Monday, April 8, 2013

How to Handle The "Advantages/Disadvantages" Topic

Last month a student told me that one of the first two speaking topics was a bit different from the normal or traditional TOEFL format. 

Lately ETS has sometimes been asking a question like: What are the advantages and disadvantages of universities allowing students to park on campus?  

Or: What are the advantages and disadvantages of online learning or living on campus or getting married later in life etc.

This type of question is easy to answer. :)  Just list two advantages and two disadvantages with an example for each.  You are probably not going to have time to have a fancy intro or conclusion.  Just mention two advantages with examples (if you have enough time) and two disadvantages with examples (if you have enough time).

Here's how to do it:

Well, the first advantage of letting students drive their cars to campus is that they can stay later at school.  For example, some buses stop running at 10 or 11pm in some cities.  The second advantage is convenience. Obviously if I have a car I can get to school faster and easier at all times and in all types of weather.  A disadvantage is that everyone will want to drive to school and there might not be enough parking spaces.  A student might actually be late for class because he/she has to drive around looking for a spot.  Also, taking public transportation is better for the environment.  The university should discourage students from driving so that they can help protect the environment from the carbon emissions of so many cars.

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