Transition words help sentences flow together and form a story.

According to ETS’ grading rubric, one of the four main criteria a student is judged on is topic developmentTopic development basically means:

Does the student know how to tell a story?

In order to tell a good story, ideas must flow naturally from one to the next. There needs to be a beginning that is rather general, a middle where the general ideas become more specific, and an end that sums up the main points of the story.

The most effective way to connect ideas and move from one topic to the next is through transition words. However…

I’m not going to give you a long list of transition words.

Instead, I’m going to show you what transition words and phrases I would use in each part of the speaking response.

I believe these transition words work best because they sound the most natural. However, this is just my opinion. You will meet other teachers and experts who may disagree. But they’re wrong (haha).

Okay, so, different transition words and phrases serve different purposes. Let’s start with:

Introducing Opinion: 
  • In my esteemed estimation…
  • If I were asked…
  • In my opinion…
  • I think…
  • To me…

When introducing your personal opinion, the two best phrases to use are “I think” and “To me” because they sound the most natural.

In my opinion” is a common phrase and sounds fine if you want to use it.

Again, keep in mind that all of this advice is based on the idea that I want you to sound as natural as possible.

You don’t need to sound like a professor on the TOEFL.

If someone launched into their opinion with the phrase “in my esteemed estimation“, even a professor, I would assume that they have minimal contact with other human beings.

Also, personally speaking, I hate the phrase “If I were asked”. I asked you a question. You don’t have to imagine the situation.  It’s unnecessary and awkward.

Personal Examples: 
  • As an illustration…
  • To illustrate my point…
  • For instance…
  • For example…
  • I remember when…

The phrase “I remember when” would only be used in the independent speaking section to introduce a personal example. Since you have to speak about your opinion for 45 seconds, it’s necessary to include a personal example in your independent speaking response. “I remember when” is how most native speakers introduce a personal story.

Of course, “for example” and “for instance” are common transition words that you can use as well.

However, stay away from “as an illustration” and to “to illustrate my point”. While some native speakers may introduce examples in this manner, it would be strange to hear them spoken by someone who speaks English as a second language.

Adding Information: 
  • Of equal importance…
  • Furthermore…
  • Moreover…
  • On top of that…
  • Also…

The most common transition word is ‘also’, but try not to use it too often. Vary your sentence structure and try other transitions like “actually” and “on top of that”.

Moreover” and “furthermore” sound less conversational and more academic, but appropriate to use in the speaking section, especially in the integrated section.

Contrasting: 
  • Notwithstanding 
  • On the contrary 
  • While/Even though 
  • On the other hand 
  • However 
  • But 

The classic “but” and “however” are the most common contrasting transitions and sound natural.

On the other hand” is another good way to introduce a contrasting idea and can be used as a synonym to “however“.

The terms “while” and “even though” are useful, but follow a different grammatical format. It’s hard to use these contrasting transitions, but if you know how to use them properly, be sure to include them in your speaking response. Let me show you a few examples:

“I like ice cream. However, I also like cake.”

“While I do like ice cream, I also enjoy eating cake.”

“Even though I like ice cream, I also enjoy eating cake.”

Notwithstanding” and “on the contrary” sound a bit too fancy. Just keep in mind that while in some cultures it’s cool to sound smart, America is different. We prefer people to speak plain and to the point, even in some circles of academia.

Keep it simple. 

The Conclusion: 
  • I would like to summarize by…
  • In summation…
  • In conclusion…
  • These are the reasons why…
  • To sum up…
  • That’s why…

The phrases “these are the reasons why” and “that’s why” work best in the independent speaking section for you to sum up your response and signal that the information and examples you provided lead to your opinion. However, the phrase “These are the reasons why…” sometimes sounds robotic, so, it’s better to use the transition “That’s why…“.

That’s why I think all high school students should wear school uniforms.”

Of course, there are dozens of other transition words that you can study, but these are the best phrases to employ during The Speaking Section to make your English sound more natural.

Don’t forget to try all of this advice out in our free TOEFL speaking and writing practice questions download.

ETS, the company that makes the TOEFL exam, released a rubric of how the tasks in The Speaking Section are graded. If you use the recommended transition words mentioned above it will help improve your delivery (how natural you sound) and your topic development (how well you construct your response like a story).

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SMART CHOICE

Transition words help sentences flow together and form a story.

 

According to ETS’ grading rubric, one of the four main criteria a student is judged on is topic developmentTopic development basically means:

 

Does the student know how to tell a story?

 

In order to tell a good story, ideas must flow naturally from one to the next. There needs to be a beginning that is rather general, a middle where the general ideas become more specific, and an end that sums up the main points of the story.

 

The most effective way to connect ideas and move from one topic to the next is through transition words. However…

 

I’m not going to give you a long list of transition words.

 

Instead, I’m going to show you what transition words and phrases I would use in each part of the speaking response.

 

I believe these transition words work best because they sound the most natural. However, this is just my opinion. You will meet other teachers and experts who may disagree. But they’re wrong (haha).

 

Okay, so, different transition words and phrases serve different purposes. Let’s start with:

 

 

 

Introducing Opinion: 

 

  • In my esteemed estimation…
  • If I were asked…
  • In my opinion…
  • I think…
  • To me…

 

When introducing your personal opinion, the two best phrases to use are “I think” and “To me” because they sound the most natural.

 

In my opinion” is a common phrase and sounds fine if you want to use it.

 

Again, keep in mind that all of this advice is based on the idea that I want you to sound as natural as possible.

 

You don’t need to sound like a professor on the TOEFL.

 

If someone launched into their opinion with the phrase “in my esteemed estimation“, even a professor, I would assume that they have minimal contact with other human beings.

 

Also, personally speaking, I hate the phrase “If I were asked”. I asked you a question. You don’t have to imagine the situation.  It’s unnecessary and awkward.

 

 

 

 

Personal Examples: 

 

  • As an illustration…
  • To illustrate my point…
  • For instance…
  • For example…
  • I remember when…

 

The phrase “I remember when” would only be used in the independent speaking section to introduce a personal example. Since you have to speak about your opinion for 45 seconds, it’s necessary to include a personal example in your independent speaking response. “I remember when” is how most native speakers introduce a personal story.

 

Of course, “for example” and “for instance” are common transition words that you can use as well.

 

However, stay away from “as an illustration” and to “to illustrate my point”. While some native speakers may introduce examples in this manner, it would be strange to hear them spoken by someone who speaks English as a second language.

 

 

 

 

Adding Information: 

 

  • Of equal importance…
  • Furthermore…
  • Moreover…
  • On top of that…
  • Also…

 

The most common transition word is ‘also’, but try not to use it too often. Vary your sentence structure and try other transitions like “actually” and “on top of that”.

 

Moreover” and “furthermore” sound less conversational and more academic, but appropriate to use in the speaking section, especially in the integrated section.

 

 

 

 

Contrasting: 

 

  • Notwithstanding 
  • On the contrary 
  • While/Even though 
  • On the other hand 
  • However 
  • But 

 

The classic “but” and “however” are the most common contrasting transitions and sound natural.

 

On the other hand” is another good way to introduce a contrasting idea and can be used as a synonym to “however“.

 

The terms “while” and “even though” are useful, but follow a different grammatical format. It’s hard to use these contrasting transitions, but if you know how to use them properly, be sure to include them in your speaking response. Let me show you a few examples:

 

“I like ice cream. However, I also like cake.”

 

“While I do like ice cream, I also enjoy eating cake.”

 

“Even though I like ice cream, I also enjoy eating cake.”

 

Notwithstanding” and “on the contrary” sound a bit too fancy. Just keep in mind that while in some cultures it’s cool to sound smart, America is different. We prefer people to speak plain and to the point, even in some circles of academia.

 

Keep it simple. 

 

 

 

 

The Conclusion: 

 

  • I would like to summarize by…
  • In summation…
  • In conclusion…
  • These are the reasons why…
  • To sum up…
  • That’s why…

 

The phrases “these are the reasons why” and “that’s why” work best in the independent speaking section for you to sum up your response and signal that the information and examples you provided lead to your opinion. However, the phrase “These are the reasons why…” sometimes sounds robotic, so, it’s better to use the transition “That’s why…“.

 

That’s why I think all high school students should wear school uniforms.”

 

 

 

 

Of course, there are dozens of other transition words that you can stu

dy, but these are the best phrases to employ during The Speaking Section to make your English sound more natural.

 

Don’t forget to try all of this advice out in our free TOEFL speaking and writing practice questions download.

 

ETS, the company that makes the TOEFL exam, released a rubric of how the tasks in The Speaking Section are graded. If you use the recommended transition words mentioned above it will help improve your delivery (how natural you sound) and your topic development (how well you construct your response like a story).

 

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