About TOEFL Speaking Question Three

Here’s how TOEFL speaking question 3 works:

  • First, you will have 45 seconds to read a short (about 100 words) article on an academic topic.
  • Next, you will hear a short lecture (1-2 minutes) about the same topic.  The lecture will explain the topic using either one or two examples. 
  • Finally, you must summarize the reading and lecture. You will be given 30 seconds to prepare, and 60 seconds to speak.

The Reading

The reading is usually about a specific term or concept. It  has a clear title.  In about five sentences it defines the term and give some basic details. When I surveyed 500 students in 2019, they said the most common topics were:

  • Biology/Animals – 60%
  • Business/Marketing – 20%
  • Psychology/Learning – 10%
  • Art/History/Literature – 10%


The Listening

The lecture is usually about 1.5 minutes long.  It is about the same term or idea from the reading. It includes one or two examples that demonstrate the term or idea.


The Question Prompt

The question will look something like one of these:

  • Describe what _____ is, and how the professor’s example illustrates this idea.
  • 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 Templates

The good news is that you can always use the same template to organize your answer to TOEFL speaking question three.  Try using this one:


Stating the Term or Idea using the Reading

  • According to the reading [CONCEPT] is [DETAILS].


  • “The professor elaborates on this.

First Example

  • “First, he explains [summarize the first example]. He says [details]. 

Second Example/Second Part

  • “Second, he explains [summarize the second example]. He mentions [details]

If there is just one example, omit the “second example” part of the template.

Tips and Tricks

  • Try to use transitional phrases like “as a result,” “consequently,” “moreover,” and “therefore.”
  • Spend about 10-13 seconds summarizing the reading… at most. Remember that most of your score is based on the listening summary.
  • Use a mix of simple, compound and complex sentences if possible.
  • Paraphrase, but don’t be obsessed.


Sample Answer

(this is based on a question from my video guide)


  • According to the reading convergent evolution is when animals living far apart from each other evolve the same features or characteristics.
  • The professor elaborates on this.
  • First, he explains why antelope and pronghorns look similar. He says that their habitats are distant from each other, but both are flat grasslands with few trees. They need to be able to notice predators quickly and escape from them. As a result, both species have evolved legs and lungs that help then run quickly, and huge eyes that improve their vision.
  • Next, he explains that bats and dolphins share a unique feature. He mentions that bats live in dark caves and hunt at night and that dolphins live in the ocean, which is also very dark. To survive without being able to see well, both species have evolved to use echolocation to spot objects in their surrounding environment.


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