TOEFL Speaking 26: How to get a TOEFL speaking 26 in the TOEFL speaking section: You can!

If you just want to skip ahead to my instructional material, go down to the section that reads: How to get a 26 in the TOEFL speaking section? Fluent mastery of 4 questions. But, I advise you not to. I wouldn’t have written this all down if it weren’t important, right? Trust me; it matters.

First, you can earn a 26 on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) speaking section. You can and you will, and I’ll show you how. If you’re here, then you’re probably under stress because this is a requirement for you to move forward in life, for your career as a pharmacist, physical therapist, teacher, lawyer, etc. I’ve helped hundreds of students hit this goal and this post contains all that you need to succeed with resources to help you if you need more guidance, so please, read on.

TOEFL Speaking 26: The grading

Before you can excel and before I will teach you the details, it’s important that you understand how you’re graded and the basics of the TOEFL (though you probably know this already, I must make sure). The TOEFL speaking section contains 6 questions that you answer with recorded speech and the maximum possible score on this section is a 30. With that out of the way, let’s get down to the details.

Each of your 6 questions are evaluated by two separate graders. These graders are hired and go through an online training program at home. Sometimes, they are trained at a physical Educational Testing Service (ETS) location – you should know that ETS is the company that writes the TOEFL, so send your hate mail to it. Graders are trained to rate your recordings according to strict requirements and will assign each of your answers either a 1, 2, 3, or 4 depending on the quality and strength of your answer.

A 1 is uncommunicative; students who earn this score may have survival English but nothing more. A 2 is limited; this is for students who can survive comfortably with English but cannot express themselves very well. A 3 is communicative; students with this score are comfortable with English and have next to no limitation with the language. A 4 is nearly fluent; this is awarded to students who display a fluent command of the language. Why does this matter and why am I telling you this? Read on.

Most students struggle to earn a 26 because they don’t understand that the difference between a 3 and a 4 is significant; there’s a big difference between communicating well and communicating fluently. Many students explain to me how it makes no sense for them not to earn a 26 in the TOEFL speaking section since they’ve been in the U.S. for years and have held a job talking to native speakers for nearly the same amount of time. My answer? I agree completely but that doesn’t matter at all; sorry. I also go on to explain that this kind of mentality obstructs, hurts, and limits success. With this attitude, there is frustration when studying and not eager, enthusiastic desire to improve and succeed, which isn’t necessary but will help a lot. So, you must understand that achieving a 4 means that you hit certain requirements that the graders are listening for and you need to earn 4s to earn a 26 in the TOEFL speaking.

TOEFL Speaking 26: The math

Let’s clear up some possible confusion and break down the math. You might be asking, “Hey, Joseph, what are you talking about man, do you really know this test? How do you explain the fact that my TOEFL speaking score report shows that I rated a 2.5 – 3.0.” My answer? It’s averaged. Remember that two graders rate each question. Now, let’s get to the math.

When you’re assigned a grade out of 30, the scores from the two graders are added up and then converted to your actual score. How does this work? It’s a bit tricky, but I’ll do my best to make it clear. If each grader gives every one of your answers a perfect score, that’s 6 questions rated a 4, which would yield 24 points. Since there are two graders, that produces 48 points. That’s the maximum raw score you can earn. The maximum actual score you can earn on the exam is 30. What percentage is 26, our desired TOEFL score, of 30? Bringing back our basic math from elementary school: it’s 26 / 30 = .87 or 87%. Now, what’s 87% of our raw score? 48 x 87% = 42, approximately. How can we get a score like this? We need about 6 4 ratings and 6 3 ratings. How does that work out on a test? Something like this.

Question 1: rated a 4 and a 4 = 8

Question 2: rated a 3 and a 4 = 7

Question 3: rated a 3 and a 4 = 7

Question 4: rated a 3 and a 3 = 6

Question 5: rated a 4 and a 4 = 8

Question 6: rated a 3 and a 3 = 6

Grand total = 42, which yields a 26. If you look at this breakdown, that means that in general, you must do fluently well on 4 questions and do fair on 2. That’s how you earn your 26 on the TOEFL speaking section: deliver masterfully fluent answers on 4 questions and so-so answers on 2 questions. Magical isn’t it? I guess that’s why they call it the “magic 26.”

TOEFL Speaking 26: Your accent

Does your accent affect your score? Yes, but probably not in your case. If you’re reading this blog and understanding it, odds are that your accent is not strong enough to hurt your ability to communicate. Don’t stress too much about it. After all, natively fluent English speakers don’t just speak in an American accent. British and Australian accents also exist, right?

However, it does matter if there are points in your speech that are unclear. My main piece of advice to help with accent rests on speaking with power. Too many students have a lazy way of answering these questions; so much so that you’d think the TOEFL wasn’t that important to them. Maybe an analogy will help (I love analogies). If you were racing a race that would determine your future, wouldn’t you give it all you got? I don’t hear this when I tutor students. They just let the words drool out of their mouths. You have to put power and emphasis behind each and every word that you say. Don’t drop syllables and rush. Be calm, cool, and focused. I know, I know; easier said than done, but it must be done.

TOEFL Speaking 26: Fluent mastery of 4 questions

Here’s the good stuff. As I mentioned earlier, there are 6 questions on the TOEFL and each of these instructional videos teaches you everything you need to know to answer a question and earn a 4 with some extra points written below to help you further. Enjoy!

TOEFL Speaking 26: Question 1 and 2

Here are two fast key points worth repeating to ensure that you’re going to earn a 4 on these questions. In general, you should provide enough content to show that you’re fluent, so record one of your answers and do a word count; it should be over 100 words. Avoid general words; explain. For example, don’t say I had a project; instead say that you worked with a group of pharmacists to determine the side effects of a new experimental drug, or something like that.

TOEFL Speaking 26: Question 3

Here are the two key points. Be exact. Don’t paraphrase. You are asked to report what you heard, not paraphrase it. Also, remember that you’re not just repeating your notes but using them to explain exactly why the student did or did not agree with the announcement.

TOEFL Speaking 26: Question 4

The two key points? Don’t say everything. You won’t demonstrate fluency to the graders, you won’t finish on time, and you won’t earn a 4. Furthermore, explain how the lecture illustrates the definition. One way to make sure that you do this is to underline the part of your notes (this should only be a few key words) that is most important in connecting the lecture to the definition. For example, if the definition is “light makes people happy” and your notes from the lecture are: “boy went outside; boy saw sun; boy felt light on face; boy felt happy.” You should underline: “felt light on face” and “felt happy.”

TOEFL Speaking 26: Question 5

Two points: say everything about the problem. For some reason many students summarize this and don’t express the problem completely; don’t be one of these students; you need the complete answer to get a 4 on this question. Also, don’t stress the “even though” statements too much. I often hear students try to say so much in the “even though” statements that they don’t have time for the more important “as” statements. So, if you don’t finish this question on time, drop the “even though” statements.

TOEFL Speaking 26: Question 6

Two what? Points. Here they are. Just as in question 4, don’t say everything. Use your timer to guide you and make sure that you don’t go over time. Finally, keep it simple. There is so much to explain in this question that you don’t need to focus on what’s not 100% clear to you. Instead, skip the stuff that’s unclear to you because if you try to say it you’ll be inaccurate and that will cost you. Stick to what you know, say it, and move on.

TOEFL Speaking 26: Extra resources

My goal in providing this post was to give you all the resources that you needed to succeed. The information you have now is a good starting point and if you are already relatively fluent and just needed some guidance, this might be all you need. However, there are several of us – now well informed and perhaps even excited because we feel like the TOEFL speaking section isn’t such a mystery anymore – that need more help and guidance. And, I encourage you to take advantage of the following resources.

I’ve worked hard to perfect and work on programs to help students improve and if you believe that this post was useful, then I know that you’ll enjoy and shoot up your score to hit this 26 as quickly as possible with them. Please click on the link below to visit NoteFull. You’ll learn what’s available to help you and what might work best for your specific situation because I know students range from newbies who haven’t taken the test yet to experienced and frustrated test takers who’ve been working on this requirement for years. Practice, more instructional material, direct feedback, and one-on-one tutoring are waiting for you. Also, if you have any questions, I’m real and ready to help; email me at:

 Click here for a complete TOEFL speaking practice test to test yourself with.

Of all of the free sources out there that I’ve seen – and in my years preparing students for this exam, I’ve seen many – sadly, there’s only one that I’ve found that provides questions similar enough to the actual TOEFL speaking section test questions worth studying (however, if you know of any others, please comment below). And, those can be found on the following YouTube link from the user “Ouliogroove.” Great name, right? There are also more videos to help you with the TOEFL, vocabulary, and pronunciation on NoteFull’s YouTube channel, so I hope you check that out as well.

YouTube help from NoteFull
YouTube help from Ouliogroove

TOEFL Speaking 26: Who are you and why did you write this?

As you can probably tell from this blog address, my name is Joseph and I created this post for the same reason that I created NoteFull Inc. I found that there is an unfortunate lack in professionally focused help in the TOEFL (among other tests) and that a lot of material out there isn’t exactly accurate to the TOEFL, especially with the speaking section.

More importantly, over the course of my career, I noticed that this test unlike most others is actually an all-powerful block to progress for many intelligent professionals. When I first learned that pharmacists, physical therapists, and teachers (among others), had to earn a 26 on the TOEFL speaking section before they could work professionally, I understood the requirement but I was still shocked and when I noticed that so many were lost and struggling because the help out there wasn’t quite as strong as it should have been, I wanted to do something. And, this is what I did.

I truly hope that this post helped and that you know that more help is available if you need it. Don’t struggle alone. Study this post carefully over and over again, review the material available on NoteFull and YouTube, and email me ( for advice and guidance. You can do it and I’m here to help you do so. Regardless of how you move forward, I wish you great luck!

TOEFL Speaking 26: Share this and help others

It would be great if this was one of the first pieces of information students received about the TOEFL speaking section once they learned of their 26 requirement. Wouldn’t you agree? I believe it could help and my goal is for that to happen. If you know someone struggling or know a forum, site, or have a blog yourself, I would love for you to link people to this post if you find it valuable. Also, you have full permission to copy and paste it anywhere and everywhere as long as it is done so in its entirety. Study on.