How is the TOEFL Speaking section graded?


TOEFL speaking section



The TOEFL speaking section is the only part of the TOEFL ibt that is graded entirely by a person.  While the reading and listening sections are both graded by computer, and the writing section partially by computer, the speaking section is scored by a human grader. When they assess the TOEFL Speaking, the graders judge your answer based on four criteria: CONTENT, DELIVERY, STRUCTURE, and ACCURACY.

First off, let’s talk CONTENT.

You have 45 seconds to speak on questions 1 and 2, and 60 seconds on questions 3, 4, and 5. You are expected to fill most of this time with strong, well thought out English which demonstrates correct grammar and strong vocabulary. This doesn’t mean you should try to impress the grader with lots of big English vocabulary words. What you should do is keep it simple and grammatically correct.

Second, we have DELIVERY.

This is where the pronunciation issue comes in. The ETS grader will judge you based on the clarity of your response. If certain words are difficult to understand because of pronunciation, you can lose points on your Speaking score. This is why it’s important to study the speaking templates in the English Simple SPEAKING STRATEGY section of the program. If you can practice these formats and get the pronunciation right, you have less chance of making mistakes in speaking.  It is also important to speak at a good volume to demonstrate confidence on the TOEFL.  If you speak too quietly you will lose points because the details might not be clear, and the grader might deduct points if they think you aren’t sure about your English abilities.

Third, there’s STRUCTURE.

This has to do with how your CONTENT is organized and presented to the reader. The Speaking section also grades you on your ability to organize your thoughts and present them in a logical way. We cover all the simple and effective structure strategy in the English Simple SPEAKING section of the program as well. It is very important to understand, practice, and use this specific STRUCTURE for each question, as it will guarantee a better score AND make the test so much easier for you.  There is a very simple structure that is repeated in all sections of the TOEFL ibt, and once you learn it, it is very easy to use this structure to get the most points possible on each TOEFL section.

Lastly, we have ACCURACY.

This is the idea of how well you answer the actual question. For example, we worked with a student recently who got the following SPEAKING QUESTION 1:

“Name a person you’d like to go on a trip abroad with. Describe the person and say why he or she is a good travel companion.”

The student gave me a very solid answer with correct grammar, clear English, AND great structure. The problem was, she spoke about a trip she took last summer, without mentioning a travel companion at all.  She would lose points on this, because she failed to ANSWER THE QUESTION. ACCURACY is very important, and often overlooked.

All of these challenges can seem very complicated, but we deal with them all in the English Simple SPEAKING section of the program. After studying the SPEAKING SECTION strategy, if you have any further questions please feel free to contact or post in the CLASSROOM.

Get access to our full TOEFL Speaking strategy, the TOEFL ibt structure, and practice for all four sections of the TOEFL.

Link to the full English Simple TOEFL study program.

About the Author

Adam is the founder and lead instructor for the English Simple TOEFL program. He's taught English and TOEFL for over ten years, and developed curriculum all over the world. TOEFL is his business, but helping people is his passion. His "office" is always open, so feel free to drop him an email with any questions, complaints, compliments, or funny jokes. He speaks French, Spanish, Japanese, and Russian. But you gotta write him in English - you're prepping for the TOEFL!