Friday, March 24, 2017

Pieces of advice for the TOEFL speaking questions

For questions # 1 and #2

1) Your reasons should be as short as possible and not longer than a sentence. 

i.e. I go swimming in the summer because it is good for my health. Then: example. 
I also swim because it is a good social opportunity. Then: example.

Describe a common drink that you drink.
I drink tea because it is good for my health./ It is cheap. / It is stimulating. / It is a social custom in my country. (Short reasons)

2) Make sure your example is different from your reason. Some students just repeat their reason in different words. This does NOT work. You lose points by doing this. An example is different from a reason.

3) By the 25 second mark you should be switching to your second reason.

4) Keep your examples realistic and DETAILED.

For question #3

1) Identify what the reading passage is from: an announcement, a flyer, an email message sent by the professor, a letter to the school newspaper etc..

In this announcement from the university we learn that... 
In this letter to the school newspaper a student proposes that...

2) Be aware that something will be created, changed or eliminated according to the reading. You can use these verbs in your answer: In this memo from the Provost's Office we learn that the university is changing its policy concerning ____________. Now students will have to _____________.

3) When you talk about the reading, talk about what is happening and why. Do not talk about the reading for more than 15 or 20 seconds. You can talk about the reading in two or three short sentences.

4) Catch important verbs and key words in the dialogue that you can use in your answer

5) You can transition from speaking about the reading to speaking about the dialogue by saying: In the dialogue the male/female student agrees/disagrees with this __________________. First he/she says....

For question #4

1) Be able to define the topic of the reading in your own simple words. Use subject + verb + object if you can.

"In this academic reading passage we learn that ________ is a __________"
The professor gives 2 examples of this.

2) "When" is useful in defining a term. i.e. Mutualism is when two organisms help each other.

3) Listen for useful verbs and keywords in the lecture that you can use in your answer.

For question # 5

1) Identify which piece of advice sucks the least. Neither piece of advice is going to be a good piece of advice - they want you to think and so they give you two less than desirable pieces of advice. If one piece of advice is impossible, recognize that. Please, use common sense - one piece of advice is often impossible or really bad. Do NOT choose the worst piece of advice.

2) Learn how to use recommend and suggest properly

3) Do not say 'advices' - pieces of advice. Advice is uncountable.

4) State the problem + 2 pieces of advice + I think the student should....+ Further I would not recommend that....... Please study this:

For question #6

1) Determine the purpose of the professor's lecture PRECISELY. The purpose of this professor's lecture is to teach us two ways that plant/insect mutualism occurs. Don't say, This lecture is about mutualism. This shows that a student is lazy and sloppy.

2) The professor will give two examples of his topic. In each example there will be an explanation and after each explanation the professor will probably also give an example of the explanation. Get the explanation and the example and use them both in your answer.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Common Mistakes on the Integrated Writing Section

Here is an example of common mistakes that students make on the integrated writing portion of the TOEFL exam.  Please study this carefully. This is an essay from one of my students with my corrections.

The reading passage provided 3 ways to protect frog populations from decline and the lecturer criticized the practicality of those three proposals.
The student's essay with corrections:

The reading and lecture are both about protecting the frog population from extinction. 

NO!!!!!!! This first sentence is not true. The reading proposes three initiatives to stop the frog population from declining and the lecturer addresses whether each of these initiatives will be possible or practical. 

To say that both the reading and lecture are about ‘protecting the frog population from extinction', therefore, does NOT cover what is really happening. You have to be PRECISE on this exam. If you are sloppy or imprecise, you will NOT score high.

The author of the reading proposes three methods to deal with the declining population of frogs. The lecturer casts doubt on the methods mentioned by the author and believes that none of them will work. 

This STILL isn't good enough.  The lecturer does not say these methods won't work. She says these methods are, generally, impractical. These methods, in fact, DO WORK.

My suggestion for an intro: 

Protecting frogs and their habitats is essential for us since frogs help to eliminate harmful insects from human environments. Yet, just how to protect frogs is debatable. For example, in the reading passage we get three proposals as to how we can preserve frog populations. The practicality of these proposals is impugned, however, in the lecture.

First of all, the author points out that pesticides have a great impact on the declining population of frogs. It is mentioned that pesticides affect the nervous systems of frogs and lead to their deaths. It is also claimed by the author that if harmful pesticides are banned in the areas close to frogs the population of frogs can be protected from being harmed. The lecturer casts doubt on this claim. 

No she doesn’t!!!!!! She does NOT cast doubt on this claim. She does NOT say that pesticides do not kill frogs. She admits that pesticides DO kill frogs BUT she says it isn’t practical to stop using them. If they are not used, farmers will lose money. 

She thinks that prohibiting farmers from using pesticides would result in economical disadvantages. That is, if farmers do not use pesticides the amount of their crops will drop and they will not remain successful in a competitive market.

Secondly, the author suggests that anti-fungal treatment on a large scale should be used to deal with fungal infections in frogs. The author mentions that a fungus contributes to a declining frog population by dehydrating them. The lecturer rebuts this argument. 

No she doesn’t!!!!!!!! The argument is sound – if you use the anti-fungal treatment, you will cure the frogs. The problem is that this solution is also impractical to the lecturer. 

She argues that it is not practical to use such a treatment on such a large scale. Instead, the treatment would have to be given to one frog at a time, and this is absurd. She elaborates on this by mentioning that even if treatment is applied to the frogs, the offspring will not be affected; therefore the problem will still exist. 

Finally, the author states that we can protect frogs from extinction by protecting their habitats from specific human threats like excessive water usage. The article establishes that wetlands and water areas are the main habitats of frogs and they lay their eggs there so these areas must be protected from overuse by people.

The lecturer, on the other hand, posits that the draining of wetlands is not caused by people but it is a consequence of global warming. She puts forth the idea that we cannot slow down the declining population of frogs by protecting their habitats from human development but only by combating global warming.

Yes, the final two paragraphs hit the nail on the head and ring the bell. They are right on target. That's how to write for this test.