About TOEFL Speaking Question Three

Here’s how TOEFL speaking question 3 works:

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

Sample Question Three

You can see a sample question right here.

The Reading

The reading is usually about a specific term or concept which is also the title of the reading.  It defines the term and give some basic details. You have 45 seconds to read it and take notes. You can only see it one time. 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. You must take notes. It includes one or two examples.

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

You can always use the same template to organize your answer to TOEFL speaking question three.  Try using this one:

State the term or idea from the reading (15 seconds)

  • The reading is about CONCEPT.
  • This is…

Transition (5 seconds)

  • “The professor elaborates on this.

State the first example (20 seconds)

  • “First, he explains…

State the second example (20 seconds)

  • “Second, he notes that…

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

General Strategies

  • 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.
  • Don’t waste time on a conclusion.


Note-Taking Strategies

  • Set up your page into two columns, with the reading on the right and the lecture on the left.
  • Note the title of the reading, and get two or three main points as you read.
  • Focus on the specific examples when you take notes from the lecture.
  • Use short forms like “x” (no, not, none) and abbreviated words as you take notes from the lecture.
  • Once the lecture is finished, immediately add missing details from your memory,
  • Clearly label the examples as #1 and #2 so you don’t mix them up.



Sample Answer

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


  • The reading is about convergent evolution.  This 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 notes 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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