MBA Strategy arrow TOEFL arrow TOEFL iBT. Introduction to the Writing Section

TOEFL iBT. Introduction to the Writing Section

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There are two tasks in the Writing section of the TOEFL iBT: an Integrated Writing Task and an Independent Writing Task.

The Integrated Writing task comes first because it involves some listening, and when you are taking the real TOEFL iBT you will wear your headphones. When you are finished with the Integrated Writing Task, which takes about 20 minutes, you will be free to take your headphones off to work on the Independent Writing Task. You will have 30 minutes to complete the Independent Writing Task.

This chapter discusses each of the writing tasks in detail and the scoring criteria that readers will use to evaluate your writing. It includes samples of each task, sample responses to each task, and specific advice on how to approach writing your own response.

For both the writing tasks on the TOEFL iBT, the people evaluating your writing recognize that your response is a first draft. You are not expected to produce a well-researched, comprehensive essay about a highly specific, specialized topic. You can earn a high score with an essay that contains some errors.

The Integrated Writing Task

You will read a passage about an academic topic for three minutes, and then you will hear a lecture related to the topic. Then you will be asked to summarize the points in the listening passage and explain how they relate to specific points in the reading passage.
This task gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your ability to show that you can communicate in writing about academic information you have read and listened to.


A reading passage like the following will appear on your computer screen. You will have 3 minutes to read the passage.

In many organizations, perhaps the best way to approach certain new projects is to assemble a group of people into a team. Having a team of people attack a project offers several advantages. First of all, a group of people has a wider range of knowledge, expertise, and skills than any single individual is likely to possess. Also, because of the numbers of people involved and the greater resources they possess, a group can work more quickly in response to the task assigned to it and can come up with highly creative solutions to problems and issues. Sometimes these creative solutions come about because a group is more likely to make risky decisions that an individual might not undertake. This is because the group spreads responsibility for a decision to all the members and thus no single individual can be held accountable if the decision turns out to be wrong.
Taking part in a group process can be very rewarding for members of the team. Team members who have a voice in making a decision will no doubt feet better about carrying out the work that is entailed by that decision than they might doing work that is imposed on them by others. Also, the individual team member has a much better chance to "shine," to get his or her contributions and ideas not only recognized but recognized as highly significant, because a team's overall results can be more far-reaching and have greater impact than what might have otherwise been possible for the person to accomplish or contribute working alone.

Then you will hear:

Now listen to part of a lecture on the topic you just read about.

Now I want to tell you about what one company found when it decided that it would turn over some of its new projects to teams of people, and make the team responsible for planning the projects and getting the work done. After about six months, the company took a look at how well the teams performed.
On virtually every team, some members got almost a "free ride"... they didn't contribute much at all, but if their team did a good job, they nevertheless benefited from the recognition the team got. And what about group members who worked especially well and who provided a lot of insight on problems and issues? Well... the recognition for a job well done went to the group as a whole, no names were named. So it won't surprise you to learn that when the real contributors were asked how they felt about the group process, their attitude was just the opposite of what the reading predicts.
Another finding was that some projects just didn't move very quickly. Why? Because it took so long to reach consensus; it took many, many meetings to build the agreement among group members about how they would move the project along. On the other hand, there were other instances where one or two people managed to become very influential over what their group did. Sometimes when those influencers said "That will never work" about an idea the group was developing, the idea was quickly dropped instead of being further discussed. And then there was another occasion when a couple influencers convinced the group that a plan of theirs was "highly creative." And even though some members tried to warn the rest of the group that the project was moving in directions that might not work, they were basically ignored by other group members. Can you guess the ending to "this* story? When the project failed, the blame was placed on all the members of the group.

The reading passage will then reappear on your computer screen, along with the following directions and writing task:
You have 20 minutes to plan and write your response. Your response will be judged on the basis of the quality of your writing and on how well your response presents the points in the lecture and their relationship to the reading passage. Typically, an effective response will be 150 to 225 words.

Summarize the points made in the lecture you just heard, explaining how they cast doubt on points made in the reading.

The writing clock will then start a countdown for 20 minutes of writing time.


If the lecture challenges the information in the reading passage, the writing task will usually be phrased in one of the following ways:

• Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to explain how they cast
doubt on specific points made in the reading passage.
• Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to explain how they challenge
specific claims/arguments made in the reading passage.
• Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to specifically explain how
they answer the problems raised in the reading passage.
If the lecture supports or strengthens the information in the reading passage, the writing task will usually be phrased in one of the following ways:
• Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to specifically explain how they support the explanations in the reading passage.
• Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to specifically explain how
they strengthen specific points made in the reading passage.


As you read:

• Take notes on your scratch paper.
• Look for the main idea of the reading passage. The main idea often has to do with some policy or practice or some position on an issue. Or it may have to do with proposing some overall hypothesis about the way some process or procedure works or should work or how some natural phenomenon is believed to work.
• See how this main idea is evaluated or developed. Usually it will be developed in one of two ways:
1. Arguments or explanations are presented that support the main position, for
example, why there are good reasons to believe that some policy or practice will
be beneficial or prove useful or advisable or perhaps why it has been a good
thing in the past.
2. Arguments or explanations or problems are brought up concerning why some
policy or practice or position or hypothesis will not or does not work or will not
be useful or advisable.
• Don't worry about forgetting the reading passage. It will reappear on your computer
screen when it is time to write.
• Note points in the passage that either support the main idea or provide reasons to doubt the main idea. Typically the main idea will be developed with three points.

As you listen:

Take notes on your scratch paper.

• Listen for information, examples, or explanations that make points in the reading passage seem wrong or less convincing or even untrue. For instance, in the example just given, the reading passage says that working in teams is a good thing because it gives individuals a chance to stand out. But the lecture says that often everyone gets equal credit for the work of a team, even if some people do not do any work at all. The reading says that work proceeds quickly on a team because there are more people involved who each brings his or her expertise. But the lecture completely contradicts this claim by stating that it may take a long time for the group to reach consensus. The lecture brings up the idea that the whole team can be blamed For a failure when the fault lies with only a few team members. This casts doubt on the claim in the reading that teams can take risks and be creative because no one individual is held accountable.

As you write your response:

• You may take off your headset if you wish. You will not need your headset for the remainder of the TOEFL iBT test.
• Before you start writing, briefly reread the passage, consult your notes, and make a very brief outline of the points you wish to make. You can write this outline on your scratch paper or draw lines between the notes you took on the reading and the notes you took on the lecture. You can even type your outline and notes right into the answer area and then replace these by sentences and paragraphs as you compose your response.
• Remember that you are NOT being asked for your opinion. You ARE being asked to explain how the points in the listening relate to points in the reading.
• Write in full English sentences. You can write either one long paragraph or a series of short paragraphs listing the points of opposition between the reading and the lecture. Occasional language errors will not count against you as long as they do not cause you to misrepresent the meaning of points from the reading and the lecture.
• Remember that your job is to select the important information from the lecture and coherently and accurately present this information in relation to the relevant information from the reading. Your response should contain the following:
1. The specific ideas, explanations, and arguments in the lecture that oppose or challenge points in the reading.
2. Coherent and accurate presentations of each point that you make; that is, the language you use should make sense and should accurately reflect the ideas presented in the lecture and the reading
3. A clear, coherent structure that enables the reader to understand what points in the lecture relate to what points in the reading.

• Suggested length is between 150 and 225 words. You will not be penalized if you write more, so long as what you write answers the question.
• CAUTION: You will receive a score of zero if all you do is copy words from the reading passage. You will receive a score of 1 if you write ONLY about the reading passage. To respond successfully, you must do your best to write about the ways the points in the lecture are related to specific points in the reading.

Edited by
Katherine Protsenko,

From The Official Guide to the New TOEFL IBT

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