This style of question will be used on the redesigned TOEFL iBT starting July 26. Get more samples here.

The test-taker must read the question posted by the professor and the two student responses.  Finally, they should write their own response which addresses the question and adds to the conversation.  They have ten minutes to complete the task.

Your professor is teaching a class on sociology. Write a post responding to the professor’s question.  In your response, you should

  • express and support your personal opinion
  • make a contribution to the discussion in your own words

An effective response will contain at least 100 words.


Professor: Lately we’ve talked a lot about the impact of technology on our lives. With the prevalence of smartphones and other devices, we’re more connected than ever, but some people are distressed by this trend. We’ll discuss this in our next class, but before we do I’d like to hear your thoughts on the issue.  Overall, do devices like smartphones have a positive impact on the way we communicate?  Or a negative one?

Rachel: Personally, I think this sort of technology has had a negative impact on our ability to communicate face-to-face. People are too reliant on text messages, social media, and things like that, which can lead to a lack of nuance and depth in our interactions. It’s harder to read body language and tone of voice over text, and that can result in misunderstandings and miscommunications.  I think that if people want to become effective communicators, they should talk to people in person.

Mike: While I agree that it can sometimes be challenging to communicate in person, I also think modern technology has its benefits. Smartphones make it possible for us to stay connected with acquaintances and loved ones who are far away, and social networks provide a platform for introverted people to express themselves in ways that they may not be able to do in person.  Accordingly, I think smartphones are mostly beneficial.


Sample Answer

In my opinion, smartphones are advantageous in the modern world.  I agree with Mike’s idea that social networks make it possible for more people to express their ideas and opinions.  I’d add that certain groups of people aren’t able to share their ideas in traditional media like newspapers and television broadcasts, but if they have smartphones they can easily do so by posting to social networks like Twitter and Facebook.  By sharing their ideas, they can bring about positive change in society.  Rachel raised the point that it is challenging to pick up on subtle details in online communication, but I disagree.  Nowadays we can send not only text messages, but also images and videos.  Those can add a lot of depth and nuance to our interactions.

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