During the TOEFL Speaking section you are going to listen to a lecture, read a text, and then talk to a computer into your microphone about what you just heard and read. You don’t do any of that in other speaking tests. This brings up the first problem that students usually encounter:
Common problem #1: Not knowing the format
Knowing the format of the Speaking section changes everything. If you know what you are going to talk about and for how long you are going to talk, then you will be much better prepared than someone who has no idea what the format will be, simply because it is very specific and structured. This brings us to the first very obvious piece of advice:
Tip #1: Experience
You need to practise the TOEFL Speaking section many times before test day. You need to know exactly what type of questions you will see so that you can think about the structure of your answers – the types of words and grammar you will use. It sounds quite obvious, but this is especially important for the Speaking section. It is one thing to practise speaking English with friends and another thing to practise speaking for the TOEFL.
Check out: Important TOEFL Vocabulary (Video)
Common problem #2: Distraction
It is very easy to be distracted during the Speaking section, because you will be in a room with many people who are speaking into their microphones at the same time. This can be quite distracting. It makes it difficult to focus on what you are saying when the person next to you is answering the same question. There is no easy solution to this, but focusing on your outlines usually helps.
Tip #2: Focus on your outlines
Before you speak you have 15, 20 or 30 seconds to outline your response, depending on the question. You are going to use that time to write down very brief notes about what you will say and the structure of your response. So, if you hear someone talking about the same topic and you get distracted, you can refocus on your outlines and notes. Outlines can be very helpful in such situations during the TOEFL Speaking section.