Someone informed me that on the latest TOEFL exam in NY City, last weekend, the first two speaking questions were:
1) If you want to learn about a different country, should you take a university course or should you travel to the country?
2) If someone donates money to a not-for-profit organization in your neighborhood, and you can either build a garden or a playground, which would you prefer?
I'm a little confused, though, because both of these questions seem to be 'either/or' questions. Usually one question asks for a type of 'description' while the other asks an 'either/or' question.
Maybe the person was a little confused. If we want to change the first question to a descriptive question, we can ask: What do you think the best way to learn about another country might be? Support your answer with reasons and examples. My sample answer below would still work for this question.
1) Many people feel that it is essential for a person to travel in order to broaden his/her horizons and to develop a more open mind. Yet, I feel that if I really want to learn about another culture, a university class, taught by an experienced instructor, would be better than traveling, for two reasons.
First, the instructor can give me an overview of the entire culture. For example, he can provide me with the history, the artistic trends, the politics and the current economic situation of the country.
Second of all, based on his experiences, he can give me insights into the people and culture of that country based on many, many trips and experiences with natives. Let's say I want to learn about Indonesia. I can't even speak the language. So if I travel to Indonesia, I will not be able to speak to many natives (unless they can speak English) and I might not really learn much beyond what I can see.
So although some people might say that it is silly or foolish to suggest that studying a country is better than traveling to the country, I disagree. I want to benefit from the years of study of an expert and gain his/her valuable insights. Then I can go and see whether what I learned is accurate.
2) If someone were kind enough to donate money to an organization in my neighborhood for either a garden or a playground, I would prefer that a playground be built for a couple reasons.
First, I feel that it's essential for children to play outdoors in a safe environment. For example, there is an obesity problem in America. Children are not getting enough exercise. If a park were built, children could get some needed exercise every day.
Second of all, children need to socialize with other children to develop important social skills. If we build a park, this will be a perfect opportunity for the neighborhood's children to get to know each other, develop relationships and learn how to play and cooperate with each other.
Although I would really love a garden as a place where I could relax and enjoy nature, I think our children have needs which are more important than mine. The park will help them exercise and socialize.