TOEFL Independent Speaking Score Levels

Posted on March 18, 2010 | Filed in TOEFL

Many of you who are studying for the TOEFL might wonder what raters are looking for, especially out of your independent speaking responses.  The raters, in fact, grade you based on levels broken into the following 4 categories.
  • 4 >> If you get a score of a 4, that means you’ve have achieved the highest score possible on the TOEFL independent speaking question.  A 4 means you have effectively addressed the task and generally speaking, your response is organized well and coherent.  With a 4 you have also used both grammar and vocabulary in an effective way, although you might have a few minor errors.  (Remember – to even get a score of a 4, you are allowed minor language errors, so long as they do not interfere with the overall meaning of what you are trying to say.)

Finally, with a 4 you have demonstrated clear speech but also might have minor problems with pronunciation or intonation.  Keep in mind, which you are allowed several minor errors, this is not encouraged when you make your response.

  • 3 >> When you have a score of a 3, you have still done a good job, but perhaps your response doesn’t have quite the organization that it would if you had gotten a 4.  In other words, your development in terms of specific examples and details might be limited and perhaps several of your ideas aren’t as clear as they could be.  While a score of a 3 demonstrates effective use of grammar and vocabulary, it’s still not quite what a 4 would be in terms of your mastery of the English language and specific uses of words.

A score of a 3 still means you have done well, it just might mean it takes some extra effort on the part of the rater to understand what you are saying and to make sense of your ideas.

  • 2 >> A score of a 2 is a response that is on topic, but where the development is so limited that is becomes unclear what points you are trying to make.  A score of a 2 would be given if you demonstrate an extremely limited use of vocabulary and overall, requires much more effort on the part of the listener to understand what you are saying.  (This type of a response might cause the rater to listen to your response several times in order to make sense of it, which is never a good sign.  Remember – your job is to make the life of a TOEFL independent speaking rater easy!)
  • 1 >> A score of a 1 is more than likely not really on topic and filled with very vague ideas with little or no relevant details to support them.  Perhaps, even, the ideas expressed in a response with a scoring of a 4 are inaccurate.  The expression of ideas in this type of response would be very limited, almost to the point of not being able to make sense of anything, and there might even be many pauses where it feels the speaker has no idea what to say next.  Overall, a response of a 1 is not what we are out to obtain for out TOEFL responses, so practice – practice – practice, so you will get a higher score!
It should be noted, that there is a score of 0, if you would believe it.  However, the only way you would get a 0 is if you said nothing or if you talked about your plans for the weekend instead of addressing the task.  Also, raters are known to give half scores – i.e. 2.5, 3.5, etc…
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