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TOEFL® Speaking Templates: The Ultimate Guide

Learn how to structure and deliver high-scoring responses to all 4 TOEFL Speaking tasks.

In this 2024 TOEFL Speaking Templates guide, you'll learn exactly how to answer each TOEFL Speaking question with a simple, reliable response template that is a note-taking system and a response delivery system at the same time.

And it's incredibly easy to use.

Let's dive right in.

Chapters

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Understanding TOEFL Speaking

This part of the guide dives into what the TOEFL Speaking section entails, the format of the test, and the time allocation for each task.

Let's get started.

TOEFL Speaking: Overview

The TOEFL Speaking section tests your ability to speak English effectively in an academic setting. 

It’s the third section of the 4-section TOEFL iBT, lasts about 17 minutes, and focuses on both your ability to produce spoken English and to integrate English listening and reading skills into your spoken responses.

Among the four skills assessed by the TOEFL iBT, the Speaking section uniquely challenges you to demonstrate their English proficiency in a spoken format. 


TOEFL Speaking: Format

The Speaking section consists of 4 tasks that simulate conversations, classroom discussions, and academic presentations, requiring test-takers to express opinions, and summarize information they have read and heard. 

 

1. Independent Task (Personal Experience/Opinion)

  • This task assesses your ability to speak spontaneously and coherently about your own experiences and opinions. It is a stand-alone task that does not involve reading or listening to additional information before you respond.
  • You have 15 seconds to prepare and 45 seconds to respond.
 

2. Integrated Task with Reading/Listening (Campus Situation)

  • You will first read a short passage about a campus-related issue and then listen to a short conversation or lecture that discusses the same topic. Your response should integrate information from both the reading and the listening materials to summarize the views and details presented.
  • After a 45-second reading period, you have 30 seconds to prepare and 60 seconds to respond.
 

3. Integrated Task with Reading/Listening (Academic Course Topic)

  • This task involves reading an academic passage, followed by a listening segment related to the passage. You will need to synthesize and summarize the information from both the reading and the listening segments in your spoken response.
  • After a 45-second reading period, you have 30 seconds to prepare and 60 seconds to respond (same as task 2).
 

4. Integrated Task with Listening Only (Academic Lecture)

  • You will listen to a part of a lecture or a talk. Unlike the other tasks, this one does not include a reading component. You are required to summarize and possibly explain the information presented in the lecture.
  • You have 20 seconds to prepare and 60 seconds to respond.

ChapteR 2

TOEFL Speaking: How It's Scored

This part of the guide explains how ETS scores TOEFL Speaking responses.
Let's go.

ETS Scoring Methodology

The TOEFL Speaking section’s scoring methodology combines human raters and automated scoring technology (i.e. SpeechRater) to ensure a fair and accurate assessment of a test taker’s ability. Here’s a simplified explanation of how this intricate process works, focusing on the balance between human judgment and advanced technology.


Human Scoring

  • Rubrics: Human raters evaluate responses based on detailed rubrics provided by ETS. These rubrics focus on three main areas: Delivery, Language Use, and Topic Development.
  • Training: Raters are thoroughly trained to apply these rubrics consistently and accurately. They must pass rigorous certification tests and are regularly monitored to ensure the quality and consistency of their scoring.
 

Automated Scoring (SpeechRater)

  • SpeechRater: This is an advanced automated scoring system developed by ETS that evaluates the speaking responses. It analyzes various aspects of speech, including fluency, pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. Unlike human raters, SpeechRater can provide highly consistent scores across many responses. See My Speaking Score for more information about SpeechRater.
  • Continuous Improvement: The technology behind SpeechRater is regularly updated and refined based on ongoing research and validation studies, ensuring that it remains a reliable tool for assessing spoken English proficiency.
 

Combining Scores

  • Integration of Scores: The final score for each speaking task is determined by combining the human rater’s score with the SpeechRater score. While ETS has not publicly disclosed the exact formula for combining these scores, it’s understood that this methodology is designed to leverage the strengths of both human and machine scoring. The human rater provides nuanced understanding and judgment, especially for content and meaning, while SpeechRater offers consistency and objectivity, particularly in assessing linguistic features.
  • Quality Control: To ensure the accuracy and fairness of scores, responses may be scored by multiple raters, and discrepancies are carefully reviewed. ETS implements various checks and balances, including rescoring and auditing procedures, to maintain high scoring standards.
 

This dual approach aims to provide a comprehensive assessment of your speaking ability, recognizing that effective communication involves a complex interplay of factors that can be best evaluated through both human insight and technological precision. 

Tip: Use Free TOEFL Speaking Practice Tests

Use a site like TestReady or My Speaking Score to practice the TOEFL Speaking section with mock tests. Benefits:

  • know the format of the TOEFL Speaking section
  • get your SpeechRater score instantly
  • practice under timed conditions
  • listen to model responses
  • reduce stress

Chapter 3

TOEFL Speaking Template For Question 1

This part of the guide shows you exactly how to use a simple response template to structure your ideas and deliver a fluent, high-scoring response to TOEFL Speaking task 1.

Step 1: Prepare Your “Grid” 

When you take the TOEFL, you can take notes, which means you can use a sheet of paper to set up your TOEFL Speaking response template. 

 

What is a grid?

 A “grid” is three lines on a page. In the context of TOEFL Speaking preparation, it simply refers to a template that you use to organize your thoughts and responses effectively during the speaking section of the test. This strategy is particularly useful for managing the limited preparation and response time allotted for each question.

 

Tip: Before you begin the Speaking section, prepare four response grids, by drawing two vertical lines bisected by one horizontal line on four separate sheet of paper.

 

In every “grid-assisted” TOEFL Speaking template, each column represents 1/3 of your response. The grid is valuable because it pre-structures your response, so you can stay on time, and on topic. 

 

  • First 15 Seconds – Memorized Introduction + Thesis:
    Start by acknowledging why you are qualified to answer the question, and set a hook that connects your opening statement to your thesis.
    • Example: “This is a really great question. In fact, I recently had a rather profound conversation about this exact topic with a friend of mine.”
    • Then clearly state your thesis: “I disagree/agree with this idea for a couple of reasons.”
 
  • Next 15 Seconds – First Reason (Verb + Why):
    Choose a verb that describes what a college education does (e.g., prepares, educates).
    • Example: “A college education prepares you for a profession.”
    • Then elaborate on why this preparation is essential, using specific details or examples.
 
  • Final 15 Seconds – Second Reason (Adjective + How):
    Select an adjective that describes the nature of a college education (e.g., irreplaceable, essential).
    • Example: “A college education is irreplaceable.”
    • Then explain how it is irreplaceable, by adding a personal anecdote or broader social implications.

Q1 Response Template

Prompt: A college education is not necessary for a successful career. Do you agree?

First 15 Seconds

  • Connection to me: “This is a really great question. In fact, I recently had a rather profound conversation about this exact topic with a friend of mine.”
 
  • Thesis: “I disagree because college is important for 2 reasons.”

Next 15 Seconds

  • Verb: prepare
 
  • Why: job market – comp. sci – $ good jobs

Final 15 Seconds 

  • Adj: irreplaceable
 
  • How: memories + friends 

Step 2: Answer the Prompt

Prompt: A college education is not necessary for a successful career. Do you agree?

 

This is a really great question. In fact, I recently had a rather profound conversation about this exact topic with a friend of mine. And I disagree because my belief is that a college education is more important these days than ever before. And I feel this way for a couple of reasons.

First, a college education prepares you for a profession. If you choose your major wisely, you will develop the skills and knowledge you need to be competitive in the job market. For example, engineers and and computer science majors tend to get well-paying jobs when they graduate.

Second, a college education is irreplaceable. This is because the college or university experience is about so much more than acquiring academic knowledge. For example, when you’re at college, you form lifelong friendships that you will cherish for the rest of your life. [listen]

Step 3: Consult the TOEFL Speaking Rubric

Using a TOEFL Speaking template to structure responses helps to align your answer with the evaluation criteria in the rubric.

 

View Independent TOEFL Speaking Rubric

Let’s analyze our model response with the Independent TOEFL Speaking rubric:

 

Delivery (Score: 4/4)

  • Response is sufficient to the task and has a generally well-paced flow (fluid expression). Speech is clear. It may have a few minor lapses, or even minor difficulties with pronunciation or intonation, but nothing that affects overall intelligibility.
  • Comment: The model response flows smoothly, indicating a comfortable pace and fluid expression. 
 

Language Use (Score: 4/4)

  • Response is sufficient to the task and exhibits a fairly automatic and effective use of grammar and vocabulary, and high degree of automaticity with good control of basic and complex structures.
  • Comment: The model response demonstrates a strong command of English with phrases like “a rather profound conversation” and “irreplaceable… experience”. The use of varied vocabulary (“profound,” “competitive,” “irreplaceable”) and complex grammatical structures (conditional statements and complex relative clauses) indicates a high level of language proficiency.
 

Topic Development (Score: 4/4)

  • Response is sufficient to the task and clearly organized around coherent relationships between ideas and clear progression of ideas.
  • Comment: The response adequately covers the prompt, providing clear and relevant reasons supporting the thesis that a college education is essential. The development of ideas from stating the general importance of a college education to specific examples (such as the career preparation for engineers and computer scientists and the personal development aspect through forming lifelong friendships) shows a well-organized and logical progression of ideas. Each point is not only introduced but also elaborated upon, enhancing the coherence and completeness of the argument.

Step 4: Check The SpeechRater Data

SpeechRater data from My Speaking Score makes it clear how well your TOEFL Speaking template is performing for you.

 

Let’s use SpeechRater data to supplement our rubric analysis of the model response.

 

View: SpeechRater report for this model response

 

Let’s break down each SpeechRater dimension score using specific examples from the model response:

 

1. Speaking Rate (Score: 98)

  • SR measures your response delivery speed in words per second and has a strong impact on your overall TOEFL Speaking score.
  • Comment: The model response’s Speaking Rate is excellent, which indicates an appropriate amount of speed. A high score in this dimension suggests clarity and fluency, which are crucial for effective communication in English.
 

2. Sustained Speech (Score: 99)

  • SS measures how smoothly your response was delivered and has a very strong impact on your overall TOEFL Speaking score.
  • Comment: The model response has no unnecessary pauses, indicating a strong command over speech flow. Sustained Speech is important as it demonstrates fluency and helps in maintaining the listener’s engagement.
 

3. Pause Frequency (Score: 99), Distribution Of Pauses (Score: 99)

  • PF and DP measure how often and how effectively (naturally) you use pausing and have a very strong impact on your overall TOEFL Speaking score.
  • Comment: Both pausing scores are indicative of an ability to manage pauses effectively. Frequent appropriate pausing can enhance understandability and give structure to speech, showing advanced proficiency.
 

4. Phrase Length (Score: 99)

  • PL measures how long “chunks” of speech are and has a very strong impact on your overall TOEFL Speaking score.
  • Comment: The high Phrase Length score suggests an ability to construct complex, coherent thoughts without hesitation. Longer, well-structured phrases are a sign of higher language proficiency.
 

5. Repetitions (Score: 99)

  • Re measures how often you repeat yourself (i.e. reformulations) and has a weak impact on your overall TOEFL Speaking score.
  • Comment: The model’s high Repetitions score is excellent, indicating low repetition of words or phrases, which contributes to a clear and concise delivery.
 

6. Rhythm (Score: 99)

  • Rh measures how closely your syllable stress resembles a native English speaker and has a mild impact on your overall TOEFL Speaking score.
  • Comment: The model reflects a natural Rhythm, which enhances the overall listening experience and indicates good control of stress and intonation patterns.
 

7. Vowels (Score: 89)

  • V measures how closely your pronunciation resembles a native English speaker and has a strong impact on your overall TOEFL Speaking score.
  • Comment: This relatively lower Vowels score might suggest a few minor issues with vowel pronunciation, which could affect how easily listeners understand certain words.
 

8. Vocabulary Depth (Score: 77), Vocabulary Diversity (Score: 99)

  • VDe and VDi measure how effectively you use uncommon words and a variety of words and have a weak to mild impact on your overall TOEFL Speaking score.
  • Comment: The model uses a variety of words (Diversity), and there might be room for using even more complex vocabulary (Depth) to enhance the sophistication of the response.
 

9. Grammatical Accuracy (Score: 75)

  • GA measures how well you use English grammar conventions in your response and has a mild impact on your overall TOEFL Speaking score. 
  • Comment: The GA in the model allows for understandable communication, and even more consistent use of verb tenses would likely raise this score further.
 

10. Discourse Coherence (Score: 99)

  • DC measures how well your response is formed to connect ideas and has a mild impact on your overall TOEFL Speaking score.
  • Comment: A very strong Discourse Coherence score is difficult to achieve and shows the model is structured logically and clearly, which is vital for effective communication and a high score in TOEFL Speaking.
 

Final Comments

Overall, the Rubric estimates and SpeechRater data indicate that the model response is very strong overall and corresponds to an overall TOEFL Speaking score of 28.

Chapter 4

TOEFL Speaking Template For Question 2

This part of the guide shows you exactly how to use a response template to structure your ideas and deliver a fluent, high-scoring response to TOEFL Speaking task 2.

Step 1: Set Up Your “Grid” to Plan Your Response

Like the Q1 grid, your Q2 TOEFL Speaking template divides your response into thirds. Again, the grid is your TOEFL Speaking superpower because it pre-structures your response, so you can stay on time, and on topic. 

 

  • First 20 Seconds – Proposal/Idea Summary + Benefit + Memorized Transition
    Establish the main idea in the reading, then state the two main points in the article, then state the student’s opinion with a memorized transition.
    • Example: An article in the campus newspaper [main idea].
    • The author claims that [point 1] and [point 2].
    • The [man or woman] in the conversation vociferously [agrees or disagrees] with the [main claim] for 2 reasons.
 
  • Next 20 Seconds – Conversation Summary: reaction 1 – explanation – example
    State the student’s first reaction, then explain what the student means, then state the example the student uses.
    • First, the [man or woman] claims [point 1] is [opinion].
    • S/he thinks [explanation].
    • For example, [example].
 
  • Final 20 Seconds – Conversation Summary – reaction 2 – explanation – example
    State the student’s second reaction, then explain it, then state the example.
    • Second, s/he claims [point 2] is [opinion].
    • S/he thinks [explanation].
    • For example, [example].

Step 2: Summarize The Reading & Conversation


University to Build New Auditorium

The university has decided to demolish the old campus auditorium and replace it with a new one. The auditorium is one of the oldest original buildings on campus, and administrators say it is showing signs of its age: sagging floors, peeling paint, a drafty interior, and outdated decor. The new auditorium, by contrast, will have a clean, modern appearance. Also, the old auditorium is too small to accommodate the number of current students. The new auditorium will be bigger, with a greater number of seats to accommodate a larger student body.

 

M: I wish they wouldn’t do this.
F: Really? But the place is so old…
M: Yeah, but I like that. I think it’s a nice, historic-looking building.
F: Hmm … well, I guess it’s kinda pretty…
M: It’s an important part of the university’s history. It was one of the first things built on campus… we should preserve that … not get rid of it.
F: That’s a good point. But what about the need for an expansion?
M: I don’t think it’s necessary.
F: But it was built when the university was so much smaller.
M: That’s true, but think about it: have you ever seen the space completely full?
F: Well … uh, no, I guess not.
M: Me either. There are never any events when the entire student body is there. In fact, there are usually just a small number of students in the audience for a play or a concert.
F: That’s true.
M: So why make it bigger, if it works as-is?
F: I see what you mean.
M: I mean, there isn’t much to do on campus besides go to the movies. If there were other forms of, uh recreation, or other social activities, you know, I don’t think most students would have said that going to the movies was their first choice.

Q2 Response Template

Prompt: The man expresses his opinion about the university’s plan. Briefly summarize the plan, then state his opinion and explain the reasons he gives for holding it.

First 20 Seconds 

  • Summary: “The university has decided to tear down its auditorium and build a new one.”

  • Two Points/Benefits:
    • auditorium is too old
    • auditorium is too small

  • Memorized Transition: “The man in the conversation strongly opposes this decision for two reasons.”

Next 20 Seconds

  • Point 1: not old – auditorium is historically significant

  • Example/Support: important part of the university’s heritage; should be preserved

Final 20 Seconds 

  • Point 2: not too small – existing auditorium is never at capacity

  • Example/Support: auditorium is not used by all the students at the same time

Step 3: Answer the Prompt

Prompt: The man expresses his opinion about the university’s plan. Briefly summarize the plan, then state his opinion and explain the reasons he gives for holding it.

 

According to the announcement in the campus publication, the university has decided to tear down its auditorium and build a new one. This is because the school has determined the auditorium is too old and too small to serve its students and a new structure will more effectively accommodate the student body. The man in the conversation strongly opposes this decision for two reasons.

First of all, he argues that the auditorium is a nice and historically significant building that is an important part of the campus and the university ‘s heritage and tearing it down would be a terrible shame and the school should try to preserve rather than destroy such an important landmark.

Moreover, he mentions that the proposed expansion is unnecessary because the existing auditorium, the current structure is rarely if ever at capacity because the building is never used by all the students at the same time. And so the students simply do not require a larger facility to watch plays or to watch concerts.