- Prepare in advance: Before the test, it’s important to research and prepare examples related to the topics that are likely to appear in the test. Make a list of examples for each topic and practice using them in your responses. I give my students plenty of sample questions for prompt one.
- Use personal experiences: Personal experiences can make for powerful and compelling examples. Think about your own experiences related to the topic and use them to support your arguments. For example, if the question asks if you would rather travel abroad or within your own country, you could share your own experience of how travelling overseas has broadened your perspective and exposed you to new cultures. You could expand on this by talking about how you learned something specific from that country (For example, “When I traveled to India, I learned they have an important festival called Diwali, a celebration where the family gets together and lights candles to celebrate the victory of good over evil.”)
- Read and watch relevant content: Reading and watching relevant content can provide you with new ideas and examples. Watch TED talks, read articles, and watch documentaries related to a wide variety of topics to gain new insights and examples. I personally recommend Ted-Ed videos. They are usually under six minutes and they are great for listening practice AND learning new ideas. Check out their channel.
- Use hypothetical scenarios: Hypothetical scenarios can be an effective way to come up with examples. Imagine a hypothetical situation related to the topic and use it to support your arguments. For example, if the topic is about learning from one’s mistakes, you could use an imaginary situation in which someone who failed a test learned their weak points and hired a tutor. I like to use “If………… then………”
HERE IS AN EXAMPLE:
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Children should not watch television.
“I do not agree children should not watch television. First of all, if children do not watch television, then they might miss important lessons. Sesame Street is an educational children’s show which teaches children the alphabet, manners, and basic math. A child who is not allowed to watch this program might miss a lot of important information.”
5. Use statistics or numbers: Statistics and numbers can be a good way to show you understood the prompt and you are offering information to support your answer. For example, if the prompt asks, Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: Museum admission should be free. You could say, “In my city, only twenty percent of people can afford the entrance fee to museums. But if admission were free, many more people would go, and schools could even afford to send the students to these museums on field trips.” Although it’s unlikely you will know the real number of people who can’t afford to go to the museum, if you make it sound realistic, it will work for the TOEFL speaking. ETS raters will not research to see if this is true!
6. Use the S.T.A.R. method: The STAR method is a useful technique for coming up with examples. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Start by describing a situation or problem, then explain the task you had to accomplish, describe the action you took, and finally, describe the result or outcome.
Here is an example: Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Children should be given a reward for good grades.
ANSWER USING THE STAR METHOD:
“I agree that children should be given a reward for good grades, for a few reasons. First, it will encourage them to work harder in order to get good grades. When I was in elementary school, our teacher told our class if we got high grades, she would take us all to a petting zoo. She then gave us an assignment to make a presentation about African animals. We worked hard on the presentation because we all wanted to do well and go to the petting zoo. As a result, we got an A on the presentation and the entire class had the opportunity to take a trip to the petting zoo and play with sheep, goats, and ponies.”
No matter what else you do, TOEFL students, practice will always be your #1 method to succeed in speaking question one.
Coming up with examples while speaking in TOEFL requires preparation, creativity, and practice. By following these tips and strategies, you can effectively support your arguments and demonstrate your understanding of the topic.