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How to write the TOEFL Integrated Essay

(note:  advanced students might prefer to just skip to our TOEFL writing templates)

The first essay on the TOEFL is the integrated task.  In this section you will first read a short article about an academic topic and after that you will listen to a lecture on the same topic.

The lecture will oppose the reading.  Your job is to describe how the lecture opposes the article.  You may only listen to the lecture once, but you will have access to the article while you are writing your essay.  Note that ETS no longer uses supporting type integrated questions.

You need to be a good listener in order to complete this task.  You must also be a good note-taker.  These are skills that you should practice before taking the test.

Sample Lecture and Reading

I've created a complete sample question that you can refer to as you read the following article.

How the Article is Structured

Be aware of the structure of the material you will be given. The article will have a main idea which will be supported by three reasons.  For example, the main idea of the reading might be:


"Living in the city is better for children than living in the country."


While the supporting reasons might be:

  1. The city has more educational opportunities
  2. The city has better recreational facilities
  3. The city has more job opportunities for children when they grow up

The main idea will be stated in the first paragraph of the article, while each of the reasons will be stated in the following paragraphs (one per paragraph).

How the Lecture is Structured

The lecture also has a predictable structure. It will have a main point which opposes the main point of the article.  For example:

"Living in the country is better for children than living in city."

The lecture will then address the points from the article in the same order as in the article.  For example:

  1. City schools have more violence and drugs than country schools.
  2. The country has lots of nature for children to play in and enjoy
  3. Children don't need jobs, and they can move to the city when they grow up, if necessary

The points made in the lecture are always given one at a time.  They always directly oppose the points made in the article.

How to Take Notes

Good note-taking is essential to this part of the test.  I teach my students to use a note-taking and outlining system like the following:


Writing the Essay

It is best to use a four paragraph structure for your essay.  Write an introduction and three body paragraphs. 

The Introduction

Start with a sentence like "The article and the lecture are about..." followed by "The author of the article feels that..."  Continue with a transitional sentence like "The lecturer disagrees with the author of the article."  Conclude with "He says that..."

For the above topic our introduction would be something like this:


"The article and the lecture are about the best place for a child to group up.  The author of the article feels that living in the city is best for children.  The lecturer disagrees with the author.  He says that it is better for a child to live in the country than in the city."


And that's it.  Keep your introduction short and sweet.  You don't have much time to write this essay!

The Body Paragraphs

You should write one short body paragraph for each of the point/counterpoint combinations. Write at least two sentences about the article and two sentences about the lecture.  Details from the lecture are more impressive (since you only get to listen to it once), but remember that it is also necessary to include details from the reading.  Keep in mind that you cannot just COPY details from the reading.  Instead, you should paraphrase using your own words.

I teach my students to use templates when they write their body paragraphs.  Here's the template I teach for the first body paragraph:

  • First of all, the author claims that __________________.
  • He believes ______________________.
  • This point is challenged by the lecturer.
  • She says that ____________________.
  • Furthermore, she points out _____________________.

Here's a sample body paragraph using the example given above:


"First of all, the author claims that living in the city is better because cities have more educational opportunities for children.  He believes that there are more schools for parents to choose from. This point is challenges by the lecturer.  She says that schools in cities have higher violence and drop-out rates than schools in the country. Furthermore, she points out that this can have a negative effect on the academic future of children."


And that's how you write a body paragraph for the integrated task.  You can write your second and third body paragraphs using the same style, but if you need more tips check out our special templates.   Just remember that it is essential that you write about both the article and the lecture.  You will get a very low score (or zero) if you write only about the article.

You do not need to write a concluding paragraph.

Sample Essays

We maintain a collection of complete sample essays written using the above techniques.


If you haven't seen it already, you might want to read our article about the independent writing task.