Common Qs

Your Common TOEFL Writing Questions back to top

 

Question 1:

 

1) Does the professor always contrast the reading passage?

2) Can I write one paragraph about the reading and one paragraph about the lecture?

3) Do I need a conclusion paragraph?

4) If I miss details from the lecture, can I just include more details from the reading?

5) Do I have to take notes; if so, how can I improve note-taking?

6) Can/Should I paraphrase the materials in my essay?

 

Question 2:

 

7) Did the question types and/or topics change?

8) If the question asks me to choose 1 out of 2 or 3 options, can I discuss both or all options?

9) I can't think of examples; how do I do this?

10) Why do I have to tell the truth in my examples?

11) Do I have to use two reasons and examples?

12) Is it okay if I write 3 body paragraphs instead of 2?

13) Do I need a conclusion paragraph?  

14) How do I use or modify NoteFull's template for this question?

15) How do I structure an advantage/disadvantage question?

16) How do I structure a compare/contrast question?

17) How can I expand my word count?

18) How can I improve my typing speed?

  

Your Questions Answered back to top

 

1) Does the professor always contrast the reading passage?

 

This is a great question and one that frequently comes in. Some TOEFL preparation materials provide Writing Task 1 examples in which the lecture agrees with the reading passage. However, rest assured, we have never seen this question type on the TOEFL.

 

First, think about it logically: this sort of task simply would not make sense, nor would it be a very big challenge. This is because you would simply be reiterating or repeating back what the reading passage states. If the professor agreed with the passage or if he simply provided the same information in his lecture, you'd then be able to just copy and model the article entirely to create your essay; the lecture would be unnecessary in this instance. Therefore, please continue to use the strategy you've learned with NoteFull. The professor will ALWAYS present contrasting or different information.

 

I hope this puts your mind at ease and helps you move forward, but if you're looking for some excellent practice, here's a link to register: Complete TOEFL Mastery

 


 

2) Can I write one paragraph about the reading and one paragraph about the lecture?

 

Unfortunately, while some preparation materials suggest this, this is not a very good idea. In English Academic essays, we organize content into paragraphs. Each paragraph should contain one topic. So, when writing this essay, we recommend that you discuss one topic per paragraph, rather than dividing your paragraphs by the source of the content (i.e. reading and lecture).  

 

Also remember, ETS is measuring your ability to contrast two sets of information. Our template will help you construct an essay that does this easily and clearly. Follow our guide to the best of your ability and let us know if you have any questions. Best of luck!

 


 

3) Do I need a conclusion paragraph?

 

With Question One, you'll have little time to include a formality like a conclusion paragraph. We recommend that you skip writing a conclusion. Adding one won't earn you more points, and essentially, using your time to improve the content, clarity, grammar, spelling, and mechanics in your body paragraphs is a much better use of your time.

 


 

4) If I miss details from the lecture, can I just include more details from the reading?

 

You can, but this will, unfortunately, not help you boost your score. The goal here is to provide a complete contrast. However, the lecture is most important. Remember, the question is always centered around the lecture and how it casts doubt on the reading.

 

Ultimately, if you're having trouble catching details in the lecture, this can mean you need help with listening comprehension or note-taking skills. 

 

If you're registered and you're still struggling, keep working the "Great Notes" section in Step Three. This will be a great help if you keep working with repetition. 

 

If you're not registered, we encourage you to take a look at the following system: Complete TOEFL Mastery. Don't continue to struggle on your own; if you need the help, NoteFull is here for you.

 


 

5) Do I have to take notes; if so, how can I improve note-taking?

 

Note-taking is probably one of the most difficult tasks to improve quickly because there are so many different elements involved:

 

With note-taking we are using our comprehension skills.

We have to learn to write fast, but also write clearly. 

We must write down meaningful words and content that will help us answer the questions.

We also have to be careful with how we organize and structure our notes. 

 

These are probably some of the major reasons why students often write in to let us know that they prefer NOT taking notes. However, if you hope to get the highest score possible, you should learn to master effective note-taking (if you're taking the TOEFL to get into any sort of academic program--consider this as preparation for your university classroom, too!).

 

To improve, we strongly urge you to register for a system that includes our awesome "Great Notes" cycle of improvement. Any system that includes 3-steps of listening, speaking, or writing will come equipped with this powerful improvement tool. Here is a great system to help you get started: Complete TOEFL Mastery

 

If you're registered and you're still struggling, please let us know what step of the "Great Notes" cycle has been giving you the greatest difficulty. We'd be glad to clarify it for you. You may also consider tutoring; in a session, our instructors are trained to help you find the precise reason you're struggling with note-taking. We'll be here to help you every step of the way!

 


 

6) Can/Should I paraphrase the materials in my essay?

 

This is a great question. Knowing what to write or speak about can be a great source of confusion for students. 


We, at NoteFull, recommend that you avoid paraphrasing your content. In an academic setting, we usually have the time and freedom to show our originality and creativity. Also, we also learn to be cautious about using someone else's words without citations; plagiarism is a big concern in academia. However, with the TOEFL, this is not something you should worry about. Here, it's important to apply strategies that will help you maintain accuracy and precision in your spoken and written English, under tight timed conditions. Therefore, you should always use the passages you read and the lectures and conversations you hear as a direct source when writing your notes. And you should use those notes as a direct source to build your essays. This will not hurt your score, but will instead help you maintain accuracy. The TOEFL raters will not be looking for originality, and so it is our recommendation that you simply use the subjects, verbs, and objects you hear and read to create your responses. 

 


 

7) Did the question types and/or topics change?

 

We get this questions a lot from our students. The important points to always know about question 2 are as follows:

 

1) The questions will always ask about familiar topics. This means that the subjects will be every day topics like sports, transportation, education, technology, and so on. An unfamiliar topic would be something like biology or architecture. 


2) The question task never changes, but the way the task is framed may vary. For example, in 2007, they might have asked you:

 

If you could make one important change in a school that you attended, what change would you make? Use reasons and specific examples to support your answer.

 

However, in 2014, they may ask you:

 

If your university decided to use this year's donations to make one major improvement, in which of the following ways do you think your university should use its money: an updated library, an olympic-sized swimming pool, or a new technology lab? Provide reasons and specific examples to support your answer.

 

As you can see, the topic is still familiar; the task is still the same. However, the wording has changed. While the length has also increased in the second question, it's still essentially asking the same question. In short, the way they frame the question is a bit different at times. Don't let this alarm you if you see this on the test. Focus on the key points from the question and continue to use the great strategies you've been mastering so far.

 

3) Sometimes we'll see new trends in the question format like the one mentioned above. What we're seeing now may change next year, so if you think you're seeing a new trend, don't panic! Let us know and if there's any way to help you modify your response structure, we'd be glad to point you in the right direction.

 


 

8) If the question asks me to choose 1 out of 2 or 3 options, can I discuss both or all options?

 

You can answer the question in any way you'd like. There is no right or wrong answer for this task. However, NoteFull teaches all students to simply choose one of the provided options. In a standardized test like the TOEFL, you already have a lot to worry about. So, don't stress yourself out any further! Just select one option and move forward. Also, as a side note, don't worry about whether selecting one answer over the other will make you appear more favorably. An ETS grader will not grade you on your opinions and ideas--only the way you structure and communicate them through the written form. Good luck!

    


 

9) I can't think of examples; how do I do this?

 

This is a common concern for a lot of students. If you're registered, please take advantage of the content in Step One and also remember to visit the Common Mistakes page for a video on coming up with examples. 

 

If you are not registered, we strongly recommend that you do so to ensure you receive as much help as possible. Please click on the following link for more details: Complete TOEFL Mastery

 

For some fast help, take a look at the following explanation:

 

It's actually impossible not to have an experience to relate. Let me give you an idea. I answered this question during tutoring with a student a short time ago that really helped illustrate the idea. Let's say that you get a question that asks you this:

 

Would you rather live on Mars or Jupiter?

 

Have you ever lived on Mars or Jupiter? No, no one I know ever has and I don't know any aliens who did. But, if you get this kind of question and you follow what we teach, you will be able to answer it easily. Let me give you the idea.

 

In my view, living on Mars would be better than Jupiter for 2 reasons.

First, it's closer to Earth.

For example, I remember when I was in elementary school, I learned about the planets. I had to build a little diagram showing where they were and I still remember that Mars was closer than Jupiter and I would like to stay close to Earth.

 

 

Though I didn't live on Mars that didn't stop me from coming up with a real experience and referencing it. You don't have to have a perfect example for the question. You just need to refer to something from real life. Don't forget that the only reason we do this is that if we remember something, it's easier to talk about, our vocabulary is better, it's asked for in the question, and we will avoid repetition. It's critical to do this to get the highest rating possible on questions 1 and 2.

 

I hope that helps and if you have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask. We're here to help the best that we can. Also, stay strong and focused in your studies. It will all get easier soon.

 


  

10) Why do I have to tell the truth in my examples?

 

For those of you who have had a tutoring session or a review with NoteFull, our master instructors will all tell you "tell the truth in your examples." Even though many of you have learned this, we still see students making up false stories in their responses. This is something you MUST stop doing today if you want to get the highest score possible. Why? It's simple. If you make up a fake story in your example a grader will notice! Here's how: 

 

1) When students make up a story, they often hesitate--hesitation or a lack of fluency, smoothness, and speed is a surefire way to earn a "fair" score.

2) When students create content, they often repeat themselves--repetition or not using a wide range of vocabulary will hurt your score. 

 

So, when we tell you to be honest, this isn't because the grader is going to consider whether you're telling the truth or not. Remember, the TOEFL is not a test of your ability to tell the truth, but a test of your ability to speak clearly, fluently, and to use a wide range of vocabulary.

 


 

11) Do I have to use two reasons and examples?

 

We strongly urge that you use two part answers. This may mean that you provide two reasons and two examples, one reason and two examples, two characteristics plus a reason and example for each, or two pieces of advice plus a reason and example for each.

 

NoteFull recommends this because when you divide your answer into two parts, you will have a better chance at providing a wider range of vocabulary and you'll (ideally) limit your repetitions.

 

You can respond however you'd like with whatever structure you feel comfortable. Remember, NoteFull's strategies are not rules, but ways to help and guide you. Ultimately, you should use what helps you earn your score. Just remember though, these strategies have been tried and tested and they get results. So again, we hope you'll try your best to master the two-part answer strategy. Don't give up; mastering strategies can take time. We'll be there to help you through it.

 


 

12) Is it okay if I write 3 body paragraphs instead of 2?

 

While a 5-paragraph essay is an acceptable way to structure your response (and is often taught as standard, academic structure), we would strongly urge you to build two powerful paragraphs instead of three.

 

When you shoot for three paragraphs, there's not as much time to develop your ideas and thoughts, which translates into weaker vocabulary and grammatical structures. When you write two paragraphs you will naturally be forced to use a variety of phrases, expressions, structures, and vocabulary. So, in short, you can of course write a 5-paragraph essay--there is no rule against it--however, for the highest score possible, we strongly recommend a 4-paragraph essay. Best of luck!

 


  

13) Do I need a conclusion paragraph?

 

We urge you to conclude you Question Two essay. It provides a strong cap to your entire essay. Also, it helps you demonstrate that you understand how academic writing functions. When you don't have a conclusion, you may not lose a tremendous amount of points, but you may not necessarily earn the highest score possible. Try to learn to manage your time so that you are able to conclude. Good luck!

 


  

14) How do I use or modify NoteFull's template for this question?

 

Many people encounter NoteFull by our famous YouTube videos. In those videos, we provide a very practical and basic structure to follow for each question type. Because the tasks change slightly, you may find that the language you use can also vary slightly.

 

For those of you who are already registered, you will notice that we've provided a wider variety of tasks and ways to modify the structure in Step One of your writing system. If you're registered, please visit Step One for further details.

 

For those of you who are unregistered, we strongly recommend that you do so. You'll find more extensive help that goes beyond what you've seen on YouTube. Please click on the following link for more details: Complete TOEFL Mastery

 

When in doubt, the best way to learn is to try it out on your own rather than asking us to create a model answer for you. Create a response with your question by using or modifying our template on your own first. You're more than welcome to send it to us for some feedback. We'd be glad to let you know if you're on the right track.

 


  

15) How do I structure an advantage/disadvantage question?

 

This type of question is rarely seen on the TOEFL these days (if at all). However, if to help you prepare, here's a quick tutorial and template to guide you:

 

Introduction

 

Step 1, 2, and 3 are the same as in the system. Step 4 is different: though both sides have their own advantages, in my view, my side is the best.

 

Body paragraph 1

 

Give an advantage of one side with an example.

Give an advantage of the other side with an example.

 

Body paragraph 2

 

Give a disadvantage of the side that you don't agree with.

Give another advantage of the side that you do agree with

 

Conclusion

 

Restate the advantages of both from your first body paragraph.

State how your side is better because it avoids the disadvantage of the other side and has an extra advantage.

Leave the reader with your final comment. 

 

It is a bit of a tougher question, but that's a clear and direct way to attack it. We hope that helps clear up any confusion and gives you a solid structure to follow in case you have a question like that. We are here to help if you are still having trouble adopting this structure. 

 


  

16) How do I structure a compare/contrast question?

 

Again, this type of question is rarely seen on the TOEFL anymore. However, if you do encounter this question type, it will require a bit of adjusting. First, remember that earning a great score is all about the answer and not the question. So, keep the general structure of your answer that you've already learned but adjust it to be direct to the question. Here's an example:

 

In my view, A is better than B.

Both help you because they both . . . for example, . . .

However, A is better because . . . for example, . . .

That's why I prefer A.

 

As you can see, we've kept the general structure but adapted it to the question. I hope that helps. If not, let me know; we're here to help the best that we can. Good luck with your studies and great question again.

 


   

17) How can I expand my word count?

 

One of the major concerns we see with students who are trying to improve their writing scores is with word count. Word count is not the most important factor in determining your score, but it is weighed heavily. Most students agree, initially, that typing up to 400 or 500 words can be tricky. 

 

If you're registered, please refer to Step One and "Top Content" in Step Three. You'll find a lot of good strategies and help there. 

 

If you're not registered, but you're still struggling, now's a great time to consider a NoteFull system. You'll learn a varitiety of strategies to increase your word count and precisely how to do it. Here's a link to get started: Complete TOEFL Mastery

 

For some quick help, remember to always:

 

1) Relate a personal experience. If you do this, you'll be able to include so much more detail.  

2) Relate an experience through time. This means your experience should have a beginning, middle, and end.

3) Walk your reader through the experience. 

4) Spend a good deal of time explaining the connection to the answer in your example. 

 

If you follow these tips, you should be well on your way to boosting your word count. Best of luck!

 


  

18) How can I improve my typing speed?

 

Typing accurately at a strong, consistent pace can be a great help to students who make typing errors or are having trouble increasing their word count. Here are four steps you can work through to improve:

 

1) Measure your current speed:

 

Typing Speed Test

 

2) This will teach you how to use proper hand and finger placement. It uses some great drills to help you improve.

 

Typing Tutor

 

3) Here is a link to access some games that will help you test your typing abilities (there are 6 specifically designed for typing):  

 

Typing Games

 

4) Improve your speed using the links below:

 

Rapid Typing

Type Racer

 

As a final tip, remember to work through these provided links and activities as a cycle. Continue to loop through all steps as a way to get better and better with each attempt. Good luck!

 

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Pavan wrote on Thursday October 2, 2014 7:47am
I am not able to draw reasons from the article in writing task 1..... How to compare them with the professors statements... Actually not able to draw any conclusions how to tackle with the task.. Help me out..