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TOEFL Integrated Writing

The integrated writing task requires you to summarize and compare academic information.

Task format

You will have three minutes to read a passage about an academic topic. You should take notes about the main points that the author makes, but you do not need to write a lot because you will be able to see the reading again when it is time to write.

Then you will listen to a piece of an academic lecture that addresses the same topic that you read about. The professor that is speaking may have the same opinion as the author of the article you read, but the professor often has an opposing point of view. You need to take good notes during the listening. You can only listen one time. Make sure you listen for the main points you found in the reading.

You will have 20 minutes to write your response to the question.

Read the question carefully and address all the parts of the question. For example, in this example question, the primary task is to summarize the points made in the lecture. Then you should explain how they relate to points in the reading. Always answer both parts of the question.

Example: TOEFL Integrated Writing Prompt

Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to explain how they challenge specific arguments made in the reading passage.

Response format

Your answer will not look like a traditional essay because this task is not an essay. This task is a summary. In order to summarize the information they give you, you will typically need four paragraphs. The first paragraph will state the relationship between the reading and the listening (e.g., do they agree about the topic, or do they disagree?). The other three paragraphs will each focus on a specific point that was addressed in both the reading and the listening. You do not need a conclusion paragraph. An effective response will have approximately 200 words.

Scoring

In order to receive a high score on this section, you need to answer the question by writing about the important points from the reading and listening in a clear and accurate way.

The sample task on the following pages contains a reading passage, a lecture transcript, and a response that would receive high marks.

Example: Reading Passage

       There are different types of universities. Some universities focus almost completely on research. These universities reward professors for doing research. They hire professors that are dedicated to discovering new things and publishing their findings. Other universities focus more on teaching. These universities hire professors that are able to explain concepts to their students clearly. Some universities have tried to blend both approaches and focus on both research and quality teaching, which is problematic.

       First, both doing research and teaching take time, and having a dual focus will distract professors from being adequately prepared for their classes. Doing research can often be a messy, complex process, and they may end up spending so much time doing research that they don't have time to prepare their lectures or exams. When professors are not adequately prepared for classes, students may struggle more to understand the concepts and do well in class. If professors are expected to both teach and research, they will not have time for both.

       Also, there is no real benefit researchers bring to the classroom if they lack teaching skills. Many researchers who teach as professors have had limited teacher training. They have extensive knowledge of their field, but do not know how to manage a classroom, write a reliable assessment, or scaffold student learning. Students are very frustrated by professors who lack these teaching skills. Teaching skills are necessary in order to help students learn; thus, experts without formal teacher training don't have a clear advantage.

       Finally, by choosing one focus, professors can become more skilled in what they choose to do. If they choose to be a researcher, they can make a name for themselves in research because they can devote all of their time to research. If they choose to be a teacher, they can gain the teaching skills they need to be an excellent teacher, rather than trying to make time to research as well.

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Example: Lecture Transcript

Well, as you know from the reading, there are some reasonable concerns about universities that blend teaching and research. You will find some people, especially in this area, are passionate about this topic.

There are some points I want to make today during our class that weren't included in your reading. I think that it's important to understand both sides of this issue.

Something that people don't always think about is how researching can enhance learning. If you have a teacher who is a teacher and a researcher, they are very up-to-date in their field.

Rather than waiting for other researchers to investigate questions and publish their findings, researching professors are on the cutting edge of their field. They attend conferences and find out what other researchers are doing as they are doing it. Non-researching professors have to wait until researchers share their findings.

While it is true that researching professors may not have the practical teaching skills that other teachers have, they are passionate about their subject because what they research is what they chose to pursue for their career.

One of my colleagues here in the department is famous for staying late to work on a presentation for class the next day because he is so excited to share his latest discovery with his students. His students love his lectures because they can tell how much the topic interests him, and they enjoy seeing the results of his research.

A final point I'll mention on this topic is that by only focusing on one thing, professors often get stuck. Teachers who don't do research tend to use the same books and go over the same material year after year. Teachers who research are able to continue growing because of their involvement in the field.

Researchers can also get stuck in a rut without the fresh perspective that teaching can bring.

Strategy

Many students find it helpful to organize their notes with a “T-Chart.” On one side of the T chart, write down the main points from the reading. On the other side of the T-Chart, write down the corresponding points found in the listening. Even though the reading passage reappears on your screen while you write, taking notes on the reading is important. It can help you focus during the listening and give you something to listen for. 

This is a sample T-Chart that could be used to show the points made in the example task. 

Reading Passage 

Lecture 

1.  

2. 

3.  

1.  

2. 

3. 

These are two sample responses. The first response is a low-mid response because it has some of the details, but is missing significant points made in the lecture. It is not very developed and seems to focus a lot on the reading. 

The second response is a high response because all of the main points are addressed, and the emphasis is on summarizing the listening and comparing it to the article, rather than summarizing every detail mentioned in both.

Example: Integrated Writing Question

Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to explain how they challenge specific arguments made in the reading passage.

 

Example: Answer

Both the lecture and the reading passage deal with the topic of universities that focus on both teaching and research. The professor supports universities with a dual focus, but the author of the reading passage is clearly against them.

The first point that is discussed relates to whether or not learning is facilitated when professors focus on both research and teaching. According to the reading passage, research takes too much time for professors to be able to be appropriately prepared for class. However, the professor mentioned that learning is enhanced when professors research because they stay up-to-date in their field.

The second point was about the benefit that researching professors are in the classroom. The professor said that researching professors have passion for the subject they teach; that is what their whole livelihood is based on. On the other hand, the reading passage criti- cizes these researching professors for not having the teaching skills that students expect.

The final point that the lecturer made was that by doing research as well as teaching, professors can develop more than if they were to only choose one. The professor feels that teaching improves research by bringing new perspectives and research improves teaching because professors stay up-to-date. This point is directly opposed to what was stated in the reading. The reading stated that choosing one path to focus on would make the professor more skilled at what he chose to focus on because his attention is not divided.