Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Independent Tasks in the TOEFL-iBT Plus Some Review Tips

When people are asked about their own opinions, they will always have a lot to say. Opinions matter so much in conversations. Through this, we understand how one perceives the things around him or her, how one reacts on matters, and even how one feels on certain situations.


In taking an English proficiency examination such as the TOEFL or the Test of English as a Foreign Language, independent tasks are part of the examination. These independent tasks can be found in the speaking and writing sections. Independent tasks primarily check the individual’s skill in expressing his or her own ideas – how one can come up with a viewpoint and provide reasons and examples to support it. The independent speaking is good for 45 seconds each.

In the speaking section, there are two independent tasks. The first independent task requires the candidate to express his or her idea on a given statement. Topics can cover about family, work, or school.

For example:

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
The candidate then needs to think of an activity he or she likes doing. Next, the candidate has to provide at least two reasons why he or she likes this activity and give examples for this choice.

The second task is where the candidate is asked to choose one from given options. Two options are given and the candidate has to select which fits him best. For example:

Some people prefer to study alone while others prefer to study with friends. Which one do you prefer and why?

Here, the candidate has to choose one and provide reasons why he has chosen this over another option. Giving examples will make the response stronger and better.

In the writing section, there is only one independent task. The candidate needs to write his or her opinions on the statement given within thirty minutes and have to write a 250-word essay. A counter on the right side of the screen indicates the number of words the candidate already has. Questions can be an agree-disagree, opinion-based, and advantage-disadvantage type. Here are some examples:

  • Do you agree or disagree? Parents are the best teachers.
  • What do you think are the qualities of a good parent?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of using English in school?

The candidate needs to write a very clear introduction, at least two body paragraphs indicating his or her ideas with reasons and examples, and a very good conclusion for the essay.

The independent task is simple – candidates should think of an idea that can easily be supported with reasons and have to be straight to the point. Be clear in expressing ideas and always remember to give examples to make responses – both speaking and writing – stronger, better, and appropriate.

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