What Does a TOEFL Speaking Score of 26-30 Mean?

A common requirement in the health care industry is for TOEFLers to have “good” speaking skills. However, for those who are having TOEFL iBT speaking practice, what does “good” really mean?

“Good” means that TOEFLers score 26-30 on the speaking section after completing six speaking tasks graded from 0 to 4. The sum total is converted into a scaled score of 0 to 30. No one but Educational Testing Service knows exactly how this conversion process works, but one can calculate that 26 out of 30 is 87% proficiency. Therefore, a scaled score of 26 points on all six speaking tasks can be broken down into a sum total of 20/24 points, which is also 87% proficiency. More specifically, those students who want to score 26+ points on the speaking section will need the following scores on all six speaking tasks in order to reach 87% proficiency: 4, 4, 3, 3, 3, and 3, which is a sum total of 20/24 points.

Putting mathematical calculations aside, ETS-certified test scorers may grade speaking responses “good” based on rubrics in three specific areas: delivery, language use, and topic development. Speaking rubrics will be discussed as they relate to the two independent speaking tasks.

In order to score 4 on an independent speaking task, the speaker will need to have good delivery. In other words, the response needs to be well-paced without awkward pauses or hesitations. The speaker needs to clearly pronounce vowel and consonant sounds. In addition, the speaker will need to pronounce the syllables in words and use appropriate stress and intonation patterns. Any minor problems that the speaker may have with pronunciation or tone will not affect his or her ability to be understood. If a speaker does well in these areas, he/she is said to have a good delivery.

In order to score 4 on an independent speaking task, the speaker will also need to have good control of his or her language use. For example, the speaker will need to use natural sounding expressions and have control of basic and complex vocabulary and grammar. However, the speaker may have some minor vocabulary or grammar errors so long as these errors do not affect the meaning of ideas expressed.

Finally, in order to score 4 on an independent speaking task, a speaker will need to have good topic development. First of all, the response must answer the question being asked. Second of all, the response needs to have appropriate supporting details. Third of all, the response needs to be coherently organized in that there is a relationship between ideas.

To sum up, as students have TOEFL iBT speaking practice, they should know what target speaking score they want to get, what level of academic speaking proficiency they will need to have in order to reach that score, and they should get feedback from an iBT speaking specialist so they can see what adjustments they need to make in order to improve their delivery, language use, and topic development.

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