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Lesson 9 of 9 - More Winning Strategies & Tactics
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 8.
Lesson 9 - aka Ethical Hacks
You're becoming a TOEFL Speaking master. Congratulations. You know what core in-test skills you need to get a perfect TOEFL Speaking score. You have been on a linear journey through each of the four TOEFL Speaking tasks, and you’ve used My Speaking Score as your feedback machine.
I hope you’re happy with your progress.
Please share your experience in the comments so we can learn from you!
Now that you have know the winning strategies and tactics, you are capable of getting a high score in TOEFL Speaking.
But you need to do it consistently.
Common In-Test Problems
Running out of time
FAQ: How Long Do I Need to Study?
I’m often asked how many practice test questions a student needs to respond to before they are “test-ready”. Here’s my annoying answer (sorry): it takes as long as it takes.
As a rule of thumb, figure 10-hours of intensive preparation per point you want to improve.
E.g. you need 26 in TOEFL Speaking and your starting score is 22 - you need 40 hours of practice - 10 hours per point, 4 points - (26-22)*10.
That’s the time answer. The better answer is “whenever you demonstrate that your TOEFL Speaking scores are a) valid and b) reliable.
Validity & Reliability
In the world of standardized tests (and in the field of assessment in general), test designers are obsessed with 2 concepts:
validity: a test is valid if it measures what it is supposed to measure (likewise, your test score is valid if it measures what you want it to measure) E.g. your TOEFL score is a valid measure of your academic English language ability; it is not a valid measure of how persuasive you are in English - it’s not trying to measure that construct.
reliability: a test is reliable if it measures what it is supposed to measure consistently (likewise, your test scores across different TOEFL tests will be roughly the same until you improve) E.g. you take the TOEFL on Saturday April 2, then take a week off, then take the TOEFL again on April 9, your score will be about the same on both tests; you can also compare your TOEFL score with someone else’s TOEFL score and know that your comparison is fair
The concept of validity and reliability should help you if you are ready: have you a) duplicated test taking conditions and performed consistently across different tests over time?
Validity problem example: your cat is purring next to you while you’re delivering TOEFL Speaking responses
Reliability problem example: you take one practice test while your sipping on a glass of wine, and the next practice test in the morning when you’re hungover
Control the validity and reliability of your practice tests. You need to be performing at a high level consistently, otherwise you’re counting on luck on test day.
Here are some other common problems, and what to do (and not do) to get out of trouble:
When should you self-correct inside a TOEFL Speaking response?
Self-correct when: you make a vocabulary mistake that will change the meaning of something you said. Don't panic, just say "sorry, I mean ___".
Don't self-correct when: you make a minor grammar mistake. These small errors are "tolerated" by the speech assessment engine. Some mistakes are expected and will not damage your score too much. Best to "keep going" and not jeopardize other dimensions (for example in Fluency and Cohesion) to correct a small error.
If you have a moment where your mind "goes blank" take back your power over the test by asking yourself:
what is it? (give me an adjective)
what does it do? (give me a verb)
The greatest enemy of focus is lack of preparation and lack of response framework. If you are prepared (have lots of practice answers "under your belt" and you have reached expert level with the Grid, no question or task scenario will flummox you.
In the event you mismanage your time in a task, and you have more than 3 seconds left at the end of your response, it's best not to record silence. Circle back to the beginning of your response. Say,
...so that's why, given the choice, I prefer x over y.
...so that's why the woman in the conversation is so passionately opposed to the proposal outlined in the reading
...so that's how the professor illustrates the concept laid out in the reading
...so that's how the professor shines a light on the concept of x
You get the idea. This tactic is known as "stretching" your answer, and it's always better than saying nothing.
Running out of time
If you have misjudged your time and you have more to say than the clock will allow, you need to make an on the spot decision - either keep going with your response and let the recording cut you off; or adjust your response by omitting the example that should always consume the last 5-7 seconds of every response. You will not be penalized if you get "clipped" and a few words do not get recorded.
*** END OF LESSON 9