What’s Inside?

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Phrase Length in TOEFL® Speaking refers to the length of the phrases that you use in your speech. In the TOEFL speaking section, you are assessed on your ability to use a variety of phrase lengths in your responses. This means using both short and long phrases and sentences to convey your ideas effectively and make your speech more engaging. A speaker with good control of phrase

length will be able to use a range of phrase lengths to effectively communicate their ideas and keep the listener’s attention. However, it is important to note that the TOEFL speaking section does not assess your ability to use long or short phrases and sentences in isolation. Instead, it assesses your ability to use a variety of phrase lengths as part of a coherent and well-structured speech.

What is Phrase Length in TOEFL® Speaking?​

Phrase Length (PL) in TOEFL® Speaking is a SpeechRater™ indicator of your fluency.

PL is a measure of how long your phrases are in words.

Stronger speakers tend to form longer phrases with more words.

Your Phrase Length Score​

Your Phrase Length score is calculated based on the average length of uninterrupted speech in words.

Phrase Length is scored out of 100. Your score is indicated by the “You are here” line.

Tip: Learn more about how to read My Speaking Score charts, including the Impact score and what the coloured bars mean, in our knowledge base.

phrase length

Why You Should Care

Increase Your Score

Make sure that your phrases include more words, but be careful that you do not repeat yourself to have longer phrases. Otherwise, your repetitions and vocabulary scores might go down. Stronger speakers

On My Speaking Score, remember to check your [the type of data that will help set the difference between high-achievers and low-achievers] to see if you have a sufficient number of words in your phrases.

Remember, Phrase Length is an important measure of your fluency, and it has a high impact on your overall SpeechRater score.

Check out our blog to learn more about how to improve your score in other dimensions! 

Frequently Asked Questions

How is the average phrase length calculated during the TOEFL Speaking test?


The calculation of average phrase length during the TOEFL Speaking test is based on analyzing the entirety of your speech across all tasks. The SpeechRater™ system assesses each segment of your response where you speak without interruption and calculates the average number of words per segment. This means that both longer monologues and shorter, more concise statements are considered to provide a comprehensive view of your ability to vary phrase length. While all parts of the speaking section contribute to this metric, the system is designed to recognize and evaluate the complexity and natural flow of your speech patterns rather than just counting words.

What specific strategies can test-takers employ to increase their phrase length without sacrificing clarity and coherence?

To enhance your phrase length without compromising the quality of your speech, consider the following strategies:

  • Expand on Ideas: Instead of just stating an idea, elaborate on it by giving examples, explaining reasons, or describing your thoughts in more detail. This practice not only increases your phrase length but also demonstrates your ability to discuss topics in depth.
  • Connect Sentences: Use conjunctions like “and,” “but,” “because,” and “therefore” to connect shorter sentences into longer, more complex structures. This approach can help you add nuance to your speech.
  • Practice Paraphrasing: Work on expressing the same idea in multiple ways. This skill is invaluable for avoiding repetition and enriching your vocabulary, which naturally leads to longer, more varied phrases.

How can test-takers effectively balance the use of long and short phrases to improve speech clarity and engagement?

Balancing long and short phrases in your speech is key to maintaining clarity while keeping your audience engaged. Here’s how you can achieve this balance:

  • Understand the Purpose of Each Sentence: Use short sentences to emphasize key points and longer sentences when providing explanations, examples, or details. This approach helps to maintain clarity and ensures that your audience can follow your argument or narrative.
  • Practice Transitioning Smoothly: Work on connecting your ideas smoothly with transitional phrases like “on the other hand,” “furthermore,” and “for example.” These transitions can help you switch between shorter and longer sentences more naturally, making your speech more cohesive.
  • Vary Sentence Structures: Incorporate a mix of simple, compound, and complex sentences in your speech. This variety not only enhances engagement by making your speech more interesting to listen to but also demonstrates your grasp of English grammar and syntax.
  • Listen and Critique: Listen to proficient speakers and analyze their speech patterns. Notice how they balance the use of long and short phrases depending on the context and the message they want to convey. Apply these observations to your own practice.
  • Seek Feedback: Engage in speaking activities with peers or instructors and ask for specific feedback on your use of phrase length. Understanding how others perceive the clarity and engagement of your speech can guide you in making effective adjustments.