How do I answer this TOEFL Integrated Speaking Task in 60 seconds?

The Integrated Speaking Task 6 can be challenging since TOEFLers are trying to summarize the information in 60 seconds. In fact, I got an e-mail today from a student who asked me how to summarize the below lecture in 60 seconds.

Lecture on Diamonds

Lecture Eighteen Diamonds

Diamond is the name given to the crystalized form of the element Carbon. Diamonds were formed under extreme heat and pressure at our Earth’s core. They traveled to the surface through volcanic pipelines known as kimberlite during the Earth’s formation. Due to their unique physical properties diamonds have been sought after by Kings and nobles throughout eons of time. The value of a diamond is determined by its exact quality as defined by the 4C’s: Cut, Color, Clarity and Carat-Weight.

The cut of a diamond refers to its proportions. Of the 4C’s, the cut is the aspect most directly influenced by man. The other three are dictated by nature.Quite often the cut of a diamond is confused with its shape. Diamonds are cut into various shapes depending upon the original form of the uncut diamond, which is referred to as “”rough.”” Whatever the shape, a well-cut diamond is better able to reflect light.

The best color is no color. Diamonds allow light to be reflected and dispersed as a rainbow of color. This light dispersion, or color flash, has no effect on the technical grading of color. The absolute finest colorless stone carries a D rating, descending through each letter of the alphabet to Z, designating a diamond of light yellow, brown, or gray. This body color may be caused by the presence of trace elements, such as nitrogen, within the atomic framework of the carbon crystal.

Almost all diamonds contain very tiny natural birthmarks known as inclusions. To determine a diamond’s clarity, an expert views it under 10 power magnification. In addition to internal inclusions, surface irregularities are referred to as blemishes. These two categories of imperfections-inclusions (internal) and blemishes (external)-make up clarity. The fewer the imperfections, the rarer and more valuable the diamond. Many inclusions are not discernable to the naked eye and require magnification to become apparent. A laboratory-certified clarity rating of SI2 represents the point at which inclusions are technically not apparent to the average naked eye.

Contrary to popular belief, higher clarity does not always mean more beautiful. If the inclusions are not visible to the naked eye, a higher clarity does not really improve the appearance of a diamond but rather the rarity and price. A higher clarity is more desirable and valuable, but knowing that you have selected the right clarity for the right reasons is most important. We recommend a clarity of SI2 or better.

Most people compare carat weight to size. The larger the diamond, the more it weighs. The weight of a diamond is expressed in carats. The word carat originated from the carob tree or Ceratonia siliqua. The tiny seeds of this tree are well known for their uniformity and consistent weight. Traditionally diamonds and gemstones were weighed against these seeds until the system was standardized, and one carat was fixed at 0.2 grams. One carat is divided into 100 points. A diamond weighing one quarter of a carat can also be described as weighing 25 points or 0.25 carats. Points are generally not used to describe weights over one carat.

To answer this question, the student sent me the following written response and admitted that he was not able to read the script in 60 seconds or less. The response is unedited to show some of the grammatical and word choice errors the student has:

It is learned that the value of diamonds is determined by cut, color, clarity, and carat.

First, it is mentioned that the cut is the characteristics most influenced by man. Also, the better the cut, the better the diamond is able to reflect light, which is why the cut makes the diamond more valuable.

The second characteristics which make a diamond valuable is its color. It is mentioned that a diamond with no color (rated as D) is considered the most valuable. As the colors go from light yellow to gray, the diamond rating changes from E to Z, with Z being the last valuable.

The third characteristics of a diamond are its clarity. The clarity is determined by diamond’s imperfections known as inclusions which can be on the outside or inside of the diamond. A diamond with little or no inclusions is considered more valuable. A rating of SI2 is recommended.

The last characteristic of a diamond is its carat size or weight. The larger the diamond, the more carat size it has. Carat originated from a type of tree, against which diamonds were weighed, with one carat being set at 0.2 grams. 

Indeed, when I read this response out loud, it took me 72 seconds to read it.

Student Response to Diamond Lecture

Therefore, I edited his response, took out some unnecessary words, and made some word choice and grammatical corrections.

Edited Version of the Student’s Response

The speaker in the lecture explains four characteristics which affect diamonds’ value.

First, cut, according the speaker, is most influenced by man. Also, the better the cut, the better the diamond is able to reflect light, which adds value. 

Second, color, the speaker explains, affects a diamond’s value, and ones with no color (rated as D) are considered the most valuable. As the colors go from light yellow to gray, according to the lecturer, the diamond rating changes from E to Z.

Third, the speaker asserts that clarity affects a diamond’s value and is determined by its inclusions. A diamond with few or no inclusions is considered more valuable. A rating of SI2 is recommended.

Finally, carat size or weight, with one carat being set at 0.2 grams, impacts the value of diamonds as well. For instance, the larger the diamond, the more carat size and more value it has.

This time, in my edited version of what the student wrote, I was able to complete the response in 60 seconds without being in a hurry. Pay attention to the pauses I was able to make.

Edited Response to Diamond Lecture



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