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TOEFL Tip #106: A Change in Speaking Task One

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on June 24, 2011

For more than a year, we’ve been hearing reports that ETS seems to have changed the format of Speaking Task One, from a description of something or someone, to giving advice to someone. Of course, ETS has the right to use older versions of the TOEFL at any given time, so do not assume that you will never get a description question, such as “Describe your favorite pet.” However, based on the information we have heard, ETS seems to have been using a new style of Speaking Task One question consistently for some time.

As we understand it, the new Speaking Task One focuses on giving general advice about common situations. An example might be, “A friend is thinking about buying a dog. What would you advise your friend to consider before making a decision?” Be careful with this question. You want to make sure that you are giving advice TO someone ELSE, rather than stating your opinion about dogs as pets, or your opinion about whether your friend should or should not get the dog. Strictly English thinks that the new format of Speaking Task One is too similar to Speaking Task Two, which asks you to construct an argument or give your opinion about a familiar topic.

To help make sure that your answers for Speaking Task One and Task Two are different, keep in mind that Task One is your opinion about what someone else should do or think about. For example, if you’re giving advice to your friend before she buys a dog, you might suggest that she consider questions such as: How large the dog will be and how much space does she have available in her home? Does she have enough time to walk the dog several times a day? Will the dog bark a lot and disturb the neighbors? These are logical concerns that anyone should think about before buying a dog. It doesn’t matter if you personally love dogs or would never have one as a pet, your advice to your friend would be the same.

Remember that Speaking Task One is always going to be on a familiar, simple, general topic. The advice you give should be straightforward and basic.

It may take a while for this new format of question to show up in study guides, so make sure that you prepare on your own. Have friends and family members ask you for advice on everyday topics (Where should I shop? Which book should I read next? In which neighborhood should I live?) so you can get in the habit of offering simple advice.

Categories: Industry Issues,Speaking

1 comment so far. Leave a comment.

  1. Luu, Kim

    wrote on July 8, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    I think that the blog is right. Question 1 is about familiar topics, so we just think a simple way to answer the question. We can relate it with our daily experience to respond. Making it simple, so we will speak smoothly.

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