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.

How to Study Effectively, Part 2

Aside from being organized and identifying your target range for TOEFL, you will need to identify exactly what you need to learn. That is to say, consider which academic skills you can improve on to have the best advancement in your language and to achieve a high score. If you are weaker in listening, then be sure that you practice listening daily. If speaking is your weakness, practice recording your voice in simulated responses on a recorder or on your smartphone and listening to your voice to evaluate your speaking. If you do not know your weaknesses, you will need to first identify your strengths in English and find out your level of English according to separate language skills. In fact, you may have excellent grammar and reading skills and thus need not dedicate time to practicing reading passages; however, first you need to discover what you need to improve upon.

  1. Identify your level and learning needs


  • By taking a practice TOEFL test, you can find out your current level. Once you have an idea of your exact level, you can pinpoint your target and lay out a strategy of how to get from Point A (current level of English) to Point B (TOEFL target score) in your exact time frame. You do not want to waste any precious time, so if you can identify the task you need to strength (e.g. listening or note-taking,) that will help you work accordingly within your study time table.

Example: Let’s say you have one week of time before you need a final score, that would be a very different study plan than if you had a 90-day study plan (if you had more time to attain a TOEFL score.)

  1. Read and take notes

In the previous blog, How to Study Effectively, Part 1, you learned that having a notebook or computer files of notes is useful.

  • Read & make notes: When making the notes under each academic skill or sub topic, read your subject and make notes either writing comments or short summaries. (How to take notes effectively will be addressed under a different blog heading.)
  • Write key ideas taking notes: in addition to reading and note-taking, practice identifying the main purpose and writing down the main idea, key points and supporting facts from your memory of listening or reading into your notes. You will retain information better later on. Be sure if you write by hand to handwrite legibly, otherwise, it will be useless to read later on when you review and you might not interpret your notes or waste your valuable study time. Save time by composing neatly.
  • Highlight key points: if you are on the computer, highlight key information with colors (not too bright) in the file so that you can locate key words later on when you review. If you are using a notebook for taking notes, highlight with a colored marker (not too bright or it can distract you) to easily relocate key ideas. If you have these key ideas highlighted, it will be an outline of the information that you can review quickly at a later day.