Using TOEIC part 2 for the instruction of indirect speech acts

Yukie Saito

Quick guide

  • Key words: TOEIC, indirect speech acts, speaking activity
  • Learner English level: Low intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity level: High school students and above
  • Preparation time: 20 minutes
  • Activity time: 45 minutes
  • Materials: Handouts (Appendices), a CD player, plastic chips,and a coin


An indirect speech act has an indirect relationship between its structure and function, such as an interrogative sentence spoken not as a question, but as a request (Yule, 1996). In Part 2 of the TOEIC,test-takers listen to a short utterance and choose the proper response from three choices; these includevarious types of indirect speech actssuch as indirect requests, offers, and suggestions. Thus, Part 2 of the TOEIC can be useful inteachingindirect speech acts for speaking,as well as listening.


Step 1: Play music on a CD player loud enough that students cannot hear what you are saying. Elicit Japanese questionssuch as, Oto o chisaku shitekuremasuka? (Could you turn down the volume?).

Step 2: Ask them to think about how they say the same expression in English, and have them compare the two expressions and find similarities between them. Then, explainthatinterrogative utterances, such as, Excuse me, do you think you could turn the music down?can be used as a request (TOEIC Test New Official Preparation Book) and that this is the topic of the lesson.

Step 3Introduce the following indirect requests from Part 2 of the listening section (Educational Testing Service,2005):

  • How about giving me a hand with this projector?
  • Would you mind moving over?
  • Excuse me, do you think you could turn the music down?

Then, have students practice indirect requests similar to the expressions aboveand appropriate to each situationas outlined in Appendix A. Remind students to be careful about using gerunds after How about?and Would you mind?

Step 4: Introduce indirect expressions for suggestions (e.g., Educational Testing Service, 2005):

  • How about going out for lunch today instead of eating in the cafeteria?
  • Why don’t we meet for lunch tomorrow?
  • Don’t you want to get some coffee before we go back to the office?

For more polite suggestions, introduce sentences such as the following:

  • Would you like to go out for drinks tonight?
  • Would you be interested in going to see a movie tonight?

Have students make suggestions similar to the expressionsabove and appropriate for each contextusing the situations in Appendix B.

Step 5:Ask students to respond to the requests and suggestions. Students may be used to simply accepting the suggestions with a short answer(e.g.,Sounds nice.).However, encourage them to refuse indirectly by introducing examples, such as I have a one o’clock meeting, so that won’t worktoday(Educational Testing Service, 2005). Using Appendix A and B, encourage them to reject the suggestions and the requests indirectly with reasons why they cannot do the suggested actions.

Step 6:Have students form groupsof 3 or 4 students and play the board game in Appendix Cto practice indirect expressions. To play, students flip a coin in turn and move one squareforheads or two fortails. They make a suggestion or a request to the person on the left, according to the instructions on each square. That person has to accept or refuse the request or suggestion indirectly.

Step 7:Review indirect requests, suggestions and refusals in this lesson and ask them if they use similar indirect strategies in Japanese. Then, suggest that they can adapt the indirect strategies in Japanese to English.


The listening section of the TOEIC test, which includes various types of indirect expressions, can be used to help students acquire knowledge of indirect speech acts and use them in conversation. Also, through this lesson, students can understand that there are indirect expressions in English just as there are in Japanese.


The appendices for this article can be downloaded from the link below.


Yule, G. (1996). Pragmatics.Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Educational Testing Service. (2005).TOEIC Test new official preparation book (Vol. 1). Tokyo: The Institute for International Business Communication.