Four Steps to Demystify the TOEFL Integrated Writing Task

Four Steps to Demystify the TOEFL Integrated Writing Task
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The TOEFL Writing Section consists of two tasks: one integrated and one independent. The latter one is nothing short of an ordinary essay that expresses and supports an opinion. The former involves first reading a text, then listening to a recording, and finally, writing a summary of important points made in the reading and listening passages to explain how they are related.

Now, why does the TOEFL test really trouble you to do an Integrated Writing Task?

Isn’t an essay enough? Well, not exactly.

During your studies, you may often find yourself in situations that will require you to write a paper about what you’ve been learning in class. This will typically entail combining information you’ve read in textbooks with the notes you’ve taken from lectures. And this is precisely what the Integrated Task aims to measure, i.e. your ability to review and relate the key points from both sources and to present them in a clear, well-organized manner. Your response to the task is scored on the basis of how well you write but also on how well you select the important information and how well you present the connection between the reading and the listening. Now here’s how to achieve that.

1. Organisation

Take notes on what you hear and read by making a list of the major points and important details. Use your notes to first combine the information from both sources and then to write a summary of the ideas, explaining the ways in which they are similar and the ways in which they are different. Start your response with an introduction that clearly shows what the listening is about and how the reading relates to it.

In body paragraphs, show how the points made in the listening expand upon or contradict the points made in the reading. Discuss each idea in a separate body paragraph. Do not simply summarize the reading and the listening. Reiterate how the two sources relate and review the key points in a concluding paragraph.

2. Coherence 

Use connectors to show the relationship between the major points of the reading and listening, for example: “in contrast”, “although”, “similarly”, etc. State clearly which source you are referring to. Use phrases such as “according to the reading passage” or “the lecturer states” to create a clear structure for your response.


Do not copy the writer’s or the lecturer’s words!

Paraphrase, i.e., express ideas from the reading and listening using your own words and different grammatical structures. (For example, try writing a sentence using the noun form of a word instead of the verb form to convey the same meaning). This will show the examiner that you can use a wide range of vocabulary and have good command of grammar.

Reread your writing and replace typical dry expressions such as “say”, “very nice” or “things” with more meaningful words and phrases such as “state/explain/note”, “really amusing/enjoyable/wonderful” and “belongings/objects/equipment”. This will make your writing more interesting and precise.

4. Grammar 

Aim for a variety of grammar structures. Use simple structures to make main points (i.e., to open or close your paragraphs). Create more complex structures to develop these points in body paragraphs. Don’t stick to short sentences, but don’t overdo with long sentences either! Your response should combine both.

Try to use active as well as passive voice (e.g., All of these points are refuted by the lecturer.); a moderate amount of relative sentences (e.g., In the lecture, the professor makes several points about …, which completely contradict the reading passage.); conditional sentences (According to the speaker, such a solution becomes costly if helicopters are involved.); and modal verbs (This can be understood in the reading passage as well).

Make sure you leave two minutes to read your writing to check for errors. Look at verb tenses, run-on sentences, subject-verb agreement, etc.

If you follow these guidelines, your response should successfully present important information from the reading and the listening as well as demonstrate effective use of grammar and vocabulary. Good luck!

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