Don’t Memorize! Instead Do this 1 THING to Improve TOEFL Speaking


I’ve conducted thousands of TOEFL Speaking classes with non-native English speakers over the years. A percentage have a belief that memorizing answers will give them an edge in the TOEFL Speaking Section. It won’t. Here’s how to improve TOEFL speaking.

(Oh, btw, test your TOEFL IQ now!).

Generally, a learner with a whole lot of memorized language has developed his own studying formula: script answers to popular questions and then learn them by rote. The resulting output is always clunky and inauthentic.

To boot, the memorization process has probably caused errors to become baked in.

Sometimes teachers are the cause of this hyper-preparation. In TOEFL classrooms,  it is a good idea to focus on highly structured replies to question types in order to help a speaker satisfy the assessment criteria. But that doesn’t mean memorized. It means practiced.

Test-takers should delivering authentic responses to whatever comes their way. I discourage learners from incanting long formulaic chunks of language.


Haha. No! I find it easier to tell the truth – normally. But in some instances it could be easier to support a position that I don’t really believe to be true, like, in my heart.

I help students understand common elements in TOEFL Independent Speaking tasks, and then plan tactical response strategies to both expected and unforeseen questions. It’s all about practice.

The best way to prepare for TOEFL Speaking tasks (and improve TOEFL Speaking overall) is to use talking points rather than speaking templates. When it comes to templates, use a “time template”. 

Does that make sense?

Improve TOEFL Speaking

If you are preparing for the TOEFL, consider using storytelling talking points instead of memorizing a bunch of answers. I get into lots of Speaking strategies and tactics in my TOEFL prep course, including “time templates”. 

Check it out!

If you are interested in learning even more about TOEFL Speaking, check out my course Clear Strategies & Tactics

Thanks for checking out our blog. For more information about private TOEFL training or group rates, feel free to reach out to

39 Replies to “Don’t Memorize! Instead Do this 1 THING to Improve TOEFL Speaking”

  1. To be successful on the job interview, we should prepare for unexpected questions. Many people prepare only traditional interview questions by memorizing answer sheets. Which could be seen like all the interviwees have same thoughts. Traditional questions have less discrimination than others. So we should prepare for unexpected questions as well. The most good way to prepare unexpected question is to think all the time. Think about every events that occur and keep your attention to social issues will be benefit. For these reasons we should prepare at ordinary times.

    I really agree with your thought about this article.

    – Sangwoo Nam -

  2. Yes, the idea is to be prepared, but not scripted. The same applies in TOEIC Speaking test situations, which is why we work on answer strategies, not memorized replies.

  3. I’ve noticed some Asian students prefer memorization over “unscripted” answers. It is a way of coping with untold amounts of data.
    In the Middle East, some students are told to do an introduction (or restatement of question) a response (or body of info which addresses the question) and a summary (or restatement of the main idea). It has limited success, unless the student is really dedicated to the language and the idea of foreign study.

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