About Speaking Question Four

Here’s how TOEFL speaking question 4 works:

  • First, you will listen to a lecture that is 1.5 to 2 minutes long. It will be about some academic term, concept or process.
  • After it finishes, you will be asked a specific question that requires you to mostly summarize the lecture.
  • You will be given 20 seconds to prepare, and 60 seconds to speak.

Note that this is the same as question six on the old version of the TOEFL.

The Listening

The lecture is usually 1.5 minutes or 2 minutes long. It will be about an academic term, concept, process. This term will likely be illustrated using two examples. In some cases it could be illustrated using one example with two clear parts (before/after, cause/effect, etc). 

The lecture starts with a short introduction that states and defines the subject (3-5 sentences).  After the introduction the example(s) are given.

A survey of 600 students in October 2019 suggests the most common topics in TOEFL speaking question 4 are:

  • Biology/Animals – 60%
  • Business/Marketing – 17%
  • Psychology/Learning – 17%
  • Art/History/Literature – 6%

The Question Prompt

The question will look something like one of these:

  • Using the example of ______ from the lecture, explain two ways that (CONCEPT/TERM) is beneficial for animals.
  • Using the points and examples from the lecture explain (CONCEPT/TERM).
  • Using the example of _____, explain the possible effects of (CONCEPT/TERM). 
  • Using the examples of ______ and _____, explain two ways that animals use (CONCEPT/TERM).


Answer Templates

The good news is that you can always use the same template to organize your answer for TOEFL speaking question 4.  Try using this one:


Stating the Lecture Subject and detail

  • “The lecturer explains SUBJECT/TERM by giving two examples/an example.”

First Example/First Part (3-5 sentences)

  • “First, she/he describes…”

Second Example/Second part (3-5 sentences)

  • “Second, she mentions…”

Give a Short Conclusion

  • “These examples (this example) demonstrate…”


Tips and Tricks

  • Try to use transitional phrases like “as a result,” “consequently,” “moreover,” “for example” and “therefore.”
  • Focus mostly on the examples. Those should be about 50 seconds long.
  • If you are a slow speaker, omit the conclusion.
  • Use a mix of simple and compound sentences if possible.
  • Your conclusion should be a bit more detailed than your introduction


Sample Answer

(this is based on a question from theofficial ETS practice set)


Introduce the Concept and Transition to the Example

  • The lecturer explains pricing strategies by giving two examples.

State the First Example or First Part

  • To begin with, she describes setting a high initial price. Often, companies will make a product expensive at first in order to give it a positive image. People know it will be cheaper if they wait for a little while, but they are willing to pay a lot to own it immediately. Many high-tech products like video recorders, cameras and cell phones are all expensive at first, but much more affordable later on.

State the Second Example or Second Part

  • Second, she mentions how companies might also give their merchandise a low initial price. Sometimes the market is saturated with a certain type of product, and as a result manufacturers need to undercut their competitors. For example, she mentions a new computer company trying to gain market share. They set a low initial price to both attract people not usually interested in computers, and get existing buyers to switch brands. In the future, the company can make money selling parts and accessories to these people.

Give a Short Conclusion

  • These examples illustrate how companies determine the initial prices of their goods.

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