Don’t Make these 5 Mistakes on the TOEFL IBT Speaking Exam


1. Don’t Use a Template

Some people who have no idea what they are getting themselves into with the TOEFL IBT exam.  They are new to the exam and go into the test center and expect an easier exam.  They may try to “wing it” and improvise.  Don’t go into the TOEFL IBT exam unprepared! In fact, you need to take notes. These are key and important things to keep in mind to prepare for the speaking exam:

  • Organize your answer in a template 
  • Write down key words and the main idea
  • Uses synonyms to rephrase the key ideas  

2. Forget to Cite your Source

The TOEFL IBT speaking exam has a few integrated tasks that require you to read a passage and listen to a lecture or read a campus proposal and listen to a speaker give an opinion.  Some people begin talking about the reading passage or about the lecture, but they don’t say who or where the information is coming from.  This is a BIG MISTAKE! 

  • Use phrases like, “According to the professor…”, “The reading explains…” “The professor mentions…”  “Based on the reading…” 

“Don’t repeat the same sentence structure too often.  Avoid saying, ‘The writer says that…, and the speaker says that…Moreover, the speaker says that…’  Grammar is not the only element of good language.  Variety is also a part of good speech (and writing), so alternate your sentence structure.”  -Kaplan Prep Plus 2021-2021



3. Avoid Transitional Language

Some students I’ve worked with use very few transitional words.  They are so nervous and they simply forget to use words like, “Firstly,” and “Furthermore…”  in their responses.  These words are helpful and will most definitely increase your score because they show that you have advanced linguistic skills.  

Also, transitional language helps you make connections and show important relationships that exist between the reading passage and the lecture.  The test examiners want to see if you can make these important links between the different sources.

If you need ideas and are looking for a guide to help you learn how to use transitional language correctly in your response, you can get it here! 

4. Don’t Pay Attention to the Evaluation Criteria 

When I ask students whether or not they know how they are being evaluated, they almost always say “no.”  So, I highly recommend looking at the evaluation criteria and seeing how you will be scored.  After you answer practice questions, you can go back and reflect on your answer and look at the check-list. It will help you improve your future answers.  If you download my guide, you can read the evaluation check-list.  


5. Think Negative Thoughts 

Students have told me that when they feel nervous, their minds go blank and they simply can’t focus and concentrate in English.  This causes many blocks and inhibits your ability to give the kind of great answer you are truly capable of giving.  Stay positive and repeat a positive mantra over and over again in your head.  According to the Barron’s TOEFL IBT exam preparation book, “Negative thoughts can interfere with your concentration, and you may not hear the questions correctly. Take deep breaths before each question and say this in your mind: ‘I am a good speaker. I am ready to speak.”