Thursday, June 26, 2014

The TOEFL Writing Test

There is no fun in writing.

This is what usually students say when they are asked to write an essay. In school, students are almost always tasked to do some writing tasks in English classes. The fact of thinking of ideas to write and doing brainstorming make writing an avoided activity. However, as we progress in our studies, the importance of writing gets more serious and even more complicated when taking an English proficiency examination.


 
English proficiency examinations are English tests that measure how good a person is in using and understanding the English language. Most of the time, English proficiency exams are a requirement for visa applications to countries that use English as their first language. Among the many tests, TOEFL is one that is most taken by Filipinos.

TOEFL or the Test of English as a Foreign Language uses academic English in its test. The writing part of the TOEFL test is divided into two parts – the integrated writing and the independent writing. Generally, the writing part of the test gauges how well the candidate can express his or her own ideas in written text and how well he or she can incorporate ideas from a reading passage and listening passage.

The integrated task consists of an academic reading passage. The candidate is given three minutes to read the passage. After three minutes, a listening passage will be heard. Most of the time, this is a lecture related to the topic of the reading passage. The candidate will need to show the connection between the reading and the lecture. The candidate should write an essay within twenty minutes. The essay should have at least 150 words.

The lecture could show any of the following:
  • A disagreement to the main idea of the reading
  • A support to the ideas presented in the reading
  • A number of solutions to the problems mentioned in the reading

The second task is an independent question. The candidate will be given a statement in which he or she should express his or her opinion. The candidate is expected to write an essay with at least 300 words in thirty minutes. There are different kinds of independent questions:

1. Agree or disagree

Examples:

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

A person should always take into consideration the salary in finding a job.

2. Opinion-based questions

What are the things that the local government can do in your community to improve its standard of living?

3. Advantages and disadvantages

There are a good number of students flying overseas to study. What are the advantages and disadvantages in studying abroad?

To be able to write an effective essay, here are some tips candidates should take note of.

For the integrated writing:
  • Have a good note taking skill. Write down the main idea and key points from the lecture clearly.
  • Do not include your own ideas on the essay. What it needs is the information from the reading and the lecture.
  • If you do not have enough time, it is okay not to write a conclusion.
  • Always state a clear introduction and a well written body with its supporting details.
  • Use transition words.

For the independent writing:

  • State a clear introduction, write at least two body paragraphs and a nice conclusion.
  • In writing your body, support your points by providing examples. These can be personal or something you have just made up. The important thing is you can write a clear and strong example to support your idea.
  • Check your grammar and always make use of transition words.
  • Do not use vocabulary that will cloud the content of your writing. Use clear and appropriate words expressions.
Writing can be fun. Start by writing a journal and eventually develop it to something longer with more serious topics. For TOEFL test takers, signing up for TOEFL classes will also be a good idea to have someone check your writings. Mentors are trained to comment and give advice on how to improve student’s skills good enough for the TOEFL writing test.

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