Speaking section of TOEFL iBT

Speaking in a foreign tongue could always be intimidating and under testing conditions, it would be horrifying. TOEFL is one of the most established English language proficiency tests available today. It is the only test that tests your English language speaking proficiency where integration of other language-skills is required. That is to say that just by being proficient in speaking may not fetch you a good score in the speaking component. You need to be good at reading and listening as well.

You need to be aware of the layout of the battlefield that will make you a better gladiator. The table below gives you the comprehensive knowledge of the TOEFL Section.

Task Type                         Task Description                                                         Timing
Independent Tasks
1. Personal Preference This question asks the test taker to express and defend a personal choice from a given category—for example, important people, places, events or activities that the test taker enjoys. Preparation time: 15 secs.

Response time: 45 secs.

2. Choice This question asks the test taker to make and defend a personal choice between two contrasting behaviours or courses of action. Preparation time: 15 secs.

Response time: 45 secs.

Integrated Tasks
3. Campus Situation


Topic: Fit and Explain

• A reading passage (75–100 words) presents a campus-related issue.

• A listening passage (60–80 seconds, 150–180 words) comments on the issue in the reading passage.

• The question asks the test taker to summarize the speaker’s opinion within the context of the reading passage.

Preparation time: 30 secs.

Response time: 60 secs.

4. Academic Course


Topic: General/ Specific

• A reading passage (75–100 words) broadly defines a term, process, or idea from an academic subject.

• An excerpt from a lecture (60–90 seconds; 150–220 words) provides examples and specific information to illustrate the term, process, or idea from the reading passage.

• The question asks the test taker to combine and convey important information from the reading passage and the lecture excerpt.

Preparation time: 30 secs.

Response time: 60 secs.

5. Campus Situation


Topic: Problem/ Solution

• The listening passage (60–90 seconds; 180–220 words) is a conversation about a student-related problem and two possible solutions.

• The question asks the test taker to demonstrate

an understanding of the problem and to express an opinion about solving the problem.

Preparation time: 20 secs.

Response time: 60 secs.

6. Academic Course


Topic: Summary

• The listening passage is an excerpt from a lecture (90–120 seconds; 230–280 words) that explains a term or concept and gives concrete examples to illustrate that term or concept.

• The question asks the test taker to summarize the lecture and demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the examples and the overall topic.

Preparation time: 20 secs

Response time: 60 secs.

TOTAL   20 minutes



Independent Speaking

A single question that appears on the screen is read aloud by the narrator. Test takers have 15 seconds to prepare an answer, and have 45 seconds to respond. An on-screen clock, shows the remaining time for preparation and response.

Integrated Speaking—Read/Listen/Speak


Test takers read a passage on a given topic and then listen to a speaker talk about the same topic. A question appears on the screen and is read aloud by the narrator. Test takers have 30 seconds to prepare their response. They have 60 seconds to respond by synthesizing and summarizing the information they have read and heard.


Test takers are asked to briefly synthesize and summarize the information from the reading and listening material.


Integrated Speaking—Listen/Speak


Test takers listen to part of a conversation or lecture. They are asked to briefly summarize the information from the listening material. For some tasks, they may be asked to summarize the information and express an opinion about it.


See Part – I

What we saw in 1st part of this article was individual analysis. In this part we employ comparative analytics. For consistency sake, we dive deeper into chart of 7 questions attempted as shared in part-1 of the article.

The Percent Accuracy

Question Your Response Right or Not % of students who did this correctly
1 A check 87%
2 C wrong 71%
3 B check 42%
4 B check 92%
5 D wrong 6%
6 C check 59%
7 A check 15%

Qn 1 was done correctly by major chunk of the market. Qn 2 was again attempted correctly by a large number (71%), whereas our candidate has erred on this – pray why, when most people have done it correctly. Qn 3 has been incorrectly done by 58% students; so this is a feather in cap of our student. Qn 4 seemed to be a sitter. Qn 5, even if we have done wrong, is another issue; that is why our student is not considered as very smart – actually it WAS a tough question as only 6% students could do it right; but such questions decide the merit as they are weighted more marks.

Exam Preparation

Qn 6 is done correctly, giving promotional thrust to our student’s approach. Scoring on Qn 7 is exceptional as only 15% students have managed to work on it. This comparative analysis allows observations as to what kind of questions to give more attention, and which ones to handle with pace.

Time Taken by Others

Similarly, looking at the median time given by other students, important lessons can be learnt.

Question Your Response Right or Not Time Taken Median Time by others
1 A check 79 seconds 61 seconds
2 C wrong 17 seconds 41 seconds
3 B check 53 seconds 53 seconds
4 B check 119 seconds 47 seconds (having changed Driving Licence)
5 D wrong 78 seconds 45 seconds
6 C check 36 seconds 40 seconds
7 A check 14 seconds 59 seconds

We can make a note that on Qn 1, our student was slower than other competitors. Qn 3 was matched evenly, so was Qn 6. He was very quick on Qn 7. The acute quickness on Qn 2 cost him accuracy. Was it worth getting Qn 4 correct, at more than twice the time? In fact, he lost on accuracy and time both, in Qn 5. Since this is a practice test, standards of success are evolving – analytics help suitable benchmarks to be competed against.

The examples covered here are but the most basic, simplest examples of what test analytics can do. Like any instrument in the hands of a master, it can manipulate your medium to no end short of the imagination. It can perform tasks you may not have always conceived of, but now surely cannot live without. Think so when the graphs apply to all of 200 or 120 questions, not just 7 as illustrated above. Umpteen other facets of evaluation provide insights worth their weight in gold. The student thus armed learns much more from each test, than was previously possible for generations which never had recourse to such a wealth of data and comparative levels. Besides it makes the process of test checking extra fun – lovely colourful graphs.


What is the smartest way of preparing for competitive exams? – to take help of analytics. Tracking analytics is easy these days, esp. when your study partner (for example TCYonline), offers tools to analyse and evaluate your preparation. Its precise measurements and metrics can provide invaluable, scientifically tested information crucial to fine-tuning your efforts.

Exam Preparation

Centuries ago, Lord Kelvin stated that if we cannot use numbers to describe something, we probably DO NOT really understand that thing. Thus simple response to queries about how your preparation is progressing, that it is going fine or it is smooth sailing, are not enough anymore. You need to develop the vocabulary and syntax to make sharp well-defined comments on various facets of your preparation, beyond the generic talk.

There is no need to take recourse to a dim haze of confusing lexicon, a bewildering amount of metrics, or complexities that surpass even many so-called specialists. Analytics is all about the numbers and their visual graphical representation. This allows measurement of performance and trends, on a micro level, not merely gross macro one. Accordingly comes the accompanying prowess to refine performance.

Let’s say the chart of your question attempting is:

Question Your Response Right or Not
1 A check
2 C wrong
3 B check
4 B check
5 D wrong
6 C check
7 A check

Now most students focus only on questions 2 and 5, because only they are wrong. And this is the end of the analysis. These students would move on to another test. But this is what is criminal. Has the test with 7 questions been FULLY evaluated? This is where analytics help develop deeper insights about the level of the preparation.

The Time Angle

The time taken on the questions could have been as follows:

Question Your Response Right or Not Time Taken
1 A check 79 seconds
2 C wrong 17 seconds
3 B check 53 seconds
4 B check 119 seconds
5 D wrong 78 seconds
6 C check 36 seconds
7 A check 14 seconds

Let us assume the average time per question ought to be 60 seconds. Qn 1 seems to have been done quick enough, though it can be improved. Qn 2 was done too quickly, was this the reason it went wrong…a pointer that maybe the student must restrain impulsive mad rush thinking. Possibly a little extra thought would have saved the student from committing a mistake. Qn 3 went fine. Qn 4 was done correctly, but in almost twice the time – is that worth it? Qn 5, the student spent lots of time also and ended up doing it wrong too – a double whammy, no? Qn 6 is the best one, attempted correctly and fast enough in 36 seconds. Qn 7 also is done correctly, but it was done in haste, merely 14 seconds. Shouldn’t this approach be changed, else Qn 7 too could have gone wrong the Qn 2 way!

See, looking at the time taken throws observations which require careful scrutiny of the approach.

The Changing of Responses

Many a times, the student marks a choice, but then gets in doubt and changes the response marked. Analytics help see the pattern in this habit. Let us say the same 7 questions went through this attempt history:

Question Your Response Right or Not Marking History Correct Response
1 A check marked A A
2 C wrong marked B, changed to C B
3 B check marked B B
4 B check marked B, changed to D, again changed to B B
5 D wrong marked D C
6 C check marked C C
7 A check marked C, changed to A A

We see that the student was very decisive in Qn 1, 3, 5 and 6, of which he got 3 correct. Again it is apparent, in Qn 2, 4, 7 he went through self-doubt. Of these, his first gut response was actually correct in two cases, which he changed to wrong choice later, somehow again changing back in one question. It is recommended to this candidate to have MORE belief in his first attempt, and not fall prey to self-doubts, unless he finds specific reason to not go with 1st attempt. Such analysis would help the student be more decisive next time onwards.

…..continued in Part 02

Teachers Earn Lifelong Royalty At TCYonline.com

Calling Educators and writers!

Here is your opportunity to Earn Name, Fame (and Money)!!

Here is your chance to let the world see and acclaim the hero in you!!! 

TCYonline.com, the No. 1 online education platform, used by around 2 million students and 35000 teachers in and outside India, now launches ‘Write & Earn’, the Content Upload Drive (1st Sept to 31st Oct). During this period, our existing authors as well as prospective authors can earn fixed payments that are 20-30% more than our regular payments (plus lifelong royalties) for upload of tests/questions.  You can upload, from the comfort of your home, as many questions under as many categories as you like, provided that the questions are original, creative, concept enhancing and preferably are in the formats in which they occur in the related exam(s). You can select from more than 50 categories of tests, ranging from CBSE Exams to UPSC Exams. The tests/questions could cover Engineering Entrance, Medical Entrance, MCA, Law, Bank PO, GRE, GMAT, SAT and many more.

Please visit our site for more detail: http://www.tcyonline.com/india/authors.php

For any clarifications, comments and feedback, write to us at info@tcyonline.com

ANALYTICS: The scale builder in Test Prep Sector

Exam Preparation is one of the key educational activities in student life. This also makes it a lucrative business to provide them with necessary assistance. This assistance is usually done through tutoring, content, testing & benchmarking.
Conventional Benchmarking: Pros & Cons
Exams and particularly entrance exams act as a sieve through which only a student who manages to perform above a certain performance threshold emerges successful. This threshold level unlike qualifying exams is actually determined by the capabilities of the population appearing for the test. Hence benchmarking oneself against his peers is a key indicator of success probability. Since these tests are becoming a national exercise, any worthwhile benchmarking has to be at national level.
Until over a decade ago the market, which catered to the need of these students, was highly fragmented with small city centric players scattered throughout the country. These centers catered to numerous categories of exams. Any benchmarking, if done was at most at the city level, which really didn’t give a clear picture in National or State Level Exams. Things began to change when National chains of institutes started emerging. They brought in their own national benchmarking tests. Though these tests were held at a national level, they lacked statistical significance. The population of these students was majorly composed of students of the chain only; hence any statistical comparison was not representative of the actual population of competitors.
Internet brings Analytics; the rules of the game are rewritten
Analytics have the potential to transform the way test prep is done in the world. The advent and subsequent mass adoption of internet in the country led to various disruptions in many sectors. We saw the norms changing in many traditional core sectors like banking, ticketing, shopping, matrimonial services etc and these innovations are threatening to wipe off the companies running these businesses conventionally.

In education, animated and interactive content was widely believed to be the biggest disruptors whereas the next big thing is not solely the content but mainly what happens around that content. The ever-growing volume of data around high quality content gives way to the concept that every new user on the website adds value for the next user and makes benchmarking more scientific and relevant.
Analytics have started solving many of the problems that traditional benchmarking had. The sample is random, representative of the entire nation, permanently captured and continuously growing.
Levels of Benchmarking
Analytics offer benchmarking at two levels
Benchmarking with self:  A test taker would like to know if he is improving with each subsequent test. These analytics would cover speed, accuracy and error analysis to continuously improve on any subject area, stream or competitive exam area.
Benchmarking with peers:  In this, a user has the flexibility to benchmark against any student sitting in any corner of the country. The benchmarking can be done at various levels; starting from city, state or national level. He can also benchmark himself against any group preparing for any competitive exam and has the flexibility to go up to any subgroup level. For example, you may benchmark yourself against male engineers preparing for FMS from NCR.
Much more than a regular benchmarking tool

The analytics engine even takes you one-step forward. It can not only select the most appropriate tests for subsequent practice based on your test history but can also take you to the relevant video tutorial where your conceptual foundations can be strengthened.
Therefore, this tool has started taking millions of students from a shotgun strategy of preparation where they fire all around and hope that a shot would hit the target to a rifle strategy where one feels empowered to take a careful aim to reach target at the first shot. This keeps a student away from inefficient learning practices thereby manufacturing time for other creative pursuits. 

Analytics is an Indispensable tool for all stakeholders in education
All these unique features propel analytics to the status of becoming an indispensible tool in exam preparation for any student, teacher or institute. Teachers and institutes not using analytics would be depriving the student a chance of effective test preparation in a scientific manner.
The data comprises threads of discussions that unwind around questions, giving students valuable insights into problem solving techniques contributed by those who attempted these questions; something no traditional classroom training can offer. Peer to peer learning is also promoted through the interaction of students undergoing similar academic pursuits in groups. The most interesting thing is that it is the analytics engine that recommends and adds new members to the groups. The learners collaborate in this environment to take their preparation to the next level.

However, such an internet based platform is not without challenges. Thousands of tests are developed by hundreds of authors, so it becomes a real challenge to manage the quality of these tests. It took us hundreds of authors to write around 450,000 tagged questions and enroll 1 million students to capture approximately  23 million Analytics ( read question attempts ) before we can say that we can provide decent benchmarking . Another rating based system for content and authors ensures that inferior quality tests are chucked out of the system automatically.
Fulfills the aspirations of teachers to deliver the best
Another interesting side of the story is the ‘game change’ in traditional publishing. There is a big problem of the traditional Industry that such system is addressing. Volumes are written usually by one or two authors. If we have a book, which contains 20 chapters, we cannot assume that the author is equally good on all the 20 chapters to be dealt with. Therefore, we usually have textbooks, which cover some areas perfectly, but some areas are left not so perfect. So how do we get our perfect book?
There are thousands of authors who want to publish their work, but they are proficient in only a set of topics. Traditional publishing houses are hence out of their reach. Such online platforms have the unique capacities to put together thousands of authors in the long tail to write on the subjects that they know best and would have the perfect compilation on them.
There are many exams also in the long tail that are held at a limited level and hence are not financially viable for quality publishers to cover. Therefore, there is always a dearth of quality material for the students who prepare for these exams. Such online platforms that give flexibility to students to generate their own tests are a big boon.
All this is just the tip of the iceberg. Such rich data of a candidate at various stages of his student and working life can disrupt some other sectors too. May be it calls for another long article…..
Kamal Wadhera


Rajan started preparing for CAT right from his second year of B-Tech. By the time he reached his final year, he found that an early start had given him a definite edge over others who had started their preparation in the third year or the final year. He was confident that he would get through.

The D-day came and he attempted very well as he usually did. When the result card declared that he had scored 85 percentile, he found it hard to digest. Where did Rajan go wrong? Why couldn’t he get through to the IIMs even though he was intelligent and had worked hard towards his goal?

Many scholars share Rajan’s problem. They fail to understand that competition is not about ‘how smart you are’ but about ‘how smarter than the others’. What Rajan’s preparation lacked was benchmarking against others, including the best, and continuous, monitored improvement. Rajan knew the areas he was good at, but he didn’t know how much input he needed to put in and where. He thought he was best among his immediate peers, but he failed to reckon with the best across the nation.

You surely don’t want to be another Rajan. Do you? So, read on.

What is Benchmarking?

Benchmarking in test prep refers to monitoring your competitors and understanding your relative position among the test takers. This helps you in understanding your current level of preparation and additional effort required to improve your competitive positioning. Benchmarking should always be followed by remedial action and identification of improvement areas for arriving at action points.

Benchmarking can be broadly classified into three categories

benchmarking with self

This is particularly helpful in qualifying exams and for improvement in a particular subject area. Here the focus is not on competition but on self-improvement. The aim is to continually identify and remove weak areas to reach the desired level of proficiency. After reviewing every test, you analyze in detail, the sub skills where your score is low. You work on these sub-skills and take subsequent tests to see how your score has improved. You may also take a test specifically of the sub skills where you scored low. Therefore, the improvement happens in progressive iterations until a desired level of scoring is achieved.


benchmarking in a group

Here a student identifies a small group against which he would like to benchmark himself. Usually this group would be of a similar profile as the candidate himself. The candidate first excels in this group and chooses progressively larger groups subsequently.

-benchmarking nationally

Students who are appearing in National competitive exams like CAT, IIT JEE, PMT, GATE, UPSC etc, adopt national benchmarking. Here a test taker compares himself with his peers throughout the nation and then focuses strategically on maximizing his overall score by working on his weaknesses and reinforcing his strengths.

How is Benchmarking done?

paper pencil based mock test

This can be a very good tool to assess one’s competitive positioning in the nation after completion of one’s preparation. The nature of the assessment being summative, this is kind of a final judgment on one’s preparation rather than a tool of improvement.

However, is the preparation for any competitive exam ever complete?

The reported aggregate score and a percentile rank leave little scope for any analyses of topics for areas of improvement. Also, since the student base is from the test conducting institute only, the data is not true representative and any inference drawn is biased.

online mock test

Online mock tests present a more detailed analysis of test performance. The student can easily see the areas where he needs to improve. However, these tests stop at that, and seldom provide the user with the tools for improvement. Since a user would require tests in many different formats for further improvement, these tests are a one time affair and leave the user high and dry, gasping for improvement.

Besides, the scores and analyses are reliable and statistically valid only if these tests enjoy the patronage of a significant number of students.

analytics way: the right way

There are very few analytic engines worth their salt in the online space. TCYonline.com is the leader. TCY Analytics* gives the user a number of interesting advantages:

– Flexibility to use any type of benchmarking refereed to earlier

– A large student base of approx 1 million (& counting) gives considerable statistical advantage

– 23 million TCY Analytics* (question attempts) & counting

– Automatically suggests improvement areas and action points

– Generates tests to specifically improve identified weak areas

– Picks suggested video tutorials based on your test performance

– Gathers information around each question through student and author discussions

*TCY Analytics: Question attempts where each question has data of each candidate who attempted it, around parameters like time taken on question, gender, age, city, stream ( B.Com, B.Tech, BBA etc)

This data gives students:

A. Comparative benchmarking like:

National benchmarking: National ranking & percentiles for each test

Comparison with top ten : Your performance with national toppers

Comparison with Friends/Groups/Classmates: Your performance with your chosen friends

Customized Comparison: City-wise, state-wise, stream-wise comparison reports

B. Recommendations like:

Your weak areas and recommended tests to overcome these weak areas

C . Self Assessment:

Overall Performance till date: Your performance trends test by test

Topic-wise Analysis till date: A cumulative topic wise analysis of your tests

View Overall Analysis : Which questions you have marked correct/wrong

Question by Question Analysis: The answer to each question and discussion with others

Topic-wise Analysis: Your sub-sub-sub skills to improve faster and your BEST & WEAK topics in the test

Difficulty-wise Analysis: How well you performed on difficult questions

Your Time Management: Know your Time Savers & Time Takers in the test, based on average time per question


What makes TCY-Analytics unique is that hundreds of authors spread all over the world upload thousands of quality tests. It is like a textbook in which each chapter is written by the best expert in that area. Each question is rated and the junk is automatically removed from the site, giving users the best content quality experience.


For our school going K-10 friends, we have a highly effective assessment test called National Benchmarking Test, for students in grades 6 to 10. TCY -NBT is a test of its kind! It is unique as it combines a comprehensive assessment test with a plan of remedial action to overcome the weaknesses it identifies, and further with a career preparedness graph to guide a student on the career options available as per his existing skill levels. What is more, the Analytics of TCY-NBT also provides detailed statistics on his competitiveness at the national, state, regional and school levels.

If you have a testing history on TCYonline, it is mapping your different competencies more and more accurately with every subsequent test. Start early; maintain regularity for us to recommend to you various career options, based on your competencies, throughout your student and working life. Remember, ever increasing portfolio of test categories on TCYonline will give you tests that help you decide career paths. Keep visiting TCYonline more and more often for more and more tests and keep growing intellectually all your life.

Test Preparation without TCY Analytics is incomplete.

Your comments and suggestions are welcome!


Kamal Wadhera along with Viji Raj