TOEFL Speaking: Question #5 (Integrated Task)

Posted on October 18, 2011 | Filed in TOEFL

While the speaking section appears to cause a lot of worry in many students looking to take the TOEFL, it’s best understood when able to tackle the section on a question-by-question basis.  This article is going to explore TOEFL Speaking Question #5.  Here’s what we know about this question:
  • it involves a conversation between a male and female
  • it does not have a reading component
  • you have 20 seconds to prepare; 60 seconds to respond
  • your opinion is required at the end of the response
Here are some tips to help you get the high score of a 4 on Question #5, in particular. Tip 1: Note-taking.  Divide your page in two sections: MALE and FEMALE. In one column, write down whatever you are able to in regards to what the male speaker is saying. In the second column; write whatever you are able to that the female speaker is saying.  This way, by dividing the speaker’s contributions you are clear what each is saying and are able to connect the thoughts right in front of you during the speaking section.  Also, keep in mind you must take notes in the order the information is presented to you – disorganized notes can and will create chaos on the TOEFL! Tip 2:  Question #5 is an integrated speaking task; however, unlike Question #3 & #4, there is no 45-second reading passage that appears before the conversation.  This means you do not need to acknowledge the reading in any sense because there isn’t any information to incorporate!  (This is a good thing – trust me.) Tip 3:  Your preparation time is 20 seconds and your speaking time is 60 seconds.  You are given 10 seconds less to prepare than on Question #3 & #4 because of the absence of a reading component, so you will need to prepare a bit faster than the previous two questions.  During this 20-second preparation time, you should organize your notes in the manner you plan on presenting them.  Sometimes numbering notes in the order you intend on delivering them is useful for students, while others prefer to spend time scanning over all the information as it’s written. Tip 4:  The opinion portion of Question #5 often throws students off, as they assume all giving of opinions is over after Question #1 & #2, the independent prompts.  Most of the time, the opinion part of Question #5 will read: What do you think the male (or female) student should do, and why?  This will involve you choosing an option offered in the conversation from one student to the other and stating your reasoning for choosing that option. An example of a high-scoring response to Question #5 reads, as follows: “The conversation is in regards to the changing of the library hours at a university campus.  The female student is distressed about the change in library hours because she often likes to study at night.  She goes on to say some days during the week, the only time she actually has to go to the library is late due to her part-time job.  The male student offers several suggestions to her in regards to her problem.  He recommends she speak with the library staff about the reasoning behind the change in hours, and if that doesn’t work, he thinks she should talk to the college dean about this change.  I think the woman should go directly to the college dean because the dean will be able to attend to the issue in a direct way, which will ultimately and hopefully get the results the woman needs.” In the above response, I have italicized the opinion portion, making it clear that the opinion can also serve as your conclusion. Remember: Question #5 will always be a conversation about a university-related problem, so keep in mind university lingo (library, dean, dorm room, etc.) will be inevitable.  
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