Getting a Better TOEFL Integrated Writing Score

In order to improve your TOEFL Integrated Writing score, it is vital that you understand what the Integrated Writing task entails. This task in the Writing Section is unlike any other task on the TOEFL, and many students get low marks on this task simply because they don’t understand how to tackle it. So first…

What is the TOEFL Integrated Writing Task?
The TOEFL Integrated Writing Task is one of two essays that you will have to write (approximately 200 – 250 words) on the TOEFL Writing Section. The essay is based on two passages, a reading passage and a listening passage. You are NOT supposed to give your opinion in this writing task.

The first passage you get on the Integrated Writing Task is the reading passage which is around 250 – 300 words. You get 3 minutes to read the passage. The author of the reading passage will discuss a particular topic, and then provide 3 main points, each lined out in a paragraph, that gives more details or supporting information on the topic.

For example, the author could be discussing this topic: origins of an ancient tribe. Then in the following 3 paragraphs, the author is going to make 3 main points about this topic. Maybe these points explain why a common theory about the tribe’s origins is right or wrong. Or maybe the main points are pieces of evidence that support the author’s theory about their origin. It is critical that you are able to identify and paraphrase the topic and author’s 3 main points in your essay.

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Next comes the more difficult part, the listening passage. After having 3 minutes to read the passage (and take notes!) then you have to listen to a lecture for 2 to 3 minutes. The lecturer is always going to talk about the same topic as the author. The lecturer will also provide 3 main points about the topic.

The lecturer is almost always at odds or in disagreement with the author. Therefore, the main points in the listening will follow the order of the 3 main points from the reading. Usually the lecturer will explain why the author is wrong about his or her theory, or how there is other evidence that does not support the author’s ideas about the given topic. It is also critical that you are able to identify and paraphrase the lecturer’s 3 main points AND how they contradict or disprove the author’s main points in your essay.

Finally, the reading passage will reappear, and you are given the remaining 20 minutes to outline, write and edit your Integrated Writing essay answer.

How to structure your TOEFL Integrated Writing Task Essay?
The best advice is to go into the TOEFL exam knowing how you will structure your Integrated Writing essay. This will save you valuable time, because some of your answer can actually be prepared beforehand. This is known as a template. Below is an example of a template you should emulate on the TOEFL exam:

The reading passage is about (insert topic). The author believes (insert author’s opinion on the topic), but the lecturer in the listening passage disagrees. He/She feels (insert lecturer’s opinion on the topic). The author provides three main points to support their opinion, and the lecturer provides three contradictory points.First, the author says that (author’s first main point). However, the lecturer explains (lecturer’s first main counterpoint). The lecturer goes on to state that (supporting details that link back to the reading).

Next, in the reading passage, the author claims that (author’s second main point). To the contrary, the lecturer provides (lecturer’s second main counterpoint). Furthermore, the lecturer also mentions (supporting details that link back to the reading).

Finally, the author in the reading states (author’s third main point). In contrast, the lecturer in the listening passage is of the opinion that (lecturer’s third main counterpoint). Additionally, he/she points out that (supporting details that link back to the reading).

How to Avoid the Common Mistakes Test Takers Make on the Integrated Writing Task?
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1. Mistake #1 – Missing or Inaccurately Stating the Main Points
One major pitfall for students is that they do not clearly and accurately identify the 3 main points of both the author and the lecturer. The best way to avoid this error is to make sure you take good notes, especially during the listening. When you first see the reading passage, quickly identify the author’s main points, and write them down. This will help you to anticipate what the lecture will be about. Then use more of your preparation time taking notes on the listening. This is because you will only get to hear it once, and the reading passage will appear again if you need to refer to it.

2. Mistake #2 – Failing to Clarify the Relationship Between the Two Passages
Another common mistake TOEFL test takers make on the exam is that they don’t write about how the listening passage connects to the reading. As mentioned, the lecturer is typically critical or in downright disagreement with the author. It is important to not only state what the main points of each passage are, but also explain how the listening passage attacks the claims in the reading. Imagine answering these questions: What specific details does the lecturer give to debunk the author’s position? How does the evidence in the listening disprove the theory in the reading? Therefore, to avoid this common error, include some supporting details or reasons for each counterpoint from the listening passage that relates to the author’s main point.

3. Mistake #3 – Grammatical Errors
Another wrong turn test takers make on the Integrated Writing is that they have silly grammatical or spelling mistakes. The best solution for this problem is better time management and use Writing Correction Service in order to improve their mistakes well in advance. There is a lot of information and not a lot of time on this writing task. Therefore, don’t spend a lot of time writing an introduction or a conclusion. Quickly introduce the topic of both the passages and get straight into the main points of the author and lecturer as soon as possible. You also don’t technically need a conclusion, but if you do choose the right one, make it only one or two short sentences. Finally, be sure to save at least 2 minutes at the end to go back and edit your essay. Students unnecessarily lose points for spelling and grammar mistakes because they don’t give themselves time to proofread their essays.

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