The Speaking Section -Overview- TOEFL-iBT® (1/3)

The Speaking Section Overview - TOEFLiBT (1/3)

Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes

This post continues from a larger series of each section of the TOEFL-iBT. If you wish to start reading from the beginning of this series, then you can go to the beginning by clicking here.

However, if you have already read both the in-depth analysis of the Reading Section and the Listening Section, then you can continue here.

Now let us continue with the Speaking Section introduction, going through the essential things you must comprehend before attacking the tasks we have here.

The Structure

The most important is understanding the structure.

This section will last 17 minutes. In here you will be presented with 4 tasks to complete.

For each task or question, you will be given some instructions, as most of them are slightly different, and then you will be given some time to prepare your answer.

This preparation time will vary depending on which question you get, but the time ranges between 15 and 30 seconds.

Afterward, you will have a limited time to record your answers by speaking into the microphone that is provided with your headset.

The timing for your answer will also vary from question to question, but it will range from 45 to 60 seconds.

TIP: During this section taking notes is very important as well. But in the preparation time you get, you must organize your ideas on paper, to be better prepared to speak.

Here is a short overview on the types of questions.

Question 1. Familiar Topic.

The first task will be a question that asks about a Familiar Topic.

In this question, you will be asked to answer a question for which you don´t need to have an academic background. It will ask a general question of everyday life.

This question will give you 15 seconds to prepare and 45 seconds to speak.

Question 2. Integrated 1.

In this question, you will be presented with a text that talks about a modification in the university campus. It can be a rule, policy, or a notification of an event, etc. This text is about 100 words long and you´ll be given 45 seconds to read it. So you have to read fast.

After this, you will have an audio of a conversation about the same situation in the university. The conversation can be between 2 students, or a student and a professor.

Then the question will ask you in a way to summarize both sources of information making sure you mention factors from the text and the audio.

Afterward, you´ll be given 30 seconds to prepare and then 60 seconds to speak.

Question 3. Integrated 2.

As in the previous one, you will be presented with both text and audio.

The text is about 100 words long and will be about an academic topic. Then we will listen to the audio that will normally be a lecture or a class that will give extra information about the same topic.

The question prompt will usually ask you to summarize the main point made in both sources, making sure to use details from both of them. 

In this question, you´ll also be given 30 seconds to prepare and then 60 seconds to speak.

Question 4. Summary.

This is the final question of the Speaking section, and here you will be presented with an audio which will refer to an academic topic. 

This audio will usually explain either how a system works or the difference between a few definitions (e.g. Astronomy and Astrology) and we must be able to take good notes of this.

Afterward, we will be asked to make a summary of the audio making sure to explain the parts of the system or the difference of what is mentioned.

For this question, you will be allotted 20 seconds to prepare and 60 seconds to speak.

Here is a small graph that can help explain the timing of all the questions in this section:


Preparation Time: 

Speaking time:

1. Familiar Topic

15 seconds

45 seconds

2. Intergated 1

30 seconds

60 seconds

3. Integrated 2

30 seconds

60 seconds

4. Summary

20 seconds

60 seconds

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

The Score

One important thing will be understanding the Score.

In the Speaking section and the Writing section, we will not be scored by the number of correct answers we obtain. In these two sections, we have to be scored by humans as the answers may vary dramatically from person to person.

Overall, in the Speaking section, each question will be given a rough score on a scale that will go from 0 to 4 points.

Below you´ll find a small chart that can simplify the scoring so that we may understand with more clarity.




  • Didn’t say Anything during the recording.
  • Spoke another language aside from English
  • Impossible to understand a full sentence
  • The answer was completely off-topic


  • The answer approached the question, but overall was off-topic
  • Too many seconds of silence before, during or after speaking
  • Very difficult to understand
  • Many issues with grammar and word choice


  • The answer partially responded the question
  • Insufficient support to the arguments
  • Unrelated information, or going off-topic
  • Difficulties understanding ideas or words



  • The answer was direct to the question
  • Good support for arguments
  • Relatively clear pronunciation and grammar
  • Some use of advance vocabulary



  • Responded the question very well
  • Excellent support to arguments in an organized form
  • Very comprehensive pronunciation, and pacing
  • Very good usage of vocabulary and language overall

Keep in mind that not all of these characteristics have to be present to achieve this score. Only one or two may be present in order to have such a score.

If you would like to read more about how this section is scored, you can go directly to ETS, by clicking here (

How do they determine your score? Well, your audio gets sent to the ETS center for correction.

In there, a small group of teachers will listen to your recording and will rate it in several areas, such as grammar, pronunciation, cohesion, pace, word choice, and many others.

From here all of your scores get averaged out, to give an approximate final score for each question.

Note: If a score of a teacher is very far from the rest, then that score gets discarded and another teacher gets to score you. This additional score gets added to the pool, to be averaged out, and to get a final score for that question.

After every question is scored, they are added up, and this score gets transported to the 0-30 scale, Where you will see your final score for this section.

You may notice that this section is very short, but at the same time, it is very intense and drains a lot of energy.

It is good that we face this section after we have taken the 10-minute break.

Ok, so here we are going to wrap this post, and if you wish to continue reading, then click here to check out our next one where we will go through how to tackle the first two questions.

%d bloggers like this: