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TOEFL Tip #202: Speak (Just A Little Bit) More Slowly

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on May 5, 2013

You’ve probably heard the adage, “Think before you speak.” For most situations, this is great advice. Instead of saying the first thing that comes to mind, pause and consider whether you should say it, and whether there’s a different, better way to say the same thing. Only when your thought is complete do you say what’s on your mind. Slowing down to think helps you to follow another maxim, “Say what you mean, and mean what you say.”

But slowing down is hard to do on the TOEFL exam. Not only does the clock remind you that time is passing while you think, but the rater could think your silence is due to trouble with English rather than a strategy for the Speaking Section. Without nonverbal cues such as facial expressions to clarify why you are being silent for a few moments, the rater could interpret your silence to mean the opposite of what’s really happening, which could affect your score.

And yet, slowing down is really important for the Speaking Section. Too many TOEFL-takers rush their answers, often because they are either nervous or are trying to fit in as much detail as possible, or both. The resulting answer is typically not as strong as it could be, and likely has a lot of stuttering and filler sounds like, “um.” A rushed answer often illustrates why “haste makes waste.”

If you can’t wait in silence until you think of your complete answer, and you shouldn’t rush to say as much as possible, what can you do on the Speaking Section, which requires you to think and talk simultaneously?

Try slowing down your speaking just a little bit. Don’t add significant pauses to your answer, and don’t speak so slowly that you sound as if you’re not sure of what you’re saying. The goal here is to have your brain working about a quarter-second faster than your mouth. This may not seem like enough time to make a difference, but it can. If you can slow your speaking by just a fraction of a second, you’ll be able to shape your thoughts into a more coherent answer, and you’ll know what to say next. Your slightly slower pacing will sound better to the rater, as well.

Remember: quality matters more than quantity.

Categories: Speaking,TOEFL for Pharmacy,TOEFL for University,TOEFL Preparation

4 comments so far. Leave a comment.

  1. weverton

    wrote on May 20, 2013 at 10:13 am

    It is easy to say when you are not taking the test!!!

  2. Strictly English TOEFL Tutors

    wrote on May 25, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    Definitely! We know it’s hard to slow down during the test, but it can be done! Practice, practice, practice at home, in conditions that are as close as possible to the real TOEFL exam. You’ll learn to calm your nerves and avoid staring at the timer — two things that often make people speed up. Good luck!

  3. Jin Hee Lee

    wrote on March 18, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    I would like to come up with the right pace that I can have moment to think as well as speak fluently.

  4. Luu, Kim

    wrote on June 27, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    I think that the article is right. When I speak slower, I can think better and speak with less hesitation. I will practice by this way and see.

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