THE POWER OF LEARNING

QUESTION TYPES 1-9

There are six tasks in the speaking section of the TOEFL iBT test, which is approximately 20 minutes long.

The first two tasks are independent speaking tasks that focus on topics familiar to the test taker.

The remaining four tasks are integrated tasks, and test takers must combine more than one skill when responding. Test takers read and listen to some brief material and then speak in response. They can take notes and use those notes when responding to the speaking tasks. Then a question is asked that requires test takers to relate the information from the reading and listening material.

For all speaking tasks, test takers use headsets with a microphone. They speak into the microphone to record their responses. Responses are digitally recorded and sent to ETS’s Online Scoring Network.

1) Independent Speaking Task / Personal Preference (“Free-Choice Task”) – Examples:   

Describe a class you have taken in school and explain why the class was important to you. Include details and examples. (Preparation time: 15 seconds / Response time: 45 seconds)

If friends from another country were going to spend time in your country, what city or place would you suggest they visit? Using details and examples, explain why. (Preparation time: 15 seconds / Response time: 45 seconds)

Talk about a time when a friend or family member helped you in the past. Describe how the person helped you. Then explain why this was important to you. (Preparation time: 15 seconds / Response time: 45 seconds)

Talk about a pleasant and memorable event that happened while you were in school. Explain why this event brings back fond memories. (Preparation time: 15 seconds / Response time: 45 seconds)

Describe a person whom you admire and explain why. Include specific details and examples in your answer. (Preparation time: 15 seconds / Response time: 45 seconds)

What is your happiest childhood memory? Describe it and give reasons to explain what makes it so special for you. (Preparation time: 15 seconds / Response time: 45 seconds)

Describe the characteristics that make a person successful. Include reasons and examples to support your response. (Preparation time: 15 seconds / Response time: 45 seconds)

Where would you like to be professionally in ten years? Use details to support your response. (Preparation time: 15 seconds / Response time: 45 seconds)

What are the characteristics of a good neighbor? Use reasons and details to support your response. (Preparation time: 15 seconds / Response time: 45 seconds)

If you suddenly got $10 million, what would you spend it on? Use details to support your response. (Preparation time: 15 seconds / Response time: 45 seconds)

2) Independent Speaking Task / Choice (“Paired-Choice Task”) – Examples:

Some people enjoy taking risks and trying new things. Others are not adventurous; they are cautious and prefer to avoid danger. Which behavior do you think is better? Explain why. (Preparation time: 15 seconds / Response time: 45 seconds)

State whether you agree or disagree with the following statement: Learning through online courses is more effective than learning in the traditional classroom setting. Explain your reasons, using specific details in your explanation. (Preparation time: 15 seconds / Response time: 45 seconds)

Some people think it is more fun to spend time with friends in restaurants or cafés. Others think it is more fun to spend time with friends at home. Which do you think is better? Explain why. (Preparation time: 15 seconds / Response time: 45 seconds)

Some think television should focus primarily on education, while others believe it should focus primarily on entertainment. Which side do you support and why? (Preparation time: 15 seconds / Response time: 45 seconds)

Do you prefer to take essay exams or multiple choice exams? Use reasons and examples to support your response. (Preparation time: 15 seconds / Response time: 45 seconds)

Do you prefer to be in a large or a small class? Explain your reasons, using specific details in your explanation. (Preparation time: 15 seconds / Response time: 45 seconds)

Some people prefer to live in the city, and some people prefer to live in the country. Which do you prefer and why? Use reasons and examples to support your answer. (Preparation time: 15 seconds / Response time: 45 seconds)

Some students study for classes individually. Others study in groups. Which method of studying do you think is better for students and why? (Preparation time: 15 seconds / Response time: 45 seconds)

Would you prefer to take a vacation in the mountains or at the ocean? Use reasons to support your response. (Preparation time: 15 seconds / Response time: 45 seconds)

Do you like to try new kinds of food or eat the same kind of food all the time? Use details and examples to support your response. (Preparation time: 15 seconds / Response time: 45 seconds)

3) Integrated Speaking Task / Campus Situation Topic (“Fit and Explain”) – Example:

Read the passage. Take notes on the main points of the reading passage. (Reading time: 45 seconds)

A notice from campus administration

This campus has a serious problem with bicycles: too many students are parking their bicycles in unauthorized places. Beginning on Monday, November 1, any bicycles left in unauthorized places will be ticketed. Please note that there is authorized parking for bicycles along the east and west sides of campus. Parking of bicycles is allowed only in places where signs are posted indicating that bicycle parking is allowed. In places where no signs are posted, bicycle parking is not allowed. 

Listen to the passage. On a piece of paper, take notes of the main points of the listening passage.

RECORDING SCRIPT:

(man) Beth, you ride your bicycle to school, don’t you?

(woman) Yes, I do.

(man) And I do, too. You saw the notice about bicycle parking?

(woman) What notice about bicycle parking?

(man) You didn’t see it then?

(woman) No, I didn’t. What did it say?

(man) It said that we can’t park our bicycles on campus near our classrooms.

(woman) What do you mean?

(man) The notice says that bicycles can be parked only along the east and west sides of campus, in the official bicycle parking locations.

(woman) And we can’t leave our bicycles anywhere else on campus?

(man) No, we can’t.

(woman) Well, what’s going to happen if I leave my bicycle on campus, next to the building where I have class?

(man) If you leave your bicycle anywhere else on campus except the authorized lots on the east and west sides of campus, you’ll get a ticket.

(woman) Oh, no. It doesn’t sound fair. I don’t like that at all.

(man) You can say that again!

How do the students seem to feel about the notice on bicycles from campus administration? (Preparation time: 30 seconds / Response time: 60 seconds)

4) Integrated Speaking Task / Academic Course Topic: General/Specific – Example:

Read the passage. Take notes on the main points of the reading passage. (Reading time: 45 seconds)

Animal Domestication

For thousands of years, humans have been able to domesticate, or tame, many large mammals that in the wild live together in herds. Once tamed, these mammals are used for agricultural work and transportation. Yet some herd mammals are not easily domesticated.

A good indicator of an animal's suitability for domestication is how protective the animal is of its territory. Non-territorial animals are more easily domesticated than territorial animals because they can live close together with animals from other herds. A second indicator is that animals with a hierarchical social structure, in which herd members follow a leader, are easy to domesticate, since a human can function as the "leader." 

Listen to a lecture on this topic in an ecology class. On a piece of paper, take notes of the main points of the listening passage.

RECORDING SCRIPT:

(Professor)  So we've been discussing the suitability of animals for domestication, particularly animals that live together in herds. Now, if we take horses – for example – in the wild, horses live in herds that consist of one male and several females and their young. When a herd moves, the dominant male leads with the dominant female and her young immediately behind him. The dominant female and her young are then followed immediately by the second most important female and her young, and so on. This is why domesticated horses can be harnessed one after the other in a row. They're "pro-grammed" to follow the lead of another horse. On top of that, you often find different herds of horses in the wild occupying overlapping areas — they don't fight off other herds that enter the same territory. But it's exactly the opposite with an animal like the antelope . . . which . . . well, antelopes are herd animals too. But unlike horses, a male antelope will fight fiercely to prevent another male from entering its territory during the breeding season, …very different from the behavior of horses. Try keeping a couple of male antelopes together in a small space and see what happens. Also, antelopes don't have a social hierarchy—they don't instinctively follow any leader. That makes it harder for humans to control their behavior.

The professor describes the behavior of horses and antelope in herds. Explain how their behavior is related to their suitability for domestication. (Preparation time: 30 Seconds / Response time: 60 Seconds)

5) Integrated Speaking Task / Campus Situation Topic: Problem/Solution – Example:

Listen to a conversation between a student and a professor. On a piece of paper, take notes on the main points of the listening passage.

RECORDING SCRIPT:

(man) Mary, I’m so glad I ran into you.

(woman) Oh hello, Professor Jensen.

(man) Listen, I know it’s short notice, and maybe you’ve already made plans for spring break, but one of my students just dropped out of the field trip to the Smithson River Caves. You’re next on the waiting list, so now there’s room for you to come along.

(woman) You’re kidding! [disappointed] I didn’t think there was a chance, and . . . well, it’s a three-day trip, right? I agreed to spend next week helping Professor Clark set up the new museum exhibition. I think she’s really counting on me.

(man) Yeah, three days. But you know . . . if you’d rather come on the field trip, why not speak with her and see if she has anyone to replace you?

(woman) Yeah, I’d hate to miss out on the caves. I’ll definitely ask Professor Clark if there’s someone else who could help her.

(man) You know . . . we don’t leave until Wednesday. If you still have to help out, any chance you could get the museum setup done before then?

(woman) Oh yeah? Not until Wednesday? So then yeah . . . maybe that’s possible too.

The student and the professor discuss two possible solutions to the woman’s problem. Describe the problem and the two solutions. Then explain what you think the woman should do and why. (Preparation time: 20 Seconds / Response time: 60 Seconds)

6) Integrated Speaking Task / Academic Course Topic: Summary – Example:

RECORDING SCRIPT:

Listen to part of a talk in a United States history class.

(Professor)  Because the United States is such a large country, it took time for a common national culture to emerge. One hundred years ago there was very little communication among the different regions of the United States. One result of this lack of communication was that people around the United States had very little in common with one another. People in different parts of the country spoke differently, dressed differently, and behaved differently. But connections among Americans began to increase thanks to two technological innovations: the automobile and the radio.       

Automobiles began to be mass produced in the 1920’s, which meant they became less expensive and more widely available. Americans in small towns and rural communities now had the ability to travel with ease to nearby cities. They could even take vacations to other parts of the country. The increased mobility provided by automobiles changed people’s attitudes and created links that had not existed before. For example, people in small towns began to adopt behaviors, clothes, and speech that were popular in big cities or in other parts of the country.

As more Americans were purchasing cars, radio ownership was also increasing dramatically. Americans in different regions of the country began to listen to the same popular radio programs and musical artists. People repeated things they heard on the radio—some phrases and speech patterns heard in songs and radio programs began to be used by people all over the United States. People also listened to news reports on the radio. They heard the same news throughout the country, whereas in newspapers much news tended to be local. Radio brought Americans together by offering them shared experiences and information about events around the country.

Using points and examples from the talk, explain how the automobile and the radio contributed to a common culture in the United States. (Preparation time: 20 Seconds / Response time: 60 Seconds)

There are two tasks in the writing section of the TOEFL® iBT test, which is approximately 50 minutes long.

The first task is an integrated writing task. Test takers read and listen to some material and then write a response. They need to combine information they have heard in the lecture and read about in the reading material.

The second task is an independent writing task, and test takers are asked to express an opinion and support it, based on their own knowledge and experience. For example, they may be asked to write an essay about a controversial issue. Each test taker needs to use personal experience to substantiate his or her position.

Responses are typed on the computer and sent to ETS’s Online Scoring Network.

7) Integrated Writing Task / Academic Course Topic (Compare and Contrast) – Example:

Read the passage. Take notes on the main points of the reading passage. (Reading time: 3 minutes)

In many organizations, perhaps the best way to approach certain new projects is to assemble a group of people into a team. Having a team of people attack a project offers several advantages. First of all, a group of people has a wider range of knowledge, expertise, and skills than any single individual is likely to possess. Also, because of the numbers of people involved and the greater resources they possess, a group can work more quickly in response to the task assigned to it and can come up with highly creative solutions to problems and issues. Sometimes these creative solutions come about because a group is more likely to make risky decisions that an individual might not undertake. This is because the group spreads responsibility for a decision to all the members and thus no single individual can be held accountable if the decision turns out to be wrong.

Taking part in a group process can be very rewarding for members of the team. Team members who have a voice in making a decision will no doubt feel better about carrying out the work that is entailed by that decision than they might doing work that is imposed on them by others. Also, the individual team member has a much better chance to “shine,” to get his or her contributions and ideas not only recognized but recognized as highly significant, because a team’s overall results can be more far-reaching and have greater impact than what might have otherwise been possible for the person to accomplish or contribute working alone.

Now listen to part of a lecture on the topic you just read about.

RECORDING SCRIPT:

(Professor)  Now I want to tell you about what one company found when it decided that it would turn over some of its new projects to teams of people, and make the team responsible for planning the projects and getting the work done. After about six months, the company took a look at how well the teams performed.

On virtually every team, some members got almost a “free ride” ... they didn’t contribute much at all, but if their team did a good job, they nevertheless benefited from the recognition the team got. And what about group members who worked especially well and who provided a lot of insight on problems and issues? Well...the recognition for a job well done went to the group as a whole, no names were named. So it won’t surprise you to learn that when the real contributors were asked how they felt about the group process, their attitude was just the opposite of what the reading predicts.

Another finding was that some projects just didn’t move very quickly. Why? Because it took so long to reach consensus...it took many, many meetings to build the agreement among group members about how they would move the project along. On the other hand, there were other instances where one or two people managed to become very influential over what their group did.

Sometimes when those influencers said “That will never work” about an idea the group was developing, the idea was quickly dropped instead of being further discussed. And then there was another occasion when a couple influencers convinced the group that a plan of theirs was “highly creative.” And even though some members tried to warn the rest of the group that the project was moving in directions that might not work, they were basically ignored by other group members. Can you guess the ending to *this* story? When the project failed, the blame was placed on all the members of the group. 

Summarize the points made in the lecture you just heard, explaining how they cast doubt on points made in the reading. (You have 20 minutes to plan and write your response. Your response will be judged on the basis of the quality of your writing and on how well your response presents the points in the lecture and their relationship to the reading passage. Typically, an effective response will be 150 to 225 words.) 

8) Independent Writing Task / Personal Opinion  – Example:

How do movies or television influence people’s behavior? Use reasons and specific examples to support your answer. (You have 30 minutes to plan, write, and revise your essay. Typically, an effective essay will contain a minimum of 300 words.)

9) Independent Writing Task / Choice – Example:

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

Always telling the truth is the most important consideration in any relationship. Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer. (You have 30 minutes to plan, write, and revise your essay. Typically, an effective essay will contain a minimum of 300 words.)