Lesson 3 of 10 - Learn How to Speak Faster
Perfect TOEFL Speaking 10-Day Challenge
My Speaking Score’s Perfect TOEFL Speaking Challenge is a 10-day task-based course that shows you how to combine a foolproof approach called the Grid, with My Speaking Score’s automated scoring tool to earn a perfect score on the TOEFL Speaking section. In the wrong place? Go to lesson 2.
Lesson 3 - The Need for Speed
Hello TOEFL Speaking superstar. You should have recorded and submitted your second response, which was a re-do of your first response. How was it? Be analytical in your comparison of your two responses.
Please share your experience in the comments so we can learn from you!
Some KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to keep an eye on: Speaking Rate - you should try to get this into the “green” range on the graph (speaking at +160 helps!).
The Need for Speed - speak faster (170 wpm)
How a "tweak" changed a pharmacist's life
Practice Question: Do kids learn more from friendly teachers?
» To get the most out of this lesson, consult page 40 of Perfect TOEFL Speaking.
The Need for Speed
You are speaking too slowly (almost certainly). When you are speaking in your second language, you’re almost never as fast as a native speaker. That’s ok. The fact is, if you speed up too much, you run the risk of becoming harder to understand - and that’s bad in TOEFL Speaking.
As you’re sure to discover, when you speed up too much, other dimensions are affected. In fact, all 12 of the dimensions are interconnected in some way - so when you modify one dimension, it’s possible there’s a knock-on effect in another dimension. Speed up your Speaking Rate too much and your Pronunciation suffers, for example.
At this point in your training, we need to work on getting your Speaking Rate up to at least 150 words per minute (ideally higher) and see what happens to the other dimensions.
Heartbreak, Redemption & Never Ever Ever Giving Up
Even if you've taken the TOEFL®, and you know your TOEFL Speaking score, chances are you may not know why you are underperforming. It's stressful.
Ever see a pharmacist cry?
As you may know, pharmacists educated outside of the United States are required to achieve Reading 22, Listening 21, Speaking 26, Writing 24 on the TOEFL iBT in order to get certified to practice in America.
I was recently working with a client - call him Mr. X. He had taken the TOEFL seven times before coming to me for coaching. Mr. X had some dreary news: every single TOEFL Speaking score on his seven TOEFL exams? 24.
Mr. X was passing all the other sections easily. But he could not crack the TOEFL Speaking "code" - he received S24 on 7-straight TOEFL tests.
Just try to imagine your disappointment - failure after failure. It's heart-wrenching to see a person continue to spend money and time on a test - and achieve the same unsatisfactory results. Again and again.
Mr. X's whole future was, quite literally, 2 points away.
Why do some people underperform on TOEFL Speaking?
Why do talented English speakers underperform on the TOEFL Speaking section? Mr. X was someone who could easily pass an afternoon chatting away about myriad subjects in English - with complete confidence and fluency.
Very often, the problem most TOEFL test-takers have is not a lack of English ability.
Certainly, the problem most TOEFL test-takers have is not a lack of effort (look at you - you’re already on your third lesson).
The problem is pretty straightforward: most people suffer from a lack of reliable, valid feedback.
And very often, that feedback is about a minor change - a "tweak".
An essential part of your successful test preparation strategy is seeking out "targeted corrective feedback" - specific information about your test-taking approach and English skills that is specific to you.
In the case of Mr. X, the fix was surprisingly simple: it was a hidden "Speaking Dimension" that is measured by ETS's SpeechRater® engine called Speaking Rate.
As you may have guessed, your Speaking Rate is simply the number of words you speak per minute - wpm.
Calculate your WPM for 45s responses
wpm = [number of words spoken in 45s / 45] * 60
Regardless of how good your grammar is, regardless of how good your pronunciation is - you won't get 26 on TOEFL Speaking if you are speaking too slowly.
Target 150-170 wpm
Your target wpm is 170. That may seem like an incredibly fast Speaking Rate, but that's what your goal should be. Will you hit 170+ every time? Not likely. But keep your wmp goals a little out of reach. For you, that's 170 wpm.
I know, I know. I hear you saying, "But, when I speed up, I create new problems."
You're right. Improving one speaking dimension can lead to the undesired consequence of worsening another. But this doesn’t have to feel like a game of whack-a-mole.
As mentioned, if you increase your Speaking Rate suddenly and drastically, you will naturally trigger other problems inside your responses, and other measures will suffer. The solution is to practice - accelerate your Speaking Rate gradually (see Assignment 3 below).
Question 1: Students learn more if the teacher is kind and friendly. Do you agree?
I love this question. I've had a lot of teachers and I have strong opinions about teacher likeability and whether kids learn better from kind teachers. Yes. I think children DO learn more from nice teachers - and I can think of a couple of good reasons.
First, kind teachers tend to praise children often, and I think kids are motivated by encouraging words. Kind teachers motivate kids to reach their potential, and use encouragement to promote learning. So friendliness can be a teaching strategy.
Second, students learn best in positive environments. Teachers who are overly strict or unfriendly create negativity in the classroom. Students do not learn when they are exposed to criticism and negativity from unkind teachers.
Homework - Assignment 3
Focus on measuring (and increasing) your Speaking Rate. Target = 170 wpm
Recommended Test Mode: Practice Mode
login to your account on My Speaking Score
go to the test library in your Dashboard
use Practice Mode
choose any test
go to Question 1 and prepare with the Grid
respond as quickly as you can
submit for Analysis
examine your results and compare with your first attempt
record your "first take" response to establish your new baseline score
we want this score to be "valid" so no do-overs
Speed practice - you should practice this offline. If you can read the response example above about friendly teachers - out loud - in 45s, you are speaking at 160 wpm.
Tip: Find “advanced” content that you can use to practice your reading/speaking speed. Here’s an example workflow:
go to Ted Talks and find a topic that interests you. For example, Science.
choose a talk by a native English speaker (e.g. filter for English talks) and click Read transcript
locate a chunk of text that’s about 150 words long
it’s easy to check word count - copy and paste into Google docs
Listen to the speaker, and follow along with the transcript.
Try reading the passage yourself.
When you’re ready, time yourself. If you can read 150 words in 60s fluently and easily, you know you can speak at that rate.
See you in Lesson 4!
*** END OF LESSON 3