What is TOEFL Speaking Question 3?

(updated August 3, 2019)

First, you will see a short reading about an academic term, process or idea. This will usually relate to biology, psychology or business. You get 45 or 50 seconds to read it.

Next, you will hear a short lecture about the same term, process or idea.  The lecture will contain either one or two examples. The example(s) might be from the personal life of the speaker.  Note that if there is one example it will probably have two “parts” (before/after, cause/effect, etc).

You will be given 30 seconds to prepare your answer, and 60 seconds to speak.

The Reading

The reading is about 100 words. The structure of the reading is usually:

  • A clear and specific title
  • An introduction (1-3 sentences that clearly state the topic of the reading)
  • Details (3-5 sentences that elaborate on the topic)

The Listening Part (Lecture)

The lecture will be about one minute or 90 seconds.  It will mostly focus on the example or examples.

The Question Prompt

The question prompt will look like one of the following:

  • “Describe what _____ is, and how the professor’s example illustrates this phenomenon.”
  • “Describe how the example of the ____ illustrates the concept of ____.”
  • “Explain the concept of _____ using the examples of ____ and ____ given in the lecture.”
  • “Using the examples from the lecture, explain the concept of ______.”

Answer Template

Your answer should look something like this:

Stating the Topic of the Reading

  • "_____ is defined as _______" (state the topic and quickly define it)

Giving some Detail

  • “The reading states that…” (state a quick detail from the reading)


  • “The lecturer elaborates on this by providing an example/two examples.”

First Example/First Part

  • “First of all, he mentions…”

Second Example/Second Part

  • “Secondly, he says…”​

Tips and Tricks

  • Use discourse phrases like “as a result,” “consequently, “moreover,” and “therefore” to link ideas.
  • Spend 10-13 seconds at most talking about the reading.  Most of your score comes from the lecture part!
  • If you are a slow speaker, cut the “giving the detail” part. Cut the transition if you need even more time.
  • Create compound sentences to link ideas and show off your grammar skills.

Sample Answer

This is a sample answer to a question contained in TOEFL Quick Prep Volume 2, page 29. The template is in bold.

Stating the topic
Revealing coloration is defined as how animals use colors to protect themselves from predators.

Giving the detail
The reading states that some animals suddenly reveal a bright color to confuse predators and escape.

The lecturer elaborates on this by providing two examples

First Reason
First of all, he mentions that the front wings of the peanut bug blend in with the environment, but its back wings have very colorful spots. These back wings are usually closed, but when it is attacked it quickly opens them to startle the predator while it escapes.

Second Reason
Secondly, he says
that parts of the morpho butterfly’s wings are very shiny and can reflect sunlight. These parts are usually hidden. However, when a bird approaches it flaps its wings to reflect light and confuse the bird.  The bird can can only see the light reflected from the wings, and therefore the butterfly is able to get away.

Video Version