Friday, March 25, 2016

How to answer TOEFL speaking question 3

Example of academic policy reading passage:

The Office of the Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences would like to announce that starting with the current freshman class, there will be an 'African American Experience' course requirement. In order to graduate, each student will be required to take one three-credit course dealing with this topic. Various academic departments will be collaborating to design various courses to help students meet this requirement. LAS has made this decision because the African American experience has been traditionally neglected in US history text books. Furthermore, recent developments in US history reveal lingering racial tensions and conflicts and LAS feels its students should be aware of the causes of contemporary historical conflicts as well as possibilities for resolving them.

Example of a dialogue between two students concerning this new policy decision:

Joe: I'm really upset about this new African American experience class.

Maggie: Why? I think the university is right on top of things. This is definitely necessary these days with all the protests and events in the news.

Joe: Well, that's my point. This is a politically motivated class they are shoving down my throat. A few students start protesting on campus and I have to add one more class, it's ridiculous. The university is under pressure by protesters and I need to do what a bunch of trouble-makers want me to do. I should try to organize counter-protests.

Maggie: I think the protesters just brought an important and neglected issue to everyone's attention.

Joe: Also, what if Latino students start complaining? Or Asian students? Every time a different ethnic or racial group protests I need to take another course about that group? Nonsense. Let them fix the American history class so that I get the info I need, instead of tacking extra courses on. I want to know the truth so find a text book that helps me learn in the first place.

Maggie: Well, I'm looking forward to the class. 


For the reading passage, it might be a good idea to simply talk about what is happening and why. ***So when you read, just read for what is happening and why.***

In this academic policy announcement from the Dean's Office, we learn that students, starting from this freshman class, will have to start taking an African American experience course. This is due to the fact that US history textbooks have neglected this topic and students need to know about what is causing current events.

Now transition into the listening section.

However, the male student in the dialogue strongly objects to this new policy initiative.

Now explain why he is upset.

First of all, he is upset because he perceives this new class to be politically motivated. He feels that the university is only trying to placate protesters. The university is not interested in providing the truth, but in making a group of trouble-makers happy. He implies that he is being forced to learn something only because of disruptive protests.

Secondly, he is concerned about the consequences of the university doing what protesters want it to do. He states that other ethnic or racial groups may also protest in order to change the curriculum. He asserts that the university should focus on the real problem instead: the US history text books. Instead of making him take another class, the school should find a history text that provides the truth.

Do you need a conclusion? Probably not (based on what I've seen elsewhere), but here's a quick one anyway:

Obviously the university is trying to address a controversial problem and this student's objection should be no surprise.


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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How to answer TOEFL speaking question 5

Example of a dialogue:

Maggie: Hey Joe, you look so tired.

Joe: I am. I can't get any sleep.

Maggie: What's wrong?

Joe: My dorm roommate asked me for a favor. He said his dad was coming to town to visit him and the dad didn't want to spend money on a hotel.

Maggie: So you agreed to let the dad sleep with the two of you in your dorm room?

Joe: Yes, for one week. He sleeps on a blanket on the floor in our room; we have the two beds. And he snores. He snores like a wild animal! In fact, I think he snores louder than a wild animal. He wakes me up 6 or 7 times a night with his loud snoring. I can't take it any more.

Maggie: Well, just buy some earplugs. It's only for a week. And, you promised to help. Sometimes helping a person requires a little pain and sacrifice.

Joe: I bought some but I hate wearing them at night. They feel so weird in my ears. I have a little trouble going to sleep with that stuff in my ears and then it's hard to hear the alarm in the morning.

Maggie: Well, you look terrible. You have bags under your eyes. You need to tell your roomie to have his dad spend money on a hotel room or you'll just report him to the school and get his dad thrown out. 

Joe: I can't do that. I am stuck with him as a roommate. I don't want to sleep in the same room with a guy who hates me. That would be hell. I need to come back to my room for peace and quiet, not conflict. 

Maggie: Well, do something because you look bad.


The key to answering a question number 5 is that both choices to solve the problem usually suck, but one choice is often slightly better than the other. Or, sometimes one choice is impossible and the only choice left sucks, but it is the only option.

In this case one choice is impossible: he can't offend his roommate because he lives with the guy. Therefore he cannot get the dad kicked out of the room or ask the dad to leave.

A good format to answer this type of question is: 

State the problem very simply.

State the two suggestions or options very simply (with no reasons)

State which option you'd choose and why (use reasons from the dialogue if you can)

State why you would reject the other option

Possibly make one concluding sentence or sentences

For example:

In this dialogue a student can't get enough sleep. As a favor, he has allowed his roommate's father to sleep for a week in their dorm room and the dad snores very loudly. The snoring wakes the student up a lot.

First his friend recommends that he should wear earplugs.

When Joe is hesitant to do this because earplugs are uncomfortable, she recommends that he simply ask the student to ask his father to leave, or he can report the dad to the school.

If I were Joe I would just wear ear plugs. After all, it is just going to be for a week and he promised the roomie he would help him. (notice you can often get your reason/s from the dialogue itself) Sure the earplugs are uncomfortable but he can sleep with them. He will just have to place the alarm closer to his bed.

Furthermore, the other solution is just a bad idea. He made a promise and if he backs out now his roommate will be very angry. If he reports the roommate to the school, this will create a horrible situation. 

In the meantime, if he suffers through this week, his roomie will really be happy and grateful to him. He just needs to suffer through this.