Thursday, March 27, 2008

TOEFL Preparation

TOEFL Writing Test

The last section of the TOEFL is Writing. This section is 50 minutes long and consists of two parts: Integrated Writing and Independent Writing. Each of these sections requires the test taker to submit an essay on a topic. Integrated Writing requires a response to material both heard and read. In Integrated Writing, the test taker must write an essay supporting an opinion.

If you are taking the TOEFL iBT (internet based) , you will take the test on a standard English-language keyboard. Be sure you are familiar with this computer keyboard.

Although if the test is computer based, test takers may take written notes throughout the entire test.

Writing task 1: Integrated writing:

You will have 20 minutes to complete an essay on an academic topic. It is recommended that this essay be 150-225 words in length.

The academic topic for the essay is presented to the test taker from two different viewpoints. The first viewpoint is presented in writing (about 230-300 words). You will have 3 minutes to read this text. Next the test taker will view a 2 minute lecture (about 230-300 words) discussing the topic from a different viewpoint.

After reading the text and viewing the lecture, the test taker will write a summary of the ways the information heard relates to the information read. The suggested length of the essay is 150-225 words. There is no penalty for a longer essay, but be sure everything written is relevant.

Test takers’ typed responses to the writing tasks are sent for Online Scoring. Between 2 and 4 certified human raters will evaluate your essay and give it a score.

Note-taking is permitted during the exam, so take notes during both the reading and the lecture. You can use these notes later to organize your essay. Highlight key points in both passages. It is especially important to take notes during the lecture because you will not be able to refer back to this while you are writing.

The reading passage will disappear from the screen during the lecture. However, after the lecture, it will reappear on the screen.

  • Organization is key. Before you begin writing take some time to organize your notes. You can also refer to the reading passage while you are writing.
  • Be sure you are accurate when citing information from the reading or lecture.
  • Remember, you want to write about how the information heard relates to the information read.

This section is meant to measure your ability to understand information and write in an academic setting. It is meant to test how well you can incorporate different English language skills to communicate ideas.

This essay is scored on the quality of the writing as well as how accurate and complete the details are.

Writing task 2: Independent writing:

You will have 30 minutes to complete an essay on an independent writing task. It is recommended that this essay be 300-350 words in length. Do not write less than 300 words.

In this section the test taker must express an opinion and support that opinion. In contrast to the topic in Writing Task 1, this essay will be based on your own knowledge and experience. In general you will be given a statement and asked if you agree or disagree with it. You will need to provide specific reasons to support your answer.

Be sure that you identify the task clearly. You could be asked to state a preference or if you agree or disagree with a statement. In either case, be sure you understand what you are being asked to do.

Take time before you begin writing to make notes on the main ideas of your essay. Identify one main idea and a few points to support it.

Your essay will be scored on the overall quality of the writing. Raters are looking for a well-organized essay that uses appropriate grammar and vocabulary.

How to Prepare for the Exam

As with all TOEFL test preparation, the student should prepare for the Writing exam by practicing as much as possible. Practice is the most productive way to prepare for the exam. This means the ESL student will address topics similar to those on the exam and actually write the essays. Completing the actual writing will help you become more proficient. You will want to have mastered your strategy for each task before arriving at the exam.

Take the time to look at Writing Task Samples for both tasks, and practice completing them.

Click here for a link to sample test questions for all sections of the exam.

General Tips for both Writing Tasks:

For each task, take a few minutes to write down some notes and plan before doing the writing. Write down the overall points of the essay and the corresponding supporting points. Then make a note on the conclusion of the essay.

Raters are looking for well-organized, accurate essays. Your essay should have one main idea with several points with details.

Before you begin, plan how to organize your essay. In general, the essay should follow the following recipe:
  • Opening paragraph: Statement of the main idea for the essay, followed by sentences briefly stating the major points that support the main idea. Are you for or against something?
  • Body paragraphs: One paragraph for each of the major points stated in the opening paragraph. This repeats the major points for your opinion, followed by supporting details for each point. Why do you have the opinion you do?
  • Concluding paragraph summarizing your details and restating your opinion, being careful to AVOID REPEATING statements you made earlier; change the wording.
It is very important you provide supporting details for your opinions or choices. Do not just create a simple list.

  • Use a variety of grammar and vocabulary for effective expression.
  • Use correct grammar, spelling and punctuation.
  • Do not use contractions.

Resources for Test Preparation

There are many resources available online for preparing yourself to take the TOEFL test. I encourage you to use a variety of resources. In addition, working with an experienced TOEFL teacher can help you receive advice on how to improve your writing skills.

If you are looking for more help preparing for the TOEFL exam, I do offer private tutoring for TOEFL preparation. I am a qualified ESL tutor and have successfully coached many English learners. I would also be happy to give you some personal tips on how to prepare for success on this exam.

Click here to send me email.