TOEFL Speaking Criteria & Mythbusting

Here is the 7 criteria that TOEFL iBT Speaking is based on! First, let’s myth bust some of the things you may have heard. 

No, it’s not how fast you speak. They don’t care how many words you say per minute!

The first outlandish thing you may have heard from others is you need to say a specific amount of words in order to achieve a task. That’s absolutely FALSE. Task achievement, which is probably what these students are referring too, is based on fulfilling the task in general, not how many words you say per minute. 

You won’t be graded on speaking as long as you can without pauses, either!

Another crazy myth I’ve heard is you want to continue speaking and speaking without breaks. That’s another big NO. Your fluency isn’t based on that. Having separation between your thoughts by implementing thought groups will help you sound more fluent and contribute to the “flow” criteria. 


Another crazy myth I’ve seen. The more you sound like someone you’re not; or the more you slow down your speech to emphasize specific words — the more your grade comes down because these testers will look at you as “trying to do something more than you’re supposed to.” Believe me, before one of my current students from the Philippines began coaching with me, he had a tutor who told him that he needed to sound like an American. His score, at the time, went from a 24….back down to a 23. Don’t try to sound like someone you’re not. Your goal is to BE UNDERSTOOD. 


Correct grammar usage is about how you use English grammar and sentence structure. Raters want to see that you can use what you know correctly. Your grammar doesn’t have to be perfect to score high, but mistakes shouldn’t interfere with your meaning.

Vocabulary Usage

Vocabulary usage is about how you use English words. Raters are looking for responses that use different words correctly and accurately, and that use a wide range of words that help listeners understand.

Support & Development

Support and development is about the content of your speaking response. Your content should be related directly to the topic, and you should have several main ideas that support your opinion or position. These ideas should be persuasive or compelling.

Connections & Coherence

connections and coherence are about how you put your ideas together and link different sentences to each other. Raters want to see speaking that flows naturally from idea to idea without confusing the listener.

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