This style of question will be used on the redesigned TOEFL iBT starting July 26. Get more samples 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. They have ten minutes to complete the task.

Your professor is teaching a class on political science. 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 going to talk about the debate between economic growth and protecting the environment. Economic growth creates new jobs and gives people money they can use to improve their lives. On the other hand, if we protect the environment it can be enjoyed both by ourselves and future generations. If you had to choose between prioritizing economic growth or protecting the environment, which one would you choose.  Why?

Alex: I would prioritize the environment. We only have one planet and if we don’t take care of it, we won’t have pleasant lives in the future. Economic growth can be important, but not at the expense of the environment. I think we need to shift towards more things such as investing in renewable energy and promoting environmentally-friendly technologies.  We’ll all live much healthier lives if the world around us is clean.

Maggie: While I agree with Alex that environmental sustainability is important, I think that economic growth is the only way to solve many of the social and economic problems we face. We need a strong economy to create jobs, reduce poverty, and improve standards of living.  Not only that, but when companies grow stronger and more profitable, they can develop new technologies that solve our environmental problems.


Sample Answer 1 (with template)

Here’s a possible response to the above question.  It directly addresses the responses given by the other students.  As you can see, it elaborates on and challenges the arguments they made.  Some test-takers find this approach easiest.

This is a challenging topic, but I think we should prioritize the environment at this time. I strongly agree with Alex’s idea that our lives will be unpleasant if we focus entirely on economic growth. I would add that if the environment is damaged by industrial development we’ll all be more likely to suffer from serious ailments like cancer and lung disease. These sorts of illnesses can be a real strain on our medical systems.  Maggie raised the relevant point that it’s possible that profitable companies will someday solve all of our problems using new technology, but she doesn’t mention that they might arrive far too late to be of use.  For example, it could take decades for an innovative company to create a source of clean energy.

Sample Answer 2 (with template)

Here’s a slightly different approach to the question.  It mostly ignores the responses given by the other students.  Instead, I just focused on my response.  Some test-takers like this approach.

While I appreciate the points mentioned by both Maggie and Alex, I think that we should mainly focus on economic growth.  This is because our lives will become unpleasant if the economy slows down.  We all have bills to pay and those require us to earn an income. Remember that many people have families to take care of, so they need to earn a regular income.  That is only possible if the economy continues to grow at the same rate year after year. Some people may feel that preserving the environment is more important than maintaining our current standard of living, but I tend to disagree. My main focus is on the quality of life that people enjoy at this exact moment, not the lives that future generations will lead.

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