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Lesson 5 of 9 - Learn How to Use Better Words
Perfect TOEFL Speaking 9-Day Challenge
My Speaking Score’s Perfect TOEFL Speaking Challenge is a 9-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 4.
Lesson 5 - Essential Vocabulary
You should have recorded and submitted at least 2 Q2 responses. How were they? How are your scores? Don’t worry too much if you are not seeing dramatically better results. Your job is to learn how to read data and implement small changes to your responses to influence that data.
Please share your experience in the comments so we can learn from you!
Vocabulary Depth and Diversity - How making correct vocabulary choices can help
How to use better words
Organize and structure your Integrated response quickly - with high-scoring vocabulary
» To get the most out of this lesson, consult page 33 of Perfect TOEFL Speaking.
Vocabulary Depth and Diversity
Depth = the number of words you know
Diversity = the type of words you know
Strategy: Use "deep" and “diverse” language.
How? Add high-value "template words" to your Grid.
How to use better words
Improve your Vocabulary Depth by using "low-frequency words" in place of more common "high-frequency words".
Frequency means how often a word appears in common texts (e.g. newspapers).
High-frequency words (common words) are used more than uncommon words. No surprise, right?
The TOEFL SpeechRater engine gives higher scores to low-frequency words.
It's a demonstrable fact. It’s also a demonstrable fact that those fancy words have a weak impact on your overall SpeechRater score.
Regardless, your ability to use uncommon or "low-frequency" words correctly in "spontaneous speech" tells the assessment software:
"Wow, this speaker has an impressive English vocabulary!"
disagree vs. oppose
You'll see "disagree" about once every 557 pages of text.
You'll see "oppose" about once every 47 pages of text.
Conclusion: "disagree" is a BETTER word choice than oppose.
But don't stop there - add in a low-frequency adverb.
For example, use "vehemently" (you'll see that word every 1,248 pages of text!).
So now, your low-scoring phrase "the woman opposes" becomes a higher-scoring phrase:
"the woman vehemently disagrees"
Are you getting the hang of this?
Authors do this all the time - they use descriptive language to evoke emotion in their readers. Here’s an example from an audiobook I just started (The Equalizer by Michael Sloan) - modifiers in bold.
Death hung in the air, seeping up out of the broken concrete, along the rusting barbed wire coiled like glistening snakes in the fractured moonlight, on stunted trees and blackened walls and streets that led nowhere. Her eyes were constantly flicking up to the rearview mirror…
Sloan totally over does it with his use of modifiers…and so should you!
I would be mocked horribly for using that type of language in conversation with my friends…
…but you are not speaking to your friends! You are speaking to a computer.
Tip: be as verbose as you possibly can while maintaining fluency (and making sense)
Memorize this sentence for your setup in Q2
Instead of saying
"The student in the conversation opposes the idea in the reading."
"The student in the conversation vehemently disagrees with the idea in the reading."
What if the student agrees with the proposal?
"The student in the conversation enthusiastically supports the idea in the reading."
Experiment inside My Speaking Score
The only way to reliably test your word choices is to record variations of a response, get your reports, and compare Depth and Diversity dimensions. You can see these in your response reports.
Test these phrases inside My Speaking Score to see what happens to your Vocabulary Depth
"The woman in the conversation despises the idea in the reading. She says..."
"The student in the conversation disagrees with the idea in the reading. She claims..."
"The interlocutor in the conversation disparages the notion in the bulletin. She asserts..."
Test these phrases inside My Speaking Score to see what happens to your Vocabulary Diversity
"The woman in the conversation sincerely despises the idea in the reading. She says..."
"The female student in the conversation strongly disagrees with the idea in the reading. She claims..."
"The female interlocutor in the conversation vociferously disparages the notion in the bulletin. She passionately asserts..."
Homework - Assignment 5
Think about how different word choices can your Vocabulary depth and diversity scores. Circle the best word choices in the sample response below. (Bonus points if you experiment with versions inside My Speaking Score!)
An article in the campus newspaper agues the university should build/construct a new parking lot near/in the vicinity of the humanities building. The author claims/asserts that there are few/hardly any available spots there now/presently and there is plenty/an abundance of space for parking behind the building. The woman in the conversation strongly/vociferously disagrees with this proposal for two reasons.
First, the woman claims/declares that parking in front of the humanities/aforementioned building is not the only option/recourse. She thinks/suspects the author is conveniently forgetting that there are lots of alternative/viable parking options on campus in nearby/neighbouring locations. For example, students can park at the nearby/adjacent library or dining hall.
Second, she claims/contends that the author's proposal is unnecessarily destructive/harmful to the campus environment. She thinks that cutting down/eliminating one of the only wooded sanctuaries left on campus is a complete shame/tragedy, and the university should reject/repudiate the proposal to build more parking and instead preserve the trees. For example, she says students enjoy hanging out/gathering and studying in the shady areas there.
Next, get to work applying what you learned in this lesson:
Write out your response to the TOEFL Speaking question from Lesson 4
Record the written script and submit that response on My Speaking Score
Now, improve your script: replace 10 commonly used (high-frequency) vocabulary with matching low-frequency words (use a thesaurus - e.g. https://www.thesaurus.com/)
Record and submit your "new and improved" response on My Speaking Score
Share your insights in the comments
Recommended Mode: AI Assist Mode
login to your account on My Speaking Score
go to the test library in your Dashboard
use AI Assist Mode
choose the same test you used for Assignment 4
copy and paste your transcript into Google docs
improve at least 5 words or phrases by lowering word frequency
deliver your new response
submit for Analysis
examine your results
take as long as you need to re-write your response
*** END OF LESSON 5