How your Grammar Will Be Evaluated on the TOEFL iBT: Part One

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The good news is that the TOEFL iBT does not have a “drill and kill” grammar section like the Paper-Based TOEFL. Nevertheless, your grammar will be evaluated by human raters in the independent and integrated speaking sections.

Grammar and Independent Speaking Section of the TOEFL iBT
On the independent speaking section, ETS (Educational Testing Service) states that you will need “good control of basic and complex grammar structures.” You ask, “But what is the difference between basic and complex grammar structures?” The following table divides the grammar into two categories:

Table: Examples of Basic and Complex Grammar Structures

Basic Grammatical Structures

Complex Grammatical Structures

Past, present, future, progressive verbs

Adjective clauses

Yes/No questions

Reduced adjective clauses with active and passive meanings

Wh-Questions

Noun clauses

Positive and negative statements

Reduced noun clauses

Expletives: There is/are; it is

Gerunds

Nouns (regular and irregular count and non-count) and pronouns (subject, object, possessives, reflexives)

Infinitives

Articles and prepositions

Adverbs clauses: cause-effect,

Comparative adjective and adverbs; other types of adverbs and adjectives

Adverb clauses: conditionals, wishes,

Regular and irregular superlatives

Connectives: contrast

Subject verb agreement

Connectives: cause and effect

Modals (necessity, lack of necessity, making suggestions, advisability)

Connectives: condition

Passive verbs

Time adverb clauses

In addition to having good control of basic and complex grammar structures, you will need to avoid errors which obscure meaning. However, you can make minor or systematic errors. The following examples will demonstrate the difference between the two.

An error which obscures meaning: The woman suggests that the student talk to a counselor. Then *he* tells the student to come to her office tomorrow afternoon.The speaker’s shifting from “the woman” to “he” makes it difficult to understand who is involved in the conversation.

Systematic error which does not obscure meaning: The woman *suggest* that the student talk to a counselor. Then she tells the student to come to her office tomorrow afternoon. Even though the speaker uses the plural form of “suggest” instead of the singular form “suggests,” it does not obscure meaning. And that the speaker may commit this error several times during the speech qualifies it as a systematic error.

Grammar and Integrated Speaking Section of the TOEFL iBT
On the integrated speaking section of the TOEFL iBT, ETS stipulates that you have “good control of basic and complex grammar structures that allow for coherent, efficient (automatic) expression of relevant ideas.”
To illustrate what this means, suppose that you are being asked to speak on a reading passage about a business concept called the law of supply and demand. Moreover, suppose that you are also asked to speak on a lecture which gives a practical example of how this concept is applied to a real-life situation. To begin you speech, you will need to create a topic statement connecting the two sources, thereby giving you an opportunity to use complex grammar to connect the two sources of information.
Therefore, in using a topic statement in response to the question, “How is the listening passage related to the information in the reading passage?” you may say something like the following: The reading passage discusses a business concept called the law of supply and demand, and the listening passage is related to the reading because it discusses a real-life example of the previously discussed business concept. As you can see in the example, the writer uses a compound/complex sentence to connect the two sources of information.

For more information, go here:

Michael Buckhoff’s “7 Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT

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