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TOEFL Tip #96: Speak with Feeling

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on April 22, 2011

Some of our recent blog posts (here and here) have addressed different issues related to the Speaking section of the TOEFL exam. These posts have focused on your choice of words and the way that you say them. Today, we want to talk about the emotion behind your words – how your tone of voice can influence how well the TOEFL rater understands you.

Your goal is to sound like you care about your topic. When you are talking with a friend, your voice naturally rises and falls as part of the flow of conversation. Do this on the TOEFL exam as well. Vary your tone of voice, and emphasize one or two words in each sentence to highlight their importance to what you’re saying. Avoid speaking in a monotone! A flat voice that does not have any variation sounds like you are bored. If you sound bored, your rater will be bored with your answer. A bored rater might miss details in your answer, and you might end up with a lower grade. It’s ok if you sound a little bit nervous in your answers – that’s to be expected on a test – but try to calm your voice and replace nervousness with confidence. You don’t want the rater to think that you don’t understand the question, or don’t know what the answer should be. A confident voice is strong and clear, but does not yell into the microphone.

In addition, be sure to smile while giving your answer. This will help lift your voice and convey positive emotions. If you are frowning, you will sound angry or sad when you speak.

When your answers sound as if you care about the topic, that tells the rater that you have understood the context of the question, and you are matching your response correctly. If, for example, you are answering a question about your favorite season, you should sound happy, warm, and lively. On the other hand, if the question is about a person from the past you would like to meet, you should speak with admiration in your voice. If you sound angry when talking about your favorite high school teacher, the mis-match between the positive question (favorite teacher) and negative emotion (anger) might cause the rater to think that you did not fully understand the question. Even when giving answers that don’t have particular emotions associated with them, you should still sound interested in the topic. For example, when answering a question about an academic lecture, listen to the way that the speaker in the test talks about the subject for hints about how to sound enthusiastic about the subject he or she is discussing.

In order to be more effective on the Speaking section, practice conveying enthusiasm and interest in your TOEFL answers. You will sound more natural, and that is one of the keys to getting a good Speaking score.


Categories: Speaking

1 comment so far. Leave a comment.

  1. Luu, Kim

    wrote on July 5, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    I think the article is right. I watched many high score answer examples on Youtube. Students’ sounds are natural. In addition, some have little laugh when they speak. I think that I need to practice with my sound more natural and emotional.

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