Sample TOEFL Integrated Essay


The Question

You can see the reading and lecture for this question in the video below (or find  transcripts here):

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The Essay

The reading and the lecture are both about the Moai of Easter Island.  The author of the reading believes that the construction of the Moai led to the collapse of the civilization located there.  The lecturer casts doubt on the claims made in the article.  She thinks that the society on the island did not suffer as a result of the construction of the Moai.


First of all, the author claims that the people of the island cut down vast amounts of valuable trees in order to build the statues.  He notes that the Moai were moved across the island using wooden tracks and log rollers. This point is challenged by the lecturer. She says that islanders used a series of ropes to walk the statues to their intended locations.  Furthermore, she points out that this method did not require any trees and has even been replicated by teams of modern researchers.


Secondly, the author states that eventually every tree on the island was cut down.  He argues that without any trees, migratory birds stopped visiting the island and the people were no longer able to feed themselves. This argument is rebutted by the lecturer.  She suggests that palm seeds that date from the time period show evidence of having been chewed on by rats.  She elaborates on this by mentioning that the original inhabitants of the island brought rats with them as food, and that they were the main cause of deforestation on the island.


Finally, the author mentions that the problems described above eventually led to a major population collapse.  He is of the opinion that the population of Easter Island fell from a high of twenty thousand down to a low of just two thousand when European explorers first arrived. The lecturer, on the other hand, feels that Easter Island never supported a population of twenty thousand.  She puts forth the idea that this estimate was based on an old misunderstanding of when the island was originally settled and that there were never more than two thousand people living there.






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