What three sentence styles should I use during the speaking and writing sections of the TOEFL exam?
Be sure to use these three important sentence styles during the TOEFL exam: simple, compound, and complex sentences.
- A simple sentence consists of one subject and one verb: John went to the store.
- A compound sentence consists of two subjects and two verbs joined by a coordinating conjunction: Lu Chen completed his TOEFL exam, and his friend took him to the airport afterward.
- A complex sentence consists of an independent and a dependent clause. This type of sentence uses a subordinating conjunction within a dependent clause: Even though it might rain today, the two teams will play their soccer match.
Why should I use these tips during the TOEFL exam?
Using these three sentence styles show that you
- Have syntactic variety.
- Know how to emphasize and de-emphasize information.
- Understand how to connect reading and listening passages.
How do I show syntactic variety in a TOEFL speaking or writing task?
Keep in mind a few tips for syntactic variety:
- Do not always place your subject first in the beginning of your sentences.
- Use longer sentences (20+ words) mostly with a shorter sentence (10-15 words) every now and then.
- Make sure not to heavily rely on a single sentence type such as simple, compound, or complex.
Observe the following paragraph which uses syntactic variety.
In addition to showing respect, good co-workers should share the burden with others on their team. To illustrate, I worked for a pharmaceutical company last team, and my team had to put together a presentation about a Covid19 Testing Kit that we wanted to sell to Walgreens and other distributors. Fortunately, all five of our team members spent equal time putting together the presentation so that no one team member would have to do most of the work. Each of us, therefore, spent approximately three hours putting the presentation together. However, if two team members had not worked on the presentation, that would have added an unnecessary burden to others in the group. Never in my life would I ever want a group member who did not share the job tasks with others on the team.
The above paragraph contains six sentences using the following styles: simple, compound/complex, complex, simple, complex, and simple with a subject-verb inversion after a negative adverb.
In what way can I use these sentence styles to emphasize or de-emphasize information?
On the one hand, during an independent writing task, you may want to de-emphasize a counterargument and to emphasize your own idea as you can see in the following example:
- Although some people prefer to take online courses, I prefer taking classes in person.
Notice how the writer de-emphasizes the couterargurment in a dependent clause or support idea. In addition, the writer emphasizes his argument in the independent clause or main idea.
On the other hand, you will want to equally emphasize points from a reading and listening passage during an integrated writing task. Showing equal emphasis will prevent an inherent bias that you might have. In this case, you should use a compound sentence to connect the most important points from a reading and listening passage.
- The reading passage explains three theories regarding the endangering of the arctic polar bears, and the speaker in the lecture casts doubt on each theory mentioned.
The writer connects two independent clauses (main ideas) with a coordinating conjunction. You should use this type of sentences an an introduction to your integrated writing task when you are taking the TOEFL iBT.
How do these sentence styles help me to organize information?
Like the previous example and in the below example, using a compound sentence can help you to show the relationship in an integrated speaking task.
- The reading passage discusses a concept in business called scope creep, and the professor in the lecture gives a personal example to further illustrate the idea.
The writer uses a compound sentence to show that the listening passage gives an example to further explain the idea of scope creep that is introduced in the reading passage. You should use this type of sentence as an introduction to a TOEFL integrated speaking task, especially for tasks 2-3.