Thursday, December 15, 2016

TOEFL speaking question #3 - sample

This sample is based on a situation which happened at an all-women's college in New York:

Notice from the Office of College Security Concerning Dorm Building Safety

As you may have read in the news, there have been two violent assaults against college-age women in our neighborhood within the past three weeks. In coordination with the Office of the Dean, the Office of Security is instituting the following changes within the dormitory system to ensure maximum security for all students of this college.

As has been the case, entry to the dorms will be allowed only if a student has a proper school ID. Visitors are welcome, but they must also show a valid form of ID (State ID or Driver's License or other University ID). The new policy will, however, involve visitors to the dorms. A visitor must now be met at the security desk by the person being visited. The time the person arrives and the time the person leaves will be recorded. Male visitors to our all-female campus must be escorted by a registered student or member of our community at all times. Again, male visitors must not be allowed to move about any of the dorm facilities unless they are escorted by someone from the college community. Unescorted male visitors may be removed from the premises by security and students responsible for these unescorted visitors can be disciplined with a fine or other measures.

We hope these new measures will help ensure maximum safety at our campus. We apologize for any inconvenience.


Meagan: Kelly, someone told me you got fined by the college. What happened?

Kelly: My boyfriend came over to visit. We were hanging out in my dorm room and, basically, at one point he left my room to go to the bathroom.

Meagan: But didn't you read the notice from Security? Guys can't walk about the dorms freely any more.

Kelly: Oh come on. He walked down the hallway to go to the bathroom. I am supposed to escort my boyfriend to the bathroom and stand outside waiting for him? How absurd is that? That is totally messed up. 

Meagan: I can see your point, I'm just wondering where the school needs to draw the line.

Kelly: Well they need to draw the line at what's reasonable and what isn't. They aren't doing that now. The bathroom is literally 10 yards from my room. Security acted as if he was a terrorist when they saw him walking back to my room. They grabbed him by the arm and took him to my room to see whether I knew him, then they wrote me out a ticket right there and then for $100. Why be so damn ridiculous? This was no big deal.

Meagan: Yeah, I have to admit it seems a bit excessive to bust a guy for going to the john. (explanation: 'going to the john' means going to the bathroom).

Kelly: Also, these frigging security guards have too damn much power now. They act like damn fascists. Yesterday I went down to meet my boyfriend at the security desk and the guard said, "Oh you're seeing him again tonight, huh?" I was so pissed off! This new system robs us of our privacy and allows these damn guards to act like our moral superiors.

Meagan: I agree. I'm glad I live off campus and don't have to put up with this crap. 

How does Kelly feel about the new security regulations at the dorms?


Sample Answer:

Due to a couple violent assaults against college-age women in the neighborhood. a college has changed its security policy for its all-female dorms. Basically, male guests must have a valid ID and must be escorted at all times in the dorms.

Kelly has just had a terrible experience because of this policy and is dead set against it. First of all, she doesn't think that the policy has a clear-cut line as to what is reasonable and unreasonable behavior. Her boyfriend was stopped and humiliated by security just because he went to the bathroom, which was only about 10 yards from Kelly's room. She feels it is ridiculous to punish her for something so minor.

Secondly, Kelly feels that this new policy is too invasive and takes away a student's right to privacy. Basically these security guards seem to be making inappropriate and rude comments to students based on who their visitors are and how frequently they come. Therefore they seem to be making moral judgments based on their belief, perhaps, that the students are having sexual relations with the guys they bring into the dorm. 

Clearly, the administration's desire to provide absolute security for its students seems to have some personal freedom glitches.

Monday, December 12, 2016

TOEFL Speaking Question #3 - Sample

A Notice from the Dean's Office:
The Office of the Dean wishes to announce that our university will now participate in Safe Space programs. A "Safe Space" is a place on campus where communities of agreement may meet without worrying about people of other opinions creating conflict or arguments. We are experimenting with these safe spaces since this seems to have become a trend on contemporary US campuses and the university administration has been approached by various student populations who wish for this program to exist. 
The point of a "Safe Space" is to ensure that like-minded individuals, or individuals of similar identities and experiences can come together in a space where self-respect and dignity are protected. If a Safe Space is violated, this will be considered a violation of the student code of conduct and severe disciplinary measures, including expulsion from school may result. 
To apply for a Safe Space for your group, please fill out a proposal form which can be obtained from the Dean's Office and submit it by December 1st for the opportunity to have a Safe Space by the January term. 

Now listen to a dialogue between two students as they discuss this Notice:
Barry: Can they do this? I don't think they can do this. 
Angela: Do what?
Barry: Did you read the Notice from the Dean? They want to create Safe Spaces on campus where you can't argue about things. Everybody who goes to the space has to have the same opinion ahead of time on the issue or topic or be from the same identity group or share the same experience. So if I create a group called "Polish guys who like cats" and some Russian guy who likes dogs shows up, I can have him thrown out of my Safe Space and get him into a lot of trouble.
Angela: Well, that's going to suck. What's the point of that?
Barry: I don't know, it sounds kind of stupid to me. But legally can they do this? Don't we have a right to disagree with people and to express that?
Angela: This is a private university, so the U.S. Constitution doesn't apply here. You are protected from the government taking your right to speak freely away, unfortunately, this university can definitely stop you from exercising your freedoms and rights. You basically lose all your rights when you agree to be admitted here.
Barry: It's stupid. What's the point of going to a university if you are not going to learn how to argue with civility or express opinions freely? We supposedly have a free country and my university doesn't seem to want to prepare me for it. Nuts.
Angela: I'm with you there. Such a nutty idea. Safe Spaces. Nuts.
Barry: Furthermore, these spaces aren't even necessary. Let's say that I have my Polish guys who like cats group and a Russian dog lover shows up and deliberately causes trouble. He doesn't just express an opinion, but he tries to cause conflict and trouble. We already have the right to call Security and get the guy thrown out. 
Angela: Yep, I hear you loud and clear. It's a really tragically stupid idea and probably people will wake up and realize this sooner or later.

What is Barry's attitude toward the Dean's Notice concerning Safe Spaces?
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.*** For this answer we also want to explain what a Safe Space is.

In this announcement from the Dean's Office, we learn that Safe Spaces on campus will be created. This is being done because it is a new trend around the US and various student groups have requested it.In a Safe Space, students who agree with each other or are like each other will not be bothered by people who are different from themselves or who hold different opinions.

Now transition into the listening section.

However, Barry, in the dialogue, strongly objects to this new program.

Now explain why he is upset.

First of all, he is upset because he feels students need to be able to argue well and to discuss important issues with civility. He believes that an important function of a US university is to provide this experience. Safe Spaces are not preparing students for a democratically free society in which people have to argue about issues.

Secondly, he believes that these spaces are totally unnecessary. As he points out, if someone deliberately disrupts a student meeting, that person can be removed by Security. So every student group is already protected and safe from uncivil conflict. 

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 this program as an experiment but both students express strong concerns that this program might be counter to legitimate educational purposes and restrictive of a type of freedom of speech which should be occurring on all US college campuses.

Do you like the Blues Brothers?

Funny video:

TOEFL Speaking Question #1 sample

What was the most difficult class you had to take in your school career and how did you get through it?

In this case, you really can't strictly use this formula:  Intro + Reason 1 + Example 1 + Reason 2 + Example 2. You will have to revise the formula somewhat.

Example answer:

Intro: Calculus was the most difficult course I took in college and I got through it by doing two things.

We will have to revise the reasons in this case to become reasons why the course was difficult, then our examples will be examples of how you overcame the obstacles.

Reason 1: This course was difficult for me because the professor was a non-native English speaker and I seriously could not understand half of what he said due to his accent.

Example 1: Therefore, I literally worked through each chapter of our text ahead of time so that I could better understand what he was writing on the board. Even without understanding his English, I understood the equations.

Reason 2: Furthermore, I have always felt that any math class was tedious and boring so it was hard for me to study for the tests.

Example 2: So I put together a weekly study group to help me go through the chapters and notes and tests and we had beer and chips and really enjoyed ourselves. Misery loves company, after all.

Conclusion: There are always ways to get around obstacles, you just have to be creative and maybe work a little harder.  


Yes, Daniel Gauss is probably the best TOEFL coach in this part of the universe outside of Uranus.

I love the music of Joni Mitchell - please enjoy this video: