IELTS - What happens in the Speaking Test?
The IELTS speaking test is one candidate and one examiner, who manages the test and evaluates the candidate at the same time. The test is separated into three parts. Each part takes about 4 minutes. In parts 1 and 2 the examiner uses a script, in part 2 a list of questions.In Part 1, the examiner asks the candidate some simple personal questions on everyday familiar topics. The examiner reads these questions from a script. Example topics are work, study, where you live, food, holidays, friends, going out, festivals, sports, schools and public transport.
In Part 2, the examiner gives the candidate a topic on a card and the candidate needs to speak about it for about 2 minutes. Before speaking, the candidate has one minute to make notes. The task is to talk about a personal experience such as a memorable day or a significant person. This is followed by a quick question, which the candidate gives a short answer to. This provides some continuity for the transition to part 3.
In Part 3, candidate and examiner will have a discussion relating to the subject area in Part 2. The candidate will be asked to do more complicated things, such as evaluate, justify positions and opinions, make predictions, and express preferences. The examiner has a list of questions but is not limited to these. He or she can respond freely to the candidate's answers, making this part of the test more like a normal conversation.
How is the candidate evaluated?
The examiner listens to the candidate as they do the test, and then evaluates their level by comparing the speaker's performance to descriptions. These say what a speaker can do in four areas. Levels go from 1 - 9. The four criteria are described below:
Fluency and Coherence
This means how good the candidate is at keeping talking at the right speed and how good they are at connecting their ideas together. This is a fairly general criteria which includes evaluating the relevance of the candidate's answers, but in terms of the elements we have identified in part 1 of this article, it refers toSpeakers need to be able to understand and follow the rules of language at a word, sentence and text level.
This means how much vocabulary the candidate has and how well they use it. As well as the rules of language at a word level, this criteria considers the communicative functions of speechand the social meaning of speech.
Grammatical Range and Accuracy
This means how many structures the candidate has and how well they use them. Again, as well as the rules of language, this criteria considers the communicative functions of speech.
This means how well the candidate pronounces the language. As well as considering the communicative effect of the candidate's pronunciation, there is evaluation of how much strain it causes on a listener, and how noticeable their accent is - although accent itself is not a problem. In terms of the elements we have identified in part 1 of this article, this criteria refers to Speakers need to be able to produce the phonological features of speech.
TOEFL - What happens in the Speaking Test?
The TOEFL speaking test is one candidate and a computer, which provides tasks for the candidate, records their answers and times them (with an on-screen clock). The recorded sample is evaluated later by a group of examiners. The test is separated into 6 tasks, two independent tasks (just the candidate speaking) and four integrated tasks (with the candidate integrating information from other sources, such as a written text or listening). The test takes about 20 minutes.
In task 1, the candidate reads and listens to a short question based on a familiar topic. For example, the candidate could be asked to describe a class. In task 2, they are asked to choose between two options and explain why. In both questions, the candidate has 15 seconds to prepare an answer and needs to speak for 45 seconds.
In part 2 of the speaking the four tasks are integrated with other skills. In task 3, the candidate reads a short text on a campus-related issue, then hears one or two students expressing opinions. The candidate then needs to summarise what the speakers have said. In task 4, the candidate reads about an academic subject, then hears a professor lecturing on the same subject. There is then a question based on both sources. In task 5 the candidate listens to a short conversation about a campus-related situation and then answers a question. This answer includes choosing between options and justifying this choice. The final task is to listen to a brief extract from a lecture and then explain a point with examples.
How is the candidate evaluated?
The candidate is recorded, and then at least three different examiners listen to this recording. They grade each of the six tasks on the recording separately against criteria in four areas. Levels go from 0 - 4, so there each band is broader than in an IELTS test. The criteria are below:
This means how well the candidate uses pronunciation, rhythm, and intonation, and whether their rate of speech, pausing and fluency is appropriate. In terms of the elements we have identified in part 1 of this article, this criteria refers to Speakers need to be able to produce the phonological features of speech.
This means how much vocabulary and how many structures the candidate has, and how well they use these two elements. As above, this includes the rules of language at a word level, the communicative functions of speech and the social meaning of speech.
This is a different kind of criteria because as well as evaluating the general cohesion and coherence of the candidate's answers (the rules of language at a word, sentence and text level and the communicative functions of speech), this criteria asks if the candidate has completed the task, which includes using the information they were given. In this way this criteria evaluates both language and content.