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TOEFL: WRITING SECTION: NOT SUCH A SCARE!

While training for the TOEFL Ibt Writing section students need to adopt a more test relevant approach and to incorporate in their preparation the habit of reading the tasks carefully and answering only with reference to what is asked.

Task 1, the Integrated Essay task, is definitely not the kind of essay task students have been used to in their previous academic platforms. This task is also not as predictable as most students think it is. The usual misconception is that all one needs to do on this task is summarize the ideas of the Passage and the Lecture and the essay is done!!! Not really. The task takes on different forms and can ask the test taker to compare or contrast the ideas and sometimes much more. The most common variations of the Task are as below:

1. Referring to the main points in the reading, describe the Sydney Opera House. Then using information from the reading and the lecture, explain why the professor classifies the building as unique.

2. Describe jet streams by using information in the reading and then provide examples of the way they affect air travel by drawing on information you heard in the lecture.

Both these topics do not expect a simple summary of the points; they expect a well-organized response that answers each part of the task in the right order and with the right focus. So ideally a response to either of these tasks will start by picking from the reading the relevant details; the second paragraph will center round the information in the lecture from the point of what has been asked and finally we may work out a short but pertinent conclusion that closes the response. With only 20 minutes to plan, write and edit this task it is imperative to evaluate and understand the task before plunging into typing the essay.

3. Referring to the main points in the lecture, summarize the professor’s views on effective discipline and contrast them with the views presented in the reading.

This is a straighter essay. You need a short introduction that outlines the main point being discussed in the reading and the lecture. Then work out two paragraphs the first to outline the views in the lecture and the second to point out the views in the reading from the point of how they contrast the former. A conclusion may smarten up the essay but do not write one if it is only repeating previously mentioned ideas or if you are using it as an opportunity to agree or disagree. Remember, this task does not ask you for your opinion. As such the use of ‘I’ is misplaced; do not take a stance. Simply follow the topic and do as directed.

As for the technical aspects of the essay, take them seriously. Use the simple present tense, construct grammatically correct sentences, do not waver between active and passive voice, mind the spellings, avoid clichés and try to use simple but effective vocabulary.