This style of question will be used on the redesigned TOEFL iBT starting July 26. Get more samples and a template here.  You can also check out my guide to this task.

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.

Your professor is teaching a class on marketing. 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. You have ten minutes to write.


Professor: Today, we’re discussing the ethics of targeted advertising. Some people argue that online advertising which uses personal information to target specific people is an invasion of privacy. Others argue that it’s simply an acceptable way to reach consumers with products and services they’re interested in. What’s your take? Do you think targeted advertising is ethical, or is it an invasion of privacy?

Jessica: I think targeted advertising is an invasion of privacy. Advertisers shouldn’t be able to track and use our personal information to sell us products. It’s not fair to consumers, and it’s a violation of our rights. Instead, advertisers should focus on creating high-quality ads that appeal to a broad audience.  By doing that they can both increase their sales and show respect for their customers.

Mike: I disagree with Jessica. To me, targeted advertising is ethical. It’s a more efficient way to reach consumers with products and services that are relevant to their interests.  With the money they save by using more effective marketing techniques, companies can afford to offer lower prices to their customers. Plus, we can always opt-out of targeted advertising by adjusting our privacy settings. As long as we get a choice, I think targeted advertising can be beneficial.


Sample Answer 1 (with template)

This response expands and elaborates on what the other students said.

This is a controversial topic, but I think that targeted advertising isn’t an ethical problem and I’m not concerned about it. I really like Mike’s idea that we can just opt-out of targeted advertising if we are worried about it.  I’d add that it is extremely easy to do this nowadays, as Internet browsers are very user-friendly. Even people that are inexperienced with technology can find the right settings and adjust them. Jessica raised the relevant point that companies should create advertisements that appeal to a broad audience, but she didn’t mention how difficult it is to make advertisements like that.  Society is more diverse than ever before, so it is almost impossible to create messages that everyone finds attractive.  Small companies without large advertising and research budgets might go out of business if they are prevented from using cheap and effective targeted advertising.

Sample Answer 2 (with template)

This response mostly ignores the other students and gives my own ideas.

While I think Mike raised some relevant points,  I really feel that targeted advertising is problematic. Nowadays families are struggling to make ends meet, and they don’t have money for frivolous luxuries.  Unfortunately, people are easily influenced by what they see online, and personalized ads might cause them to buy stuff they don’t need… and can’t afford. This is especially true when it comes to young people. A lot of my classmates can barely afford to pay for their tuition and books, but they still buy expensive gadgets that are promoted on social media.  Consequently, I think the government ought to come in and regulate this part of the advertising industry.

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