TOEFL iBT Integrated Writing: Ten Questions (And my answers!)

By E-mail, through Blog posts, or during class, I have gotten quite a few questions regarding TOEFL iBT integrated writing. This blog post contains answers to those questions.

1. Question:   What is the integrated writing section of the TOEFL iBT?

Answer:  During the integrated writing task, you will read a 400-500 word passage and then listen to a 3-4 minute lecture, after which you are given a 20 minute writing task.  You are asked to show the relationship between the two sources.

2. Question:  How is the integrated writing task scored?

Answer:  Your integrated writing task will be scored according to a range of 0-5 points, with 5 being the highest.  At least two human raters will score your writing task, and your score will be averaged with your independent writing task.  The average of your integrated and independent writing task will be converted into points from 0-30, with 30 being the highest.  For example, if your score on both writing tasks is 5,  your score will be converted into 30 points for TOEFL iBT writing.

3. Question:  How do I score high on this writing task?

Answer:  Good question! You need to be a good writer in that you need to have a coherent organization, including a sharply focused thesis and topic sentences and using important supporting information, all in the context of a summary.

4. Question:  What do you mean when you say that I need a coherent organization?

Answer:  A coherent organization means that your thesis statement, topic sentences, and supporting details need to connect together.

5. Question:  How do I create a thesis statement for this type of writing task?

Answer:   Your thesis statement should restate the question being asked.  For example, if you are asked, “How is the information in the listening passage related to the information in the reading passage?” you could restate this question in the following way:  “The topic of the reading passage is……, and the listening passage is related to the reading passage in that it……..”  Using this type of thesis statement allows you to discuss the main points of the reading passage in paragraph two and to discuss the main points of the listening as well as how it relates to the reading passage in paragraph three.

6. Question:  I think I am beginning to understand, but it is this relationship between the listening and the reading that I am having difficulty understanding. What types of relationships between the listening and the reading should I look for?

Answer:  Now you are really getting into the little known secrets of how to score high on the the TOEFL iBT integrated writing task, for, if you do not explicitly state the relationship between the two sources, you will not be able to score high.  Sometimes, the  listening passage presents a specific example to support the information in the reading passage. In other cases, the information in the listening passage may present contradictory information which disagrees with the information in the reading passage.   Finally, the information in the listening passage could give a cause or effect of what was discussed in the reading passage.  Therefore, whether the information in the listening  exemplifies, contradicts, or explains a cause or effect relationship to the reading passage, you are expected to name that relationship in the first paragraph in your thesis statement.

7.  Question:  Let’s say the information in the listening passage gives a specific example to support the information in the reading passage. How would I create a thesis statement to show that relationship?

Answer:    To help you understand this important concept of  framing your thesis around the writing task and explicitly showing the relationship, imagine that you are asked to read a passage about communism.  Shortly after that, you listen to a lecture about how communism was practiced in Russia before its collapse.   Obviously, the first thing you have to do is to identify the main idea of the reading passage (i.e.,  communism), and the second thing you need to do is to identify the main idea of the listening (i.e., an example of how communism was practiced in Russia).   Then, you would create a thesis sentence combining the information from the two sources:  “The main idea of the reading passage is communism, and the information in the listening passage supports the information in the reading passage in that it gives a specific example of how communism was practiced in Russia.”

8.   Question:  Wow!  I see what I need to do, but the grammar you are using is complicated.  Is there an easier way to show these connections between the two sources?

Answer:  Yes there is, but you need to be able to use advanced grammar structures if you want to score high on the TOEFL iBT.  As such, you should practice taking notes from reading and listening passages and then using appropriate grammar to combine the information from the two sources.

9.  Question: You mentioned something about summaries, or summarizing, or something about being in the context of  a summary.  What do you mean exactly?

Answer:  When I use the phrase “all in the context of a summary,”  I am emphasizing what the purpose of the integrated writing task is, namely to identify the main ideas and critical supporting points of the reading and listening passages.  You should not include your personal opinion, you should not change the meaning of any important information, and you should not include minor details.

10.  Question:  Great advice!  Do you have  a final tip you would like to give me concerning TOEFL iBT integrated writing?

Answer:  Yes, as you summarize the information in the reading and listening passages, make sure that you use your own words.  If you choose to use exact sentences from the sources, you should use quotation marks.  If you do not follow this advice, the TOEFL iBT human raters have been instructed to give you a score of zero.

For more information, go to http://onlinetoeflcourse.com

Michael Buckhoff, mbuckhoff@aol.com

4 thoughts on “TOEFL iBT Integrated Writing: Ten Questions (And my answers!)

  1. Interesting take on the integrated section. As a rater, I can really see that most people teaching ibt, don’ t really know what goes into the grading. The books too show this.

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