• For TOEFL Speaking question 2 you have 15 seconds to prepare your answer and 45 seconds to give your answer.
  • Your preparation time begins as soon as you hear the prompt, and your answer time begins as soon as your 15 seconds is done.
  • At 45 seconds, the recording STOPS. It cuts off. It ends. So be sure to include all the details you need before the 45 second mark.

General Strategies for TOEFL Speaking Question 2

Question 2 is an independent question. HOWEVER, unlike Question 1 it is NOT open ended.

What does this mean?

It means that you have to choose between two options: agree/disagree; prefer this or that; what do you think is better; etc.

You must pick ONLY one side and give details and examples as to why you picked a certain side.

Some additional pieces of important information:

  1. Just like Question 1, your answer MUST be subjective. This means you must use the words “I”, “me” and “my”. I’ll give some examples below.
  2. You do NOT read or listen to any other materials before answering TOEFL Speaking Question 2.
  3. You MUST tell a story for question 2 – a personal story, that is TRUE, about an event that happened to you. Why is this? Because with personal stories, it’s very EASY to include several details. Story-telling is a natural skill for many humans.
  4. When you tell this story, avoid using the word “You”. This is a vague generalization, and you will get marked down if you use it (This is a BIG challenge students face – to fix it, record yourself and listen for any ‘you’s’).

Note-Taking Strategies for Question 2

  1. BEFORE you do anything else, WRITE DOWN a general note map. This will help you to keep your answers organized. It can be done just like you see in the video above.
  2. Remember, you only have 15 seconds to prepare, so you must be QUICK with writing down notes.
  3. When asked a question in the prompt, first write down whether you agree or disagree, or which option you prefer/think is better in the 1st spot on the note map.
  4. Then, write down 3 or 4 main details for the prompt. For example, if the prompt is “Do you prefer indoor or outdoor activities. Explain which one you prefer and why”: Some possible notes might be: “prefer”, “outdoors”, “beach”, “summer” “friends”. The first three notes – prefer, outdoors, and beach – relate to the option you prefer and WHY. The second two notes – summer and friends – relate to YOUR personal story. BOTH the general and specific are necessary.
  5. Leave out any FLUFF words. This means you do NOT write down prepositions (in, out, above), conjunctions (and, or), and articles (the, a, an). FOCUS on nouns and verbs, like the example above.

Here is a basic response we would use for question 2, including the argument map:

  • Step #1 – Make an easy to follow note organization; include transitions
    • I = personally
    • 1 = the first reason
    • 2 = the second reason
    • C = for those reasons
  • Step #2 – read the prompt
    • Do you prefer indoor or outdoor activities. Explain which one you would choose and why.
    • AVOID DOUBLE ARGUMENTS – Only pick one choice.
  • Step #3 – Develop ideas
    • 1 = Prefer outdoor
    • 2 = beach, summer, friends
    • C = In conclusion
  • Step #4 – Speak

Answer Strategies for TOEFL Speaking Question 2

  1. Spend 5 seconds on your introduction, 35 seconds on your story and the last 5 seconds on conclusion
  2. Be enthusiastic with your response. TOEFL graders do NOT want to hear a bored robot. Inject some life into it!
  3. When giving an introduction sentence, use phrasing from the prompt. See my example below.
  4. REMEMBER to speak SUBJECTIVELY – I am writing this again because it’s VERY important. Use the words “I”, “me”, and “my” in your response.
  5. Lots of details! Lots and lots and lots of specific details! The more specific, the better.
  6. Again, do NOT use “you” in your response. Generalization = VERY bad.

And finally, a finished response for TOEFL Speaking Question 2:

Personally I prefer outdoor activities. The first reason is because we love to go to the beach during the summer time. Where I live in the United states there are gorgeous beaches which are really warm with perfect water in the summer time. I love to go there and go swimming and go hiking and just relax for the day and enjoy the sunshine.

There’s nothing better to do. The second reason is because all my friends also love to do outdoor activities. We love to go camping, we love to spend time in nature, we love to do all those things. We do trips almost every summer and I just love it. So this is why I prefer outdoor activities.

What You MUST Do Next

  1. You MUST record yourself: I know it’s awkward. I know it’s strange. But it’s the ONLY way to really focus on your mistakes and correct them. If you need some example prompts, check out these links:
  2.  Find a speaking partner: There are a number of websites and forums where you can find speaking partners to help correct your mistakes. One note, however: non-native speaking partners will only be able to fix the BIG problems. It will be VERY difficult for them to help fix pronunciation, grammar, and other problems that require a native speaker. I recently created a Facebook group to help students find a speaking partner.
  3. Hire a TOEFL Speaking Teacher: If FAST progress is important for you, or if you REALLY need to get a HIGH score, then I recommend hiring a TOEFL Speaking Teacher. Currently, I offer a 30 minute TOEFL Speaking Evaluation (best deal on the entire internet!)

TOEFL Speaking Topics

If you want more TOEFL Speaking Topics for Question Types 1 and 2, we put together a great resource.