The TOEFL-iBT is a standardized exam which international speakers of English need to take for entry into an American university. Different universities and departments decide what minimum scores in speaking, listening, writing, and reading a candidate needs in order to be accepted.
I’ll admit, I never liked standardized tests when I was younger. There was a lot of pressure to get a specific score in a set amount of time. During the exam, I would waste time looking at the question, thinking through all of the possible ways this question could be interpreted. The question didn’t seem black & white even though there was the expectation that I should be able to choose the correct answer by looking at the question straight on.
When I used to teach the TOEFL-iBT preparation course, I told my students this and in the same breath, I told them that I thought they were lucky that they needed to take the TOEFL-iBT. I was serious and meant what I said. I wanted them to understand that what they were going to get out of this course would help them prepare not only for this standardized test, but also for the academic culture in the U.S.
I will now take a leap and extend this assertion to today’s global professional world. It’s important to understand that in addition to clear spoken English and a good command of grammar/vocabulary, information delivery is important. When sharing information with your colleagues, clients, and other experts in your industry, the skill of delivering your message directly and making the connections between details clear is absolutely critical to efficiently accomplish your professional goals—just like on the speaking and writing sections of the TOEFL-iBt.
Information Delivery: A few tips to remember
- Provide a framework from the get-go. Topic framework. Situation framework. Purpose framework. Put yourself in the ears of your listener and give them an idea of this framework from the beginning.
- Connect with the audience. Though what you’re delivering might be a formal presentation or lecture, imagine you’re having a conversation. Engage your audience.
- Unlike an informal conversation, provide a roadmap of the main points that you will discuss with them.
- Make all of your connections clear. While you are delivering your information, you want to provide connection cues. Cues with the language you’re using (transitions, repetition or synonyms of your key words, clear references to what you’ve said in order to continue progressing with the information. Cues with your stress and intonation.
In essence, you want to help the listener anticipate where you are going next at every step along the way. They are then able to better process your message and stay with you throughout your presentation (or TOEFL response).
Practice is key
Like with any skill, guidance and practice are key. I’m not teaching the TOEFL-iBT anymore, but I am offering a two-part presentation workshop series in the Chicago Loop.
We will meet on December 10 & 17, from 6:00-8:00 pm at 73 W, Monroe Street. I will provide tips, strategies and practice opportunities while addressing the following topics:
- Nonverbal body language
- Speech clarity fundamentals
- Strategic uses of vocal delivery to engage the audience from beginning to end
- Organization of information
- Fielding questions