As many of you know, getting 26+ on the TOEFL Speaking is no easy task. Some students struggle for months, if not years, to get the golden score of 26+.


Yet, some students get it on their first or second try.


What separates the first group of students from the second group of students?


Why do certain TOEFL students get 26+ immediately, while it takes others five, ten, or fifteen tries to get 26+?


In today’s article, I’m going to give you three reasons why certain students get 26+ and how YOU can make sure to get 26+ the next time you take the TOEFL exam.


You Must Understand the Basics of the TOEFL Speaking


Students who get 26+ on the TOEFL Speaking section understand all the must know basics about TOEFL Speaking.


They understand:


  • How to organize and take notes.
  • How to transition between the introduction, examples, and conclusion.
  • How to organize their responses so they answer the prompt exactly how the TOEFL evaluator wants.
  • How critically important it is to stay within one second of the response time limit.


Do you understand all of these points? Do you know how to organize and take notes? Do you understand what phrases to use for transition statements?


If you don’t, then this might be preventing you from reaching a score of 26+.


To learn more about these basics, check out this website on Mastering the TOEFL Speaking section.


Create a Study Schedule and Speak English


Students who get 26+ follow an organized study schedule that requires extensive amounts of speaking practice.


They give themselves plenty of time before a TOEFL test (or between tests) to improve their speaking score.


An example TOEFL Speaking study schedule might look like this:


  • Monday: 7 pm - 9 pm
  • Tuesday: 7 pm - 9 pm
  • Wednesday: 7 pm - 9 pm
  • Thursday: 7 pm - 9 pm
  • Friday: 7 pm - 9 pm
  • Saturday: 10 am - 11 am
  • Sunday: 8 am - 9 am


Repeat for six weeks before taking the TOEFL Speaking.


If you are stuck at a score of 23 or 24, you probably don’t speak enough English on a daily basis.


In fact, for every point you want to improve, I recommend speaking out loud for 15 hours. So, if you got 23 and you want to get 26, you must speak out loud for at least 45 hours.


For a more detailed TOEFL Speaking study schedule, check out this resource.


Of course, ONLY speaking doesn’t help. If you speak A LOT of English but continue to make the same errors, then you won’t get any better.


So when you speak English, focus on improving one aspect of your speech. I’ll go over this in more detail in my third point.


You can’t think of ways to speak more English? Here are some ideas:


  • Talk to yourself! Yes, it’s weird, but if you talk to yourself in English while you’re making breakfast, while you’re in the car, or while you’re watching TV, this will help you to make progress by taking advantage of unexpected practice time.
  • Find an English speaking meetup group: if you live in a somewhat big city in a foreign country, then there are bound to be groups who meet up and speak English. Find a group and join!



Focus on One or Two Problems at a Time


If you have yet to get 26+ on the TOEFL Speaking, it’s because you’re making certain mistakes. You’re probably thinking, “Duh Paul. I already know that."


Well, stick with me for a second. Students who earned 26+ on TOEFL Speaking either:


  • Have been speaking and learning English for many, many years, and it comes very naturally to them;




  • Understood their English level wasn’t high enough to earn 26, so they took certain steps to improve their speaking ability.


Let’s analyze the second reason.


As I said above, the first step students take to improve their English speaking ability is to speak a lot.


But, sometimes speaking a lot isn’t enough. These students also pinpointed the exact problems preventing them from reaching a higher level of English and worked to fix these problems.


They also worked on fixing these problems by focusing on one to two issues at a time.


Some common issues include:


  1. Pronunciation
  2. Intonation
  3. Grammar
  4. Note-taking
  5. Fluency


So, let’s take these five skills and apply them to the TOEFL Speaking schedule from above:


  • Monday, 7 pm - 9 pm: focus on /i/ pronunciation for 30 minutes and subject/verb agreement for 1.5 hours.
  • Tuesday, 7 pm - 9 pm: focus on /i/ pronunciation for 30 minutes and subject/verb agreement for 1.5 hours.
  • Wednesday, 7 pm - 9 pm: focus on /i/ pronunciation for 30 minutes and subject/verb agreement for 1.5 hours.
  • Thursday, 7 pm - 9 pm: focus on /r/ pronunciation for 30 minutes and intonation for transition statements for 1.5 hours.
  • Friday, 7 pm - 9 pm: focus on /r/ pronunciation for 30 minutes and intonation for lists for 1.5 hours.
  • Saturday, 10 am - 11 am: focus on /r/ pronunciation for 30 minutes and note-taking for all questions for 1.5 hours.
  • Sunday, 8 am - 9 am: do six practice responses and measure progress from the previous week.


This is an example of how to focus on one or two issues at a time.


Those are three strategies for how to get 26+ on the TOEFL Speaking. If you need help preparing for the TOEFL Speaking section, contact Paul through his italki profile.


Image Sources


Hero Image by Colin Milligan (CC BY 2.0)