In a new episode of The TOEFL Podcast, Paul Austin, head instructor at TOEFL Speaking Teacher speaks about the five skills you need to master to get 26+ on the TOEFL Speaking section.
First, Paul tells us about his work and how he created his website TOEFL Speaking Teacher. He noticed that many students struggled with the TOEFL Speaking section, and there were very few good resources.
Also as he started to work with the students on the Speaking section, he noticed that a lot of students needed to get 26+ on the TOEFL Speaking section and tried to figure out what is required to get 26 on TOEFL Speaking.
As a result of his experience, he found the five skills you need to master to get 26+ on the TOEFL Speaking section.
The first skill is Fluency. Fluency is your ability to deliver a response smoothly, with minimum interruptions.
Skill number two is TOEFL Speaking Tactics: Timing, Content, Organization, and Note-taking.
The third thing Words and Phrases. You want to show the evaluator that you can speak English well, you are not using templates, you are using natural sounding English.
Skill number four is your Accent and Intonation. It´s the most challenging one to improve because it takes more time.
Skill number five is your Pace of Speech. You need to speak fast enough, 100-105 words on Question types 1 and 2 and about 125 in Question types 3 to 6.
A bonus skill that affects everything is Confidence. You really need to work on improving your Confidence to get 26+.
The advice that Paul gives is not to focus on the score you need to get but focus on improving those five skills. Then you’ll be good enough to get 26+
Also, Paul emphasizes, that the part of getting 26 is accepting that you haven’t been perfect in the past, but now it’s time to change, now it’s time to get a professional help.
5 Skills You Need To Master To Get 26+ On TOEFL Speaking
Welcome back to the TOEFL Podcast, listeners! We are so excited to have you here today to learn about the five skills you need to master to get 26+ on the TOEFL Speaking section.
Now, some of you may be familiar with the work that I have done in terms of the TOEFL test. If you haven´t, just a brief introduction about what my work has been like for the past couple of years.
You know, when I started the TOEFL Speaking Teacher website a couple of years ago, I only had one or two years of experience with TOEFL, and I specifically created this site because I noticed that there were many students who struggled with the TOEFL Speaking section.
As you probably know, the productive skills, speaking, and writing are the most challenging skills for a TOEFL student to master. So I thought, ‘You know, I´ll just focus on the Speaking section, I’ll offer private lessons, I’ll give extra help for people so they can do well on the Speaking section.’ And as I started to work with students on the Speaking section I noticed that a lot of students needed to get 26+ on the TOEFL Speaking section. And this 26+ was for pharmacists, physical therapists, nurses, teachers, doctors, dentists, then, of course, people who needed to get their MBA, get in a graduate school, to get a Ph.D., a lot of students who needed to get 26+ on TOEFL Speaking.
And there weren’t a lot of resources at all. In fact, they were basically zero resources that were widely read and well known among the online community. You know, you have Notefull, but as I´ve spoken about with other students and I´ve spoken about on this TOEFL Podcast, their advice for the reading, listening, sometimes the writing section is pretty good, but their advice for the speaking section is bad. The best way to put it is incorrect.
And since they have the most popular YouTube channel, they get the most traffic, people say, ‘ Oh, look, it´s worked for other people, it will work for me too.’ Unfortunately, if you were to ask them for the percentages of the students they would help for the Speaking section specifically to get 26 it will probably be somewhere between 20 and 30 percent and maybe even lower. You always wanna look at percentages. Anyway, that´s getting a bit off track.
Because there were not any good resources, I started to work with students. I started to try to figure out what is required to get 26 on TOEFL Speaking. Because this is a challenging thing to do, it is not easy, and after about two years of private lessons, specific to 26+ on TOEFL Speaking, I´ve come up with a program more less. In this program, I do have a self-study course curriculum called ¨Get 26+ on TOEFL Speaking´ that´s available for purchase. It is a Premium product, but it basically has the all the skills and I´m gonna tell you about that today.
It has all the details, audio files, video files, fleshed out exercises that you can use at home. All these things are in the Premium course, but in today´s podcast, I just wanted to give you a taste of what those five skills are that you need to master to get 26+ on TOEFL Speaking.
So, let´s get started without kind of waiting any longer. And at the end of the five skills, I am going to tell you one bonus skill that you definitely need to master or understand well if you want to get 26 on TOEFL Speaking and this bonus skill I see 90 percent of students struggle with. Probably 90 to 95 percent of students struggle with this bonus skill. So definitely stay on in time to hear the bonus skill.
So, the first skill. Let´s get into it guys. The first skill is Fluency. You need to have excellent fluency if you want to get 26+ on TOEFL Speaking. What does that mean? So we say the word Fluency, what does it mean, when you are actually giving a response on the TOEFL Speaking section?
Well, Fluency is your ability to deliver a response smoothly, with minimum interruptions, from point A to point B. For example, in Question type 1 you just have 45 seconds to give that response. You should start with confidence in the first 5-10 seconds, start smoothly, you should go the full time, 44-45 seconds, with minimal interruptions and hesitations. I say no more that two or three hesitation or interruptions in your response if you want to get 26 on the TOEFL Speaking.
What do we count as hesitation or interruption? The most common one is going to be the word ‘Umm’, or ‘Uhh’. So if you record your responses, and you listen to those responses, and you notice, ‘Oh, wow, I´ve 8 ‘Umms’ and ‘Uhhs’ in this response, you need to lower those, you need to get those down. That´s the first one, ‘Umms’ and ‘Uhhs’.
The second type of interruption is often when we repeat ourselves. This happens with people who maybe have some issue with stuttering which is brought on by a lack of confidence and being nervous or stressed out. If you find yourself repeating words, stuttering over words, you would also count that as an interruption, and you wanna reduce those. Sometimes those can be very challenging because sometimes the student also stutters in their native tongue, and that’s something that is difficult to drop right away. If that´s a problem for you, I highly recommend hiring a professional; it can be one of our teachers, it can be someone else who will help you to lower the stuttering in your response. So, we have ‘Umms’ and ‘Uhhs’; we have stuttering; we also have general pauses, and breaks, and kind of drawing words out.
So, I worked with one student who, she is from Dallas, Texas, and she really struggled because to give her brain more time to think, she would often drag words out very long, so she is saying, you know, ‘Personally I think that the doctor should blah blah blah.’ Instead, you should say, ‘The doctor should go to Chicago,’ she would say, ‘Personallyyy I think the doctorrr should go to Chicagooo.’ And she would draw out those kinds of ends of the words to give herself more time to be able to think about what she wanted to say next. We fixed that; we improved that, and she went from 23 to 26 on TOEFL Speaking. And we also worked on some other things, but that was one of the main things that we worked on, to minimize.
Also, other than drawing words out, you want to speak clearly, you want to speak quickly, and you want to get from one point to the next. That’s skill number one. Skill number one is Fluency. Let´s go on to skill number two guys.
Skill number two is going to be the TOEFL Speaking Tactics. The TOEFL Speaking tactics – there are four of them. There is your Timing, there’s your Content, there’s your Organization, and there’s finally your Note-taking.
I call these TOEFL Speaking Tactics because these are just the things you need to do specific to taking the TOEFL Speaking section. If you are doing anything else, if you are going to have coffee with a friend, you are going to give a presentation about a certain topic to a group of people, or if you are going to speak to a client or person who is coming to your work, you don’t need to worry about these things. You don’t need to worry about taking notes beforehand or how you are organizing your response, or how much time you are talking. But because we are on the TOEFL Speaking Section, you need to be able to those things. TOEFL Speaking Tactics: Timing, Content, Organization and your Note-taking.
I’ll say a couple of things about this. Timing. For Question Type 1 and 2 you only have 44 or 45 seconds. For Question types 3 to 6 you want it to be 58, 59 or 60 seconds. Easy enough, you just want to work until you hit that timing consistently.
Content and Organisation. 90 to 95 percent of students who work with me, we don’t ever focus specifically on Content and Organisation. That’s something that with enough practice and with enough exposure to Example Responses you won’t have any problem with the Content and Organisation. But if you are struggling with content and organization, if your teacher tells that you are or if you kind of self-evaluate in terms of what you are struggling with it, look at your notes. Usually, notes are the first problem.
If you want more advice on the Note-taking you can look our YouTube videos Master Guide to Question Type 1, Master Guide to Question Type 2, Question Type 3, I tell you how to take notes in those videos, and I tell you how to take very good notes. Improve that Note-taking process and that is going to help you with your Content and Organisation. The other thing that will help you with Content and Organisation is by listening to example responses from students who have gotten 26+ on TOEFL Speaking.
This is one of the best things that I include in our Premium course, ¨Get 26+ on TOEFL Speaking¨. Before I have students take the TOEFL, I have them record responses and send them to me, and then I save those responses. And if they end up getting 26 on TOEFL Speaking which most of them do, I put those responses in my Premium course so that the students who are coming through can actually hear what a 26 response sounds like from a non-native speaker. I want you to listen to those again and again and again and again, so you have a very good understanding of what you need to do to get 26 on the TOEFL Speaking test in terms of Content and Organization.
One last note. A lot of students that have come to me worry that their content and organization is not good enough. They worry that it´s preventing them from getting 26 on TOEFL Speaking. Typically they are worrying about the wrong thing. If you worry that your Content, your Organization is preventing you from the 26, you are probably wrong. I will repeat that. If you are worried that the Content and the Organization of your responses is preventing you from getting 26 on TOEFL Speaking, you are probably wrong. It is probably something else, it is probably you Accent and Intonation, it´s probably the Words and Phrases you are using, it might be your Pace of Speech, it could be your Fluency. But usually, when students come to me their Content and Organization is fine.
If that´s the case, if you think that´s preventing you from getting 26, meet with me. Schedule a TOEFL Speaking Response Analysis which I will give the link to below, we’ll check your responses, I will actually tell you what is the real thing that is preventing you from getting 26 on TOEFL Speaking.
For some students, it is Content and Organisation, but that’s very rare, typically students want to believe that it´s Content and Organization.
Because of that, you know, that´s the easy one to fix. That´s the one they know how to fix, but it’s usually not. It´s usually not the Tactics; it’s usually not the Content and Organisation.
Let’s move on now. So, TOEFL Speaking Tactics: Timing, Content and Organization and Note-taking.
The third thing is gonna be the Words and Phrases that you use. Yes, words and phrases. What are the real words that are coming out of your mouth?
First of all, if you are using templates, and you expect to get 26 on TOEFL Speaking, you are shooting yourself in the foot. It´s a really good idiom to look up. Shooting yourself in the foot. Don´t use templates in the TOEFL Speaking section. When humans communicate, when native speakers talk in English, we do not speak like robots. We go to the store, we’re talking with friends, we order food at the restaurant, we don´t have pre-memorised phrases that we use. Why would you do that on the TOEFL Speaking section? You are trying to show the evaluator that you can speak English well. That is the entire point of taking the TOEFL Speaking test. Yes, you want to get your MBA. Yes, you want to go to graduate school. Yes, you want to get your Ph.D. You wanna, you know, work as a pharmacist, doctor, dentist, physical therapist, teacher but also ultimately you need to prove that you can speak English well to do those things, and the TOEFL is the medium for you to prove that.
Why would you speak like a robot on the TOEFL Speaking section? It doesn´t make sense. You wanna show the evaluators that you can speak English well, so don´t use templates, don´t try to memorize formulas. Spoken language is not A+B+C =D. It´s not that simple.
You have to be able to use conversational English; you have to be able to speak English naturally. That´s the third thing are Words and Phrases. So if we are not using templates, what you need to use is informal colloquial English, natural sounding English. And the best way to learn that, the best way to understand what that is by just immersing yourself in as many natural kinds of authentic listening resources as possible.
Podcasts, movies, TV shows, the radio, listen to those, again and again, just notice and pay attention to how native speakers actually talk. What´s their conversational English? They don´t use the word ‘moreover’. I still chuckle, I have a good chuckle when I have a student coming who uses the word ‘moreover’. I have never used that word in my entire life. Ever. When I´m speaking English. I´ve written it a couple of times, but I would never use that word. So don´t use it.
If there’s a word that a native speaker wouldn´t use in a conversation with other people, and you are trying to use it in the TOEFL Speaking response: ‘The professor states that.’
Get it out, cut it, it´s not helping you. Words and Phrases, eliminate templates, use colloquial, informal English.
Skill number four is Your Accent and Intonation. Your Accent, and this is probably one of the biggest things preventing students from getting 26. This is the real one.
When a lot of students think, ‘Oh, it’s my Content and my Organisation.’ They come to me, and I say, ‘No, it´s your accent.’ And the reason you don´t want to admit that it´s their accent, the reason they don´t want to have to accept the fact, that it is their accent is because that is the most challenging one to improve. That is by far the most challenging thing to improve because it takes time. Because it takes patience. Because it´s typically not an overnight fix.
And in our day and age, in our society, in the way that we live, we have been trained to find the shortest way possible. You´ve been trained to try to find the shortcut. Sometimes it´s just not possible. Sometimes you have to take a long way, the challenging way. And I see this most often with students who struggle with Accent and Intonation. As part of Accent, there are multiple areas of Accent.
There is your Intonation which is the rhythm of the language which is going high and low, taking pauses, speaking really fast and going from one word to another. It´s that type of rhythm when we look out for Intonation, but there is also Pronunciation. How I am actually saying phonetic sounds in the English language. Pronunciation takes – it can take anywhere from one to three months to improve, to get you to a point when you can get 26. Which is why students don´t want to accept that the Intonation, sorry, they don´t want to accept that Pronunciation, their Accent is the reason they can´t get 26 because they don´t want to study one to three months. They say, ‘ I want to be done with this in two weeks, I want to done with this in three weeks .’
Paradoxically, it´s a good word ‘paradox’, paradoxically because they try to shortcut to 26, because they try to take the short way, it ends in taking longer to actually get the score. I´ve worked with so many students who have come to me like, ‘I´ve already taken TOEFL 20 times.’ They started out with the same mindset as you, ‘Oh, you know, I’ll just take a short way, the shortcut and eventually I’ll get lucky and only in a couple of months.’
Two months turns into three months; three months turn into a six months, six months turn into one year. One year turns into three years, and then suddenly they’ve spent three to four thousand dollars in taking the test. They still haven’t passed and gotten 26 on TOEFL Speaking, and they’ve lost all the time and opportunity in terms of making extra money at their job. By trying to take the shortcut, they’ve completely extended how long it’s taken it.
And if that’s you, that’s no problem, alright? Part of getting 26 is accepting that that’s you, accepting that you’ve made a mistake, accepting that you haven’t been perfect in the past. But now it’s time to change, now it’s time to get professional help. If you need 26 on TOEFL Speaking, and you’ve taken the test more than three times, you need to hire someone, who can actually get you 26 on TOEFL Speaking, who has a track record of helping students get 26 on TOEFL Speaking. And not 20 percent, I’m talking about 60 to 70 to 80 percent like we have at TOEFL Speaking Teacher. So Accent and Intonation is skill number four.
Skill number five is your Pace of Speech. And that one is pretty simple. I tell students, ‘OK, your Fluency is great, your TOEFL Speaking tactics are great, you are using informal Words and Phrases, your Accent and Intonation is closer and closer to a native speaker. Well, then you just need to speak quick enough. You need to speak faster’. And I tell them, ‘Aim for 100-105 words on Question types 1 and 2 and aim for about 125 in Question types 3 to 6.
So imagine these five skills like a pyramid. And I’m gonna offer a graphic so you guys can see what I mean. But skills one and two, Fluency and TOEFL Speaking Tactics, those form the foundation of the pyramid, and first, you need to make sure that those are well established. Then, once you´ve mastered those, go to the next step of the pyramid which is the Words and Phrases you are using. Once you eliminated the templates, once you are using informal words and phrases, then go ahead and go to the next step of the pyramid which is your Accent and Intonation. Work on your accent, work on your intonation and finally on top of the pyramid is your Pace of Speech. But if you try to jump, right, if you are trying to say, ‘Ah, my Fluency is fine’, and it’s not fine and you try to work on Words and Phrases, that’s a recipe for disaster.
You want to first make sure that the foundation is very strong. Very strong because if the foundation crumbles, that doesn’t go well – everything else falls above it.
So, imagine that period, I will include a graphic below.
One other thing, the bonus of course, that I mentioned. What is the one bonus? Well, the skill that everyone needs to master is Confidence. I have too many students who come to me and say, ‘You know, I can speak fine. And I can speak English fine, when I am talking with a friend or when I am having coffee with a friend, or when I’m at work, and that’s no problem. But when I am getting to the TOEFL Speaking section, out of a sudden, I can’t function. I can’t give a response, I am too nervous, I am too distracted, the environment is challenging, all these things are difficult’. And I ask questions, and I try to get into why what’s the case. And I will record the full podcast episode about this, but usually the reason it’s the case is because they lack Confidence. So the one bonus skill that affects everything, is Confidence. You need to work on improving your Confidence.
There are some ways to do that. Just as a quick advice, focus not on the outcome. Too many students focus and say, ‘I need to get 26. I need to get 26. I need to get 26.’ And because the focus is so outcome driven, it causes a lot of stress and anxiety, when they actually go to take the test. So kind of reverse that mindset, instead of focusing on the outcome 26 on the TOEFL Speaking I want you to focus on the process. I want you to focus on improving those five skills, focus on what you can control.
To improve your Fluency and improve your TOEFL Speaking tactics, improve your Words and Phrases, improve your Accent, improve your Pace of Speech. And then do that. After a time, eventually, you’ll be good enough to get 26. And the outcome is just a result of having focused on the process.
Ok, last thing. Guys I’ll make this very simple, I’ll make this very clear:
If you have taken TOEFL more than three times and you have not gotten 26 on TOEFL Speaking, you are throwing away money. You are throwing away money on the test fees. It’s 190 dollars each time you take the test. You are throwing away money because for every month, two months, three months you are not getting 26 on TOEFL Speaking, you are literally losing thousands of dollars in extra salary. That’s not an exaggeration. Pharmacists, full pharmacists, make about 90 thousand dollars more dollars per year than pharmacy assistants. On a permanent basis, that means somewhere between six and seven thousand dollars per month. For every month you don’t get 26 on TOEFL Speaking if you are a pharmacist you are losing 7 thousand dollars. Which is why I don’t understand why students aren’t investing in the professional help for this.
If you have taken TOEFL more than three times, you’ve not got 26 on TOEFL Speaking, you need to sign up and register for a Response Analysis so we can see what is going on with you and then, based on it, we’ll give you the recommendation whether the private lessons or the group lessons or just the self-study course is the best option for you.
But stop wasting time, stop wasting money, invest in your education, invest in getting help, and you can get those details on our web page. If you are just listening to this from iTunes, you can use toeflspeakingteacher.com.
Thank you so much for listening today, guys, I love to share this information with you, if you have questions about this, please go to our website, leave comments on the blog post page. We are happy to answer any questions. And like I’ve said, I will probably record podcasts about each one of these skills as well, definitely about the confidence aspect of taking the TOEFL Speaking section.
So, thanks again, have a great rest of your day!