TOEFL Integrated Essay - 2018

The Integrated essay task is the first part of the TOEFL's writing section. It begins with a four-paragraph article about an academic topic. This is followed by a lecture which opposes the argument in the article.  Students should write an essay of about 280-300 words about the relationship between these two sources. 

If you prefer, you can watch a video version of this guide.

Understanding the TOEFL Integrated Essay

First you will first read a short article about an academic topic and after that you will listen to a lecture on the same topic.

The lecture will oppose the reading.  Your job is to describe how the lecture opposes the article.  You may only listen to the lecture once, but you can look at the article while you are writing your essay. 

There are three main styles that the reading and lecture will take, though they are all quite similar.  You will write the same kind of essay no matter what style the quetion takes. Note that the TOEFL no longer uses questions where the lecture supports the reading.

Styles of Questions

Argument Style

The reading makes a claim about a specific topic. It includes three supporting reasons. The lecture challenges this claim.

Explanation Style

The reading provides three separate ideas about the cause of something or the use of something or the reason for something. The lecturer challenges each of the three ideas.

Problem and Solution Style

The reading suggests three problems related to some topic. The lecturer shows how each problem can be solved.

Understanding the Reading

It is important to understand how the reading (article) is structured, because it is structured the same way every week. The article begins with an introductory paragraph.  The main topic or argument or problem is summarized here.

The main idea is followed by three body paragraphs.  Depending on the style of the question, each body paragraph contains one supporting reason, one idea or one problem.


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Understanding the Lecture

After you are done with the reading, you will listen to a short lecture on the same topic.  At the beginning of the lecture, you will hear the lecturer's main idea. Here he states the opposite of the reading's main argument, or a statement that the reading's explanations are false, or a statement that there are solutions to the reading's problems.  

After stating his main idea, the lecturer will describe three counter-points that support his main idea.  It is important to note that these counter-points directly challenge the three reasons/points/problems mentioned in the reading.  Not only that, but they challenge them in the same order.  Depending 

Taking Notes

Now that you know how the sources are structured, note-taking should be easy.  Do it just like this:

However, it is important to note that in addition to noting the points and counter-points, you need to get some of the additional details that are mentioned with them. Remember that you will have access to the article while you write your essay.

Templates for Writing Your Essay

Your essay must include an introduction and three body paragraphs. The following templates will show you how to write them.  For ideas about how to fill in the blanks, refer to the sample essay at the end of this guide.

The Introduction

No matter what style is used, write your introduction using the following template:

  • The reading and the lecture are both about _____, which is/are _____.
  • The author of the reading believes ______.
  • The lecturer challenges the statements made by the author.
  • He/She is of the opinion that _____.

The Body Paragraphs

Use the following templates for the body paragraphs:

  • First of all, the author suggests that ______.
  • It is mentioned that _____.
  • This argument is challenged by the lecturer.
  • He says _______.
  • Furthermore, he argues that ______.

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  • Secondly, the writer contends that _____.
  • The article notes _____.
  • The lecturer, however, rebuts this by asserting that _____.
  • He elaborates on this by mentioning that _____.

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  • Finally, it is stated in the article that ____.
  • The author establishes that _____.
  • The lecturer, on the other hand, posits that ____.
  • He puts forth the idea that ____.

Your Conclusion

You do not need to write a concluding paragraph.  Don't waste your time trying. Instead use it to proofread your work!

Sample Essay Notes

To illustrate these strategies, I want to refer to the integrated writing question in TOEFL Quick Prep Volume 1 ("Great Houses").

This question is an explanation style question.  Here are the notes I took.  You can see how the reading explains how the Great Houses were used.  The lecture, on the other hand, challenges each of the explanations in the same order.

Reading Lecture
Main Argument: 3 theories to explain use of Chaco Canyon Houses in New Mexico Main Argument: the 3 theories are incorrect
  • Used as residences for 100s of people
  • Similar to “Apartment Buildings” in Taos which have been used as residences for centuries
  • Many fireplaces would be necessary if they were residences
  • But in one of the largest great houses, only ten fireplaces were found.  Not enough.
  • Used to store food supplies, like grain maize
  • Maize could be stored for a long time, and the great houses were a good size for this use
  • Excavations have found no leftover grain, or containers
  • If they were used for storage, these things would be found
  • Used as ceremonial centers
  • Found a mound containing pots used during festive meals at ceremonies
  • The mound also contains building materials and tools.
  • The mound is just garbage from when the houses were built

Sample Essay Paragraphs

Using those notes, and the above templates, I created the following essay:

Introduction

The reading and the listening are both about the “great houses” which are found around the Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. The author of the reading believes there are three possible explanations about how they were used. The lecturer challenges the statements made by the author. He is of the opinion that none of these theories is correct.

Body Paragraphs

First of all, the author suggests that the structures were used as residences for large numbers of people. It is mentioned that they are very similar to the “apartment buildings” located in Taos, where people have lived for a long time. This argument is challenged by the lecturer. He says that if they were used as residences, they would contain many more fireplaces than they actually do. Furthermore, he argues that the largest of the houses contains only ten fireplaces, even though it was big enough to fit hundreds of families.

Secondly, the writer contends that the structures could have been used to store grain maize for long period. The article notes that the size of the houses was suitable for this purpose. The lecturer, however, rebuts this by asserting that researchers have found no leftover grain, or containers it was kept in.  He elaborates on this by mentioning that if the great houses were used to store food, we would have found both of these.

Finally, it is stated in the article that the structures could have served as ceremonial centers. The author establishes that archeologists found a mound of broken pots that were used during festive occasions. The lecturer, on the other hand, posits that the mound also contained other things like building materials and tools. He puts forth the idea that mound was merely a trash heap left behind when the house was being constructed, and is therefore not evidence that the houses were used for ceremonial purposes.

More Samples

We maintain a collection of complete sample essays written using the above technique.

How about the Independent Essay?

If you haven't seen it already, you might want to read our article about the independent writing task.