Steps to TOEFL Integrated Writing High Score


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.


Step 1

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.


Step 2

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.


Step 3

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.


Step 4

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.

Accurate Content on the Integrated TOEFL Writing

MC900442141When writing a summary for the TOEFL integrated writing task, use a set approach to maximize quality content, organized structure, and sound clarity of ideas. The main difference in this task is that it is important to reference the reading and lecture sources. In this essay, you do not write your opinion; rather, you report and contrast the viewpoints of each source. Since the reading and lecture main ideas and key points and structure of your essay count for a lot in the score, proper note-taking is an advantage.

Precise points from the reading and lecture are crucial. To be accurate, take notes. Avoid being vague by writing notes and using those notes to write an effective summary. In fact, the more precise you get with the lecture details, it will be to your advantage on your score, since this task evaluates your listening ability by testing your skills to integrate reading, listening and writing.

In order for the summary to be credible, use formal academic writing for this TOEFL task. If you refer to the reading points, cite the author, whereas to emphasize the lecture ideas, then report from the lecturer’s perspective. You can write the words “the author, the writer, the reading, the passage” to describe what the reading states or “the lecturer, the professor, the lecture, the speaker” to describe what the lecture mentions.

If you organize your essay with a clear structure, it will give the rater an obvious indication in the introduction as to where you are going in the summary. A few different ways to structure an essay exist. One organized approach is to write five paragraphs with an introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction would answer the question and state the main ideas of each source with their relation. Each body paragraph can be geared towards a point-by-point explanation: one reading point with one lecture counterpoint and their relation. In the conclusion, restate the thesis.

A variety of word choice can add clarity of ideas to your essay. However, an essay where the same word/phrase/or sentence structure is repeated again and again is often scored lower since repetitions are considered poor academic writing. Consequently, avoid repeating. Instead, use synonyms or similar phrases. When using similar phrases, be careful not to substitute a technical word choice for a more general word and vice versa. For instance, if the essay topic is about dinosaur (technical) legs then write that, even if this means using the same word over again. Do not insert random general synonyms such as “animal.” Also, avoid repeating the same phrase or verb when referring to what the author or lecturer said. In formal essay writing, use a variety of reporting verbs to cite the source. It can be written as follows: “Although the author suggests that…, the professor asserts the contrary” or “According to the lecturer…” or “While the lecturer alleges that…., the author claims the opposite.” To make an essay flow smoothly, use various reporting verbs such as “argues, adds, alleges, affirms, acknowledges, asks, asserts, assumes, believes, challenges, claims, concludes, considers, contradicts, denies, demonstrates, describes, disagrees, discusses, disputes, emphasizes, explains, finds, hypothesizes, mentions, maintains, observes, proposes, puts forth, posits, points out, postulates, questions, recommends, refutes, rejects, reports, says, states, stipulates, suggests.”

Approach this task by taking notes on the main points in the reading and lecture and integrating that content accurately in an organized structure with a variety of vocabulary words. In this manner, the summary will flow smoothly, and the rater will understand the content more readily.