The first task on the writing section of the TOEFL—the integrated summary—requires that you integrate three skills. It is a difficult task because it engages you in having to draw information from a reading passage and a lecture, two different sources on the same topic, and synthesize it in your own words. In this respect, it may be more challenging than the independent essay sole topic. Since the integrated tasks on the TOEFL give you multiple sources to work with, you have more information to deal with; consequently, the topic becomes slightly more complicated.
Do not give your opinion. In the second writing task, the independent essay, you will be asked to give your opinion on an issue. However, that is not what is asked in the first writing task, the integrated summary. In fact, the question requires you to synthesize information from two sources–a reading and a lecture–and put that into writing, answering the particular question. So, concentrate on the information in the sources, citing them, and avoid wasting time thinking about your opinion on whatever academic topic is given.
Know exactly where to look for the main idea and key points of both the reading passage and the lecture. Prior to writing your integrated essay in 20 minutes, you will be asked to read a passage on an academic topic and listen to a lecture on that topic. Though each deals with a similar topic, they give different perspectives of the topic. To read the passage, you will have approximately three minutes to read, and the lecture transcript will take about two minutes. You will need to use a practiced skill of knowing where to look for the main idea and three key points in the passage and how to predict and hear the lecture main idea and three key counterpoints. The main idea of the passage may be found after the topic, usually in the last sentence of the first paragraph. The key points are often in the first sentences of each following body paragraph. For the listening part, the main idea will be signaled at the start of the lecture, usually after the topic. It will often be the contrary to the reading point, so you can predict beforehand what you might hear. The lecture three key points to support the main idea will often follow a signal or transition word to indicate an important point is coming. You will need to take notes on those key points on a paper. No doubt, if you are not taking effective, organized notes that you can use to write from, it is difficult to construct a sound essay to answer the task and get a top score on this part of the writing section. Even though you can see the reading passage on the screen while you are writing your summary, during the three-minute reading time, it is wise to jot down the main purpose and key points underneath so that you can refer to them more easily. It will save you time and keep your writing logical and organized.
Use a clear structure to accurately present the content points in the essay. Once you have taken notes on the key points in both the sources, you will have 20 minutes to write the essay. You need to answer the question, so read it carefully. Organize your essay with an orderly structure to answer the question. Be sure to relate the sources and give all the key points. Being precise with the ideas does not mean copying the exact words you read in the passage; paraphrasing in your own words is a sound strategy.
Be familiar with what writing style you will use before you go into the exam. It is better to be prepared with the structure you will write in and the style of writing you will convey to answer the question concisely. A smooth, varied writing style connects ideas with transitions or introductory phrases, cites sources (refer to the author and lecturer) with effective reporting verbs, and employs sentence variety.
Use these four steps and you will be ahead of the game in the integrated task.