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.

Your professor is teaching a class on education. 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: In class today, we are going to talk about grading students.  Before you come to class, I want you to think about whether grades are beneficial. On one hand, they provide a way to measure students’ progress. On the other hand, some argue that grades are too focused on performance and don’t provide an accurate picture of a student’s overall academic abilities. If you had to choose, would you say that students should be given grades or not? Why?

Lila: I think that students should not be given grades. Grades create a needlessly competitive environment and can make students feel like they are only valued for their academic performance. When students feel that grades are the most important thing, they get discouraged. Instead of giving specific grades, teachers should provide personal feedback that helps students understand what they need to improve and how they can do so.  I think that approach leads to more academic success.

Jake:  I believe that grades are the only way for students to understand how well they are doing and the only way to motivate them to work harder. Without grades, there would be no way to measure their progress or to identify areas where they need to improve. Moreover, grades prepare students for the real world where they will be judged based on their performance. The only way for adults to advance in their careers is to consistently perform well, and grading children prepares them for that.


Sample Answer 1

While I appreciate Lila’s point of view, I believe that children should be given grades on a regular basis.  Even young kids want to improve academically, and grades help them to do so.  Remember that students are aware that they must develop strong academic skills if they want to achieve their goals in life.  Grades indicate the current level of their skills and tell them whether or not they should change how they approach their studies. For instance, a student who has received a fantastic grade in math and a poor grade in science will know to spend more of his free time studying science.  In contrast, a student who hasn’t gotten any grades will have no idea what to focus on.

Sample Answer 2

While this is certainly a controversial topic, I don’t think students should be graded. I strongly agree with Lila’s idea that grades can create an overly competitive environment and may not accurately reflect a student’s progress. I’d add that grades can lead to a focus on test-taking strategies rather than actual learning, and as a result students may not fully engage with the material.  This means they could lack key knowledge that they’ll need when they move on to the next stage of their academic life.  Jake raised the relevant point that grades are the only way to identify the specific areas where students are weak, but he didn’t mention that teachers can study samples of their students’ work to find their weaknesses without actually grading the work.  For example, they could look at a student’s essay, see that he is weak when it comes to grammar, and tell him that in person. 

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