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Hi, I'm Michael from ETS, and welcome to Inside the TOEFL Test. Today, we’re going inside the Speaking section, specifically question two, the Integrated Speaking question about campus situations.
So, in the next few minutes, we’re going to look at how the question is structured, how to approach the question, how your response is scored. We’ll look at a sample response that received a high score, and we’ll give you some tips for improving your speaking skills.
So, here is generally what question two will look like. You will read a passage about a campus-related topic. Then, you will listen to a conversation about that topic. Then, you will have 30 seconds to prepare your response and 60 seconds to speak your answer.
Now, let’s look more closely at what campus-situations questions look like and what they will be asking you to do. For question two, where you have both reading and listening passages, you will be asked what the opinion is of a speaker in the listening passage, and you’ll need to explain how that person’s opinion relates to the issues presented in the reading passage.
So, you’re essentially summarizing and combining information from two sources. Here’s an example of this type of question.
Male Voice: That’s true, but think about it. Have you ever seen the space completely full?
Female Voice: Well, uh, no. I guess not.
Male Voice: Me either. There are never any events when the entire student body is there. In fact, there are usually just a small number of students in the audience for a play or a concert.
Female Voice: That’s true.
Male Voice: So why make it bigger if it works as is?
Female Voice: I see what you mean.
Male voice: The man expresses his opinion of the university’s plan. State his opinion, and explain the reasons he gives for holding that opinion.
Michael: Now here are some tips for how to approach these kinds of Speaking questions. Number one: Be careful not to speak too quickly because this might make it difficult for the rater to understand you. The questions are designed so that if you speak at a normal pace, you will have enough time to give a complete response. You’ll get better at this if you time yourself when you practice.
Number two: In question two, where you have the reading passage then the conversation between two speakers, listen carefully to the speaker’s reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with points made in the reading. Then, make sure you summarize the opinion of the speaker in your answer.
Before the test, make sure you understand what the raters are looking for and how the questions are scored. In the Speaking section, all responses are scored on a scale from zero to four, and they’re scored holistically, which means the raters listen for various features in your response and then give it an overall score.
Although there are some variations depending on the question, raters will be looking for three main things. First, delivery: Your speech needs to be clear and fluid with good pronunciation. The pace or speed of your speech should be natural, and you should have good-sounding intonation patterns.
Second, language use: This is mainly how you use grammar and vocabulary to express your ideas.
Third, topic development: This is mainly how fully you answer the question, how clearly you express your ideas and how you can connect one idea to the next in a way that it is easy to follow.
Now, let’s listen to an example of a Speaking response that received a score of three on a four-point scale.
Audio Example [female voice]: The school has decided to build a new auditorium, and because it will have a clean modern appearance, and it will be bigger to accommodate a larger student body. However, the man does not agree with this announcement for the following two reasons. First, the new auditorium is not a nice historic building as before, because the old building is an important part in the university’s history, because it is among the first buildings built in the school. Second, the students actually haven’t even seen the space as full. There is usually a small number of students in the old auditorium. So actually there is no need for the school to make it bigger. Also, making such decision allows the school to spend a lot of money and it is not very good for the student, the school. So I think this is not a good proposal.
Michael: Now, let’s look at this response in terms of our three main criteria — delivery, language use and topic development.
First, delivery: The speaker is generally easy to understand with good pronunciation and pacing. So, she gets a good score for delivery.
Audio Example [female voice]: There is usually a small number of students in the old auditorium. So actually there is no need for the school to make it bigger.
Michael: But, language use is another story. We can’t give this response a four out of four mainly because of her imprecise use of language. One example is when she says this.
Audio Example [female voice]: The new auditorium is not a nice historic building as before, because …
Michael: This is a little confusing, and could have been more precisely stated as: “The man thinks that a new auditorium would not be as nice as keeping the old historic building.”
Topic development is good in this response. She communicates the important information in a clear and coherent way.
Audio Example [female voice]: However the man does not agree with this announcement for the following two reasons. First, the new auditorium is not …
Michael: So, overall, this meets all the criteria for a score of three out of four. For more details about how the Integrated Speaking responses are scored, see the Speaking Scoring Guides on the TOEFL website.
Now, here are some activities that can help you build your skills for the Integrated Speaking tasks.
One, find an online newspaper from an English-speaking university. This would be a good source of practice topics for question two. Look for topics like admissions, housing, student activities, registering for classes, school improvement plans, sports and more. Then, choose an article to discuss with your speaking partner or study group.
Two, record yourself when you practice and listen to how you speak. When you listen to yourself, you’ll be able to hear some of your mistakes as well as your tone and pacing.
Three, find listening and reading material that are both about the same topic. The material can contain similar or different views. Then, prepare an outline of a one-minute response that includes your opinion, two points to support your opinion, and one detail or reason to support each point.
Four, practice improving your fluency. Take that one-minute presentation and deliver it a few times, and each time try to improve it a little bit, smooth out your phrasing, use different wording for the same ideas, avoid unnecessary pauses, use transition words, those kinds of things.
There are lots of ways to improve your English skills. Whatever you do, keep practicing and good luck on your TOEFL test.