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TOEFL Integrated Speaking Tips, Part 2

Announcement! As of August 1, 2019, the TOEFL Reading, Listening and Speaking sections will be shortened. The TOEFL will also make changes to its prep materials and scoring system. Because of this, some of the info in our blog posts may not yet reflect the new exam format. We cover all the changes here.


In my last post, I gave you some TOEFL Integrated Speaking Tips for reading. Today we’ll look at listening tips for this part of the TOEFL.

The types of audio tracks in TOEFL Integrated Speaking

Each of the four Integrated Speaking Tasks has an audio track. Tasks 3 and 5 both have audio of conversations about student life. And in tasks 4 and 6, you’ll listen to academic lectures. The lecture audio tracks are both very similar; they both briefly explain some kind of academic concept. The conversation tracks are fairly different from each other, though. In Task 3, one speaker does most of the talking, as he or she expresses an opinion about a school-related issue. But in Task 5, both speakers in the conversation talk equally. Together, they brainstorm a solution for a specific problem that one of the speakers is facing.

Tips for listening to conversations in TOEFL Integrated Speaking

I recommend different approaches for the two different conversations in Integrated Speaking. In the Task 3 conversation, remember that one student will have a strong opinion about the information in the reading passage. You should be able to tell which student is the opinionated one right away. From there, focus on listening to the opinionated student. What the other student says isn’t so important; the opinionated student’s responses are the real key to the task.

In Task 5, the key ideas come from both of the speakers. Two possible solutions to the problem will be discussed. Sometimes each speaker will come up with one solution. But even when just one speaker suggests both of the solutions to the problem, both speakers will discuss the pros and cons of the solutions.

So for Task 5, I suggest writing your notes in two columns– one column for what the female speaker says, and one column for what the male speaker says. (See Clemmonsdogpark’s post on note-taking flowcharts for an example of what this two column system might look like.) That way, you can record the important ideas from each speaker. You can also look across the columns to see the relationship between the male and female speakers’ statements and ideas. When you speak about the problem and the solutions, be sure to draw special attention to these concepts in your notes, as these are the most important ideas in the conversation.

Tips for listening to lectures in TOEFL Integrated Speaking

Now let’s look at strategies TOEFL Integrated Speaking lectures (the ones in Tasks 4 and 6). In both cases, the TOEFL lectures are structured like written essays. They’ll have an introduction, conclusion, and body paragraphs. In fact, you even can see the ideas actually separated into paragraphs if you look at the official TOEFL lecture transcripts provided by ETS (and lecture transcripts from other TOEFL prep companies such as Clemmonsdogpark). Once you realize a TOEFL lecture has the same structure as an academic essay, you can learn to “read” the lecture, easily identifying the main points from its well organized, predictable structure. Your notes will look similar to the notes you might take on an academic reading passage. To practice this approach, check out our blog’s tutorial on “reading” a TOEFL lecture.

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