TOEFL Speaking Section: Integrated Task Strategies

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  • 0:01 TOEFL Independent Tasks
  • 1:22 Taking Notes
  • 2:52 Prepping Your Speech
  • 4:19 The Speaking Task
  • 5:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

Need some help with the integrated tasks on the TOEFL? Here are some tricks and strategies to help you make the most of your prep time and answer the prompt questions as effectively as you can.

TOEFL Independent Tasks

There's a bit of false advertisement on the speaking section of the TOEFL. From the name, you'd think it's just about speaking, but actually, the test writers shoehorn some reading and listening in there too! The reading and listening sneaks into the speaking section on the independent tasks. These tasks ask you to respond to a prompt by referring to supplementary listening or reading and listening material. You'll get four independent tasks on the test:

  • Two with a prompt and a listening passage. In these tasks, you'll have to listen to someone speaking English and then respond to a question about the speech.
  • Two with a prompt, a listening passage and a reading passage. In these tasks, you'll have to read a passage, listen to a short speech in English on a related topic and then respond to a question about both on them.

These tasks sound really complicated, but they're not actually as bad as they sound. And you can make them even less scary by knowing what's coming and using some smart strategies. In this lesson, we'll go over some tips and strategies to help you make it work.

Taking Notes

Success on the independent tasks starts with the listening and reading passages that you'll be talking about - treating this material carefully makes all the difference (specifically, take notes). On all the independent tasks, you'll be able to take notes on the listening passage. If the task has a reading passage, you'll be able to take notes on that, too.

You'll have to talk about the reading and listening material in your response. Taking solid notes will help you save brainpower for the actual speaking, so you won't have to waste it remembering facts from the passages.

Don't try to write down every word though; you won't be able to keep up, especially with the listening. Instead, write down key points, vocabulary words and main ideas. Here are some tips for making them work for you:

  • If the task includes a reading passage as well, make it clear which notes are for the reading and which are for the listening. The prompts will often ask you to compare and contrast the passages, or do something else that requires being very clear on which one is which.
  • If the task includes a reading passage, pay special attention to terms or concepts that show up in both passages: those are likely to be covered in the prompt.

Prepping Your Speech

After you've taken your notes, you'll get a prep period: 20 seconds for the tasks with just a listening passage and 30 seconds for tasks with reading as well. That's hardly any time, so here's a tip to make your organization easy and automatic: use the prompt to give you an outline!

For example, you might hear a listening passage where two students discuss a book they're reading for a class. One student thinks they can't really understand the book without knowing the author's personal history; the other student thinks it doesn't matter, and the book should be read on its own. Then the prompt might ask you something like: Describe the disagreement these two students have about the reading. Then state whose opinion you'd agree with and why.

This prompt practically gives you your outline: first you'll briefly summarize the disagreement; then you'll pick a side and support your answer. An outline might look like this:

  • Disagreement: author's personal life relevant (y/n)? <-- Briefly summarize the disagreement.
  • Me: n, not relevant. <-- Pick a side.
  • Reason: Book topic different. <-- Support your answer.

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