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Tips to Improve Your Speaking Skills

Learn how to improve your English speaking skills with these tips to help you prepare for the TOEFL iBT® test and university study.

Develop friendships with people who want to speak English with you.

If you can't find a native English speaker, find a friend who wants to practice speaking English, and promise to speak only English to each other for a certain period of time.

Record yourself speaking in English.

  • Read a paragraph from an academic course book, and practice summarizing the paragraph aloud.
  • Practice several times, and then record your summary.
  • Listen to your summary again a week later. Transcribe what you said, and review your mistakes.
  • Read a simple paragraph and record your voice. Ask a teacher to give you feedback on the recording.
  • Listen to something spoken by a native English speaker. Record yourself repeating the same information, and compare it to the native English speaker.

Practice speaking for a limited time on different topics without a lot of preparation.

  • Write down several questions about various topics. Then, select a question and answer it aloud. Try to talk for 1 minute.
    • family
    • hobbies
    • friends
    • school
    • cities
    • countries
    • places you are familiar with
  • Ask a friend to give you topics, and record yourself discussing them. Ask someone to listen with you and suggest ways for you to improve.
  • Think of a story that you are familiar with. Tell the story to several different people, and try to tell the story faster each time.
  • Give yourself about 20 seconds to think about what you did yesterday. After 20 seconds, begin to recount what you did. Try to talk for 1 minute.
    • Pay attention to your use of the past tense.
    • Try to use connecting words and phrases such as first, then, while I was.
  • Give yourself about 20 seconds to think about what you will probably do tomorrow. After 20 seconds, begin to talk about what you are planning to do. Try to talk for 1 minute.
    • Try to use different forms of the future tense.

Listen to audiobooks and podcasts.

  • Study pronunciation, stress and intonation.
  • Sign up for an audiobook subscription service or look for free audiobook samples online.

Practice speaking about everyday issues relevant to students' lives.

  • Read articles from campus newsletters.
  • Discuss the articles with a speaking partner or friend.
  • Practice summarizing the articles and expressing your opinions about them.

Concentrate on speaking clearly, with good pronunciation and intonation.

  • Speak with confidence and open your mouth more widely than you normally do.
  • It is difficult to understand you if you speak word by word. Try to speak in "thought groups."
    • Take a reading passage and mark the thought groups first. Then, read it aloud, paying close attention to these groups of words and ideas.
  • Get an audiobook or a transcript from a news report, podcast, interview or play.
    • Listen to the performance and mark the pauses, stress and intonation on the transcript.
    • Then, read the transcript and try to imitate the pauses, stress and intonation patterns.

Listen to the radio and watch TV and movies.

  • Pay attention to idiomatic usage of the language and different accents or speech patterns that are used.
  • Write down new expressions you hear. Use the expressions in your everyday English conversations.
  • Choose a character from a film or TV show. Repeat the character's words, following the intonation patterns, as he or she speaks. Include the gestures or other body language of the character you are imitating.
  • Listen to a college radio station in your area.
    • Make a list of the kinds of topics being discussed.
    • Use the list to generate discussion topics with your friend or speaking partner.

Practice pronunciation and intonation by reading aloud.

  • Record yourself so you can hear your accent. Pay attention to your mistakes.
  • Work on pronouncing word endings clearly.