This video gives you some tips on a TOEFL question that many students have trouble with: the fifth question on the TOEFL Speaking section.
As you might know, there are six questions on the Speaking section. The last four questions are what ETS calls “integrated” questions: you need to read or listen to some information before giving your answer. On the fifth question, you are asked to listen to a recording of a conversation. In the conversation, two solutions to a problem are described. In your answer, you are asked to defend one of those solutions. A lot of students worry about this question. Why? One reason is that this question seeks your opinion. You can’t just summarize what is said: you have to choose a side. And many students worry about how to do that. However, don’t worry! This is actually one of the easiest questions to answer, as long as you plan ahead and pay attention.
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Let’s talk about question five in a little more detail. As already mentioned, you will begin by listening to a recording of two people talking. This will normally be a man and a woman, in a university setting – two students, or two instructors, or a professor and a student. The two people will be discussing a problem. For example, the male student might have lost his textbook. And he might be considering two options: buying a new textbook, or borrowing his roommate’s textbook. The two speakers will then discuss those two options. You will then be given a question about the conversation. For example:
Briefly summarize the problem the speakers are discussing. Then state which of the two solutions from the conversation you would recommend. Explain the reasons for your recommendation.
You will then have 20 seconds to prepare your answer, and 60 seconds to give your answer. A lot of students approach this question by listening carefully to the conversation, and thinking hard about the right solution. They often spend so much time doing this that they don’t have enough time to plan their response!
So what should you do instead? As soon as you identify the two solutions, choose one. Remember, there’s no “right” or “wrong” answer on this question. Both solutions are equally valid. So just choose one of them – it doesn’t matter which.
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Once you have chosen a solution, you can listen to the rest of the conversation with that solution in mind. When you’re listening to the conversation, think to yourself: “How will I use that information to defend my solution”? If you do that, and take notes while you’re listening, you’ll have prepared your response by the time you finish listening to the question. You won’t need to worry about what to say – you’ll have already figured it out. That way, you’ll be prepared to do what’s most important on this question: speak clearly and confidently. It is good to have a clear and well-structured answer to this question. But it’s even more important to speak clearly and confidently.
Remember, this is a Speaking question. If you make a mistake, or forget to mention a detail, just move on. The most important thing for you to do in your answer is to speak as well as you can. If you follow the advice we’ve given here, you’ll be prepared to do that!