In this article I’m going to give you tips and strategies on how to score well on Question 3 of the iBT TOEFL speaking section.

In the first part of this question you will read for about 45 seconds, then you will listen to a conversation between two students; this is always a male and a female. Finally, you will be asked a question about the reading and the conversation. You will have 30 seconds to prepare your notes to answer that question and you have to speak for 60 seconds.

The Reading: What to expect and how to take notes.

When you look at the computer screen you will see the reading, you will also see a timer on the computer screen and you will be given 45 or 50 seconds to read the passage. The reading passage is usually a university announcement notifying students of a change in policy. Here are some common announcements that you will find in Question 3.

  • New Video Projector in the Lounge•
  • New Policy on Printouts
  • Increase in the Number of Night Classes
  • Renovation of the Dormitories
  • Discontinuation of the Tutoring Program
  • Campus Health Clinic Closing
  • New Energy Efficiency Policy
  • Graduate Classes Open to all Students

In each announcement there will be about hundred words. Your job is to identify the change and two reasons for it. So, within 45 seconds you need to identify the change and two reasons for this change.

As you can see below, I have written C which represents change, R1 which represents reason 1 and R2 which represents reason 2.

Notes from the Reading Section

C = ChangeWrite the change here ………………………..
R1 = Reason 1Give the first reason here……………………………….
R2 = Reason 2Give the second reason here…………………………..


This is how you should organize your notes to maximize time efficiency. The key is know what to look for and to have clear and organized notes.

Sample Reading Passage

An increase in the number of my classes

Last week when returning students went to signup for the fall classes, they found far more undergraduate courses being offered as night classes than ever before. Four years ago only computer and language courses – often attended by continuing education students – were offered as night classes. Last year, several more courses were inserted into the evening schedule. This year, however, core courses like philosophy, theatre, music, and biology begin in the evening, a time traditionally devoted to workwork and leisure. according to the dean, the increase in night classes is a response to students request more flexibility.

The Listening: What to expect and how to take notes.

Now, during the conversation the man or the woman is going to agree or disagree with the announcement made by the University. They will then support their opinion with two reasons. If the man is expressing his opinion and giving his reasons, then the woman is just going to be supporting the conversation by saying things like “Oh, yeah?”, “Oh, really?” so all you have to do is focus on the person who is giving his/her opinion of the change and the reasons for this opinion.

This is the note organization for the conversation between a man and a woman.

Reason 1
Reason 2


The Question

The question is the least important part. It is always going to be the same, describe the student’s opinion and the reasons he or she gives for it.

30 Second Preparation Time: how to use it most effectively

Draw four circles

The first circle deals with all the words that describe the change in the announcement. Do not circle the reasons from the reading because you’re not going to use them, they are a waste of time. The important piece of information is the man or woman’s reasons for his/her opinion. We just took the notes to help you understand the conversation better.

The second circle deals with all the words that describe that student’s opinion.

The third circle deals with all the words that describe the first reason which supports the student’s opinion

The final circle deals with all the words that describe the second reason which supports student’s opinion.

The 60 seconds of Speaking Time: what to say and how to say it.

Memorise the powerful phrases in bold:

The reading states that… and then talk about the change ‘the University has announced a new policy on printouts’. You are not going to mention the two reasons in the reading as this is unnecessary.

The next sentence is ‘The man’s opinion is that it is a bad idea to limit the number of printouts’. After you give the man’s opinion you going to say that He provides two reasons for his opinion. By doing this you have given nice clear structure and this sentence also helps with a little extra time to compose the next two reasons.

The first reason is that he doesn’t think it is wasteful to print lots of documents. For example, he says that he needs to print materials such as essays and articles for research. So, it is unfair to limit the number printouts students can make.’

The second reason is that the University is wrong to blame students for the problems with the equipment. The problem is that the machines are too old, not that the students use them too much. He says that the university should pay to get new printers in the lab.’

Now finish with a conclusion.

‘That’s why the man disagrees with the university’s decision to limit the number of print oust that students can make.’

Here are some tips.

  1. Paraphrasing: Don’t worry about paraphrasing. Just say exactly what you heard. You are playing the role of reporting here, you are not expected to change the words just report exactly what you heard.
  1. Always practice with a timer. The timer counts down from 60 seconds

Don’t try to do things differently, this is a tried and tested method and I have helped students get a score of 25 and above in the iBT TOEFL Speaking Section.

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