To score high on the TOEFL iBT speaking and writing sections, it is important to be concise, meaning you should eliminate redundancies, unnecessary repetition of words, empty or inflated phrases; furthermore, you should reduce clauses to phrases and phrases to single words.
Eliminate any Redundances:
Since there is no need to say something twice, it is important to get rid of any redundancies.
Redundant: John was employed and now works for the company Levis Strauss.
Revised: John now works for the company Levis Strauss. (“Now works for” implies that he was hired)
Redundant: Helen is a smart and intelligent woman.
Revised: Helen is a smart woman. (“Smart” and “intelligent” have the same meaning)
Avoid Unnecessary Repetition of Words
Repeating something twice may bore and seem awkward to a reader. Only in special cases of emphasis should a word be repeated. If there is a more concise way to express the idea, choose it:
Repetitious: Our student is a physically ill student today.
Revised: Our student is physically ill today.
Repetitious: Teachers have a responsibility to help students achieve better grades academically.
Revised: Teachers should help students improve academically.
Get Rid of Empty or Inflated Phrases:
Many phrases can be taken out with little or no loss of meaning. This is especially true with introductory word groups:
Empty phrase: It is my opinion that abortion should be outlawed.
Revised: Abortion should be outlawed.
Inflated phrase: In the event that there is an earthquake, you should hide underneath your desk until the shaking stops.
Revised: If there is an earthquake, you should hide underneath your desk until the shaking stops. Reduce Clauses to Phrases, and Phrases to Single Words:
To reduce wordiness, it is good to remember the following advice:
Do not use a dependent clause if a phrase will do.
Do not use a phrase if a word will do.
By finding opportunities to reduce clauses to phrases and phrases to single words, you will make your sentences more concise:
Wordy: We visited Washington D.C., which is the capital of the United States.
Concise: We visited Washington D.C., the capital of the United States. (Adjective clause has been reduced to an appositive phrase.)
Wordy: John’s stylish boots, made of crocodile skin, cost him an arm and a leg.
Concise: John’s stylish crocodile skin boots cost him an arm and a leg. (Participle phrase has been reduced to two words.)
Use Active Verbs:
In some cases, using a “be” verb is important in introducing an adjective or noun at the end of the sentence:
John was responsible for soliciting donations to the Chemistry Club.
Mark Jones is a History professor at the University of Southern California.
In other cases, using the “be” makes the sentence dull or wordy. In these cases, it is better if you use a more active verb which more descriptively states the action of the subject:
Wordy: Not listening to my father’s pleas to attend class, I was rebellious.
Concise: Not listening to my father’s pleas to attend class, I rebelled.
Wordy: The football game was electrifying to the spectators.
Concise: The football game electrified the spectators.
Now that you have read this blog, it is time to practice being concise in your speaking and writing. Practice these tips regularly so when you take the TOEFL iBT you will actually put into practice what you have learned. If you need a good starting point for some controlled practice being more concise, click here: Online TOEFL Course
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