The TOEFL® Integrated Essay
The first writing question is the Integrated Essay Task. For this task, you’ll first read a short article on an academic topic. Next, you will listen to a short lecture on the same topic. Finally, you’ll have 20 minutes to write an essay that includes details from both sources. You should write about 280 to 300 words in total.
The article will be about 300 words long. It can be about any academic topic that might appear in a first-year university course, but topics related to history and zoology seem to be most common. You’ll be given three minutes to read it and then it will disappear (don’t worry, you’ll be able to see it again when you write the essay). Remember that the article will always have a main argument and three supporting points. This is almost a guarantee, as the TOEFL rarely changes.
Next, you will listen to a lecture on the same topic. It will be about two or three minutes long. You can only listen once, so try to take detailed notes. Remember that the lecture will always challenge the article. This means, for instance, that if the article claims that the pyramids were built in Egypt to store grain, the lecture will explain that they were not built to store grain. If the article mentions three problems with using bacteria to clean up oil spills, the lecturer will mention three solutions to these problems. This adversarial relationship is another guarantee!
Writing Your Essay
Finally, you will be given twenty minutes to write an essay that compares the reading and the lecture. The question will look something like this:
“Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to explain how they oppose specific points made in the reading passage.”
You can see the article as you write, but you cannot hear the lecture again (or look at a transcript). I recommend that you write between 280 and 300 words in total. Ignore the “suggested length” mentioned in the instructions for this section.
For more help with this task, check out my master guide to the integrated writing task. It’s got a complete sample question, a sample essay, and a template you can use.
The TOEFL® Writing for an Academic Discussion Task
The second writing question is the Writing for an Academic Discussion Task.
Right away, you’ll see four things on your test screen – instructions for the task, a question written by a university professor about a specific subject, and two student responses to the question.
The question could be about any subject a student might study at university (sociology, business, political science, education) but subjects in the liberal arts seem most common. The questions don’t require any background knowledge, however, and can be answered by any test-taker.
You will have ten minutes to read the instructions, read the question, read the responses and write your own response to the question. There is just one clock for all of this!
A word counter will be displayed as you write. You should write at least 100 words. I recommend writing a bit more than that.
For more help with this task, check out my master guide. It contains sample questions, sample responses and a detailed essay template.
How are you Graded?
Your grades come from two separate systems:
- First, a human grader checks your essays based on the official ETS rubrics. They give you a holistic score from 0 to 5. “Holistic” means that they consider the essay as a whole rather than looking at specific parts. The human score is based on your content, organization and language use. ETS is secretive, but research indicates that the human rater contributes 50% of the score in the independent task, and 66% of the score in the integrated task.
- Next, the ETS “e-rater” software checks your essays. It mostly focuses on structure, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary. Again, ETS is secretive, but research indicates that it contributes 50% of your score in the independent task, and 33% of your score in the integrated task.
In the end, you will have two human scores (one for each essay) and two e-rater scores (one for each essay). These will be combined and converted into a whole number from 0 to 30, which will be included on your score report. Each essay has equal weight.
Get Help – TOEFL Essay Evaluation
- Sign up today to have your practice essays evaluated by a TOEFL writing expert (that’s me). I’ll check your essays line by line and comment on your grammar, development, argument and vocabulary. I’ll even give them a score. More importantly, I’ll tell you what you need to do better next time. Check it out.