How to get a 26 on the TOEFL Speaking section: 7 steps you must follow!

For most students, the Speaking section is the most difficult of all sections on the TOEFL iBT. It becomes even more of a challenge for foreign pharmacists and teachers who need a 26 on this section. A lot of students end up spending a year or two and thousands of dollars to achieve this score, BUT it doesn’t have to be this difficult! In my experience, I have seen students make some really big mistakes which hinders them from getting past 24. If you are interested in learning the 5 top mistakes, sign up for the free training on this website.

In this article, I will cover 7 steps that you need to take if you are targeting a 26 on the Speaking section. Let’s get right to it-

 Step #1- Understand the basics of all the questions

This might seem simple, but hear me out. It is important to understand the basics of the Speaking section such as question format, time management, appropriate content, etc. Usually, students believe that they have this nailed down and they understand the basics. But then they face problems such as time management and they have a tough time finishing their responses within the time limit. They try to improve their time management without understanding the root cause of this problem.

Poor time management can be due to many factors such as pace, providing unnecessary information in your responses, or not being concise with your response. That’s why if you are experiencing issues like time management and a low score, make sure you understand the core basics of this section.

I cover the basics in Module 1 of my “26+ on the Speaking section made easy” program. Check out the program details here-

Step #2- Understand what ETS is looking for in your responses

If you can speak decent English and provide average responses, sure you will get a 23 or a 24. BUT if you want a 26, then remember your responses need to be at a native English speaker’s proficiency level. You need to level up your game and understand the advanced strategies. You need to understand what ETS is specifically looking for when they give out a 26. There are some very specific things that go into these responses and the responses ETS wants are definitely different than what your average TOEFL test taker gives.

ACTION STEP: Ask yourself following questions-

  1. Do you know what ETS is looking for when they give out a 26?
  2. What mistakes are you currently making that are preventing you from getting a 26?
  3. Have you seen the rubrics provided by ETS and do you understand them completely?

It is extremely important that you know what your mistakes are, thats why I include a 30 minute private session with me in my "26+ on the Speaking section made easy" program.

Step #3- Don’t follow “templates” without understanding them

The question I see floating around on Internet most often is “What template should I follow?” Templates are good BUT not for someone who needs a 26! So many students have wasted hours of study time and TOEFL exam fees just because they stick to a template. It is good to review some sample responses but that doesn’t mean you memorize a template and follow it blindly. Some templates have big flaws in them and when students follow them- it costs them years to achieve their dream score of 26.

BONUS TIP- If you have been following a template for some time now and haven’t received a 26 on the TOEFL Speaking section, it’s time to change your strategy!

I provide my students sample responses but never ask them to memorize any sort of template. It is inadvisable to do that for so many reasons.

Step #4- Have an effective note-taking strategy

As you might know, on Q3- Q6, you need to take notes. Even if you don’t take notes on the Listening section, it is important for you to take notes on the Speaking section. The reason is that on the Listening section you have a multiple choice question so you can pick a response out of 4 choices if your memory is good. BUT on the Speaking section, you only have few seconds to prepare your response, and since TOEFL test takers usually get a little nervous on the exam, it will be easier for you to remember the information if you have some GOOD notes in front of you. The key word here is- GOOD!

Remember this doesn’t mean you write down each and everything. A good note taking strategy is extremely important for this section. Are you facing trouble on Q4 and Q6? Do you think it’s due to your ineffective notes?

We cover note taking strategy in depth and I even share my personal notes in my online program.


Step #5- Sound confident

This step is so vital and yet ignored. So many TOEFL takers don’t prepare well, or in fact at all, to overcome the nervousness they might face on the actual exam. It’s very common for students to do well during their preparation period BUT when they go to take the exam, they get nervous and don’t deliver responses at the best of their ability. As a coach, this makes me sad and that’s why I teach my students how to sound confident and overcome nervousness.

BONUS TIP- To achieve good intonation patterns (HINT- extremely important for a 26) you need to sound confident and give your responses naturally.

Step #6- Fix your pronunciation errors

Let’s take a step back first. How would you fix your pronunciation errors if you don’t even know what those errors are? If you are targeting a 26 on the TOEFL Speaking section, then you need to invest in a private tutor who is knowledgeable about the subject. Your coach/tutor should help you identify your pronunciation errors and then rectify them. If you mispronounce words on the exam, then your responses will be tough to understand by the ETS graders and hence, you unfortunately won’t achieve a 26 anytime soon.

Step #7- Practice smarter

Every student that I have met in my experience as a TOEFL coach who’s targeting a 26 practices a lot BUT not necessarily in an effective way. People may practice the Speaking section daily for 4-5 hours (does that sound like you?) but without any feedback from a TOEFL coach, and without understanding the advanced concepts behind a 26. They end up getting frustrated and tired of only get a 23 at the end. It’s good to practice but quality is more important that quantity, right? In order to make your practice sessions more effective, I recommend the following plan-

             1.        Practice TOEFL questions by yourself

2.      Also practice TOEFL questions with a study partner

3.      Practice your English by conversing with someone. If you don’t have access to native English speakers, then find someone on internet. If you live in the US, then all major cities have meetups where people meet to converse in English. Find a local meetup here-

4.      Practice TOEFL questions with a TOEFL coach

Tell me, were these steps helpful to you for your TOEFL prep? Let me know in the comments below.