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The TOEFL iBT® Test: Improving Your Writing Skills

Advice for Writing
Skill: Writing based on Reading and Listening
Performance Level: Fair
Score Range: 17–23

  1. Practice finding main points.
    • Ask a friend to record news and informational programs in English from the television or radio, or download talks or lectures from the internet.
      • Listen and take notes. Stop the recording about every 30 seconds to write out a short summary of what you heard.
      • Replay the recording to check your summary. Mark places where you are not sure if you have understood what was said or if you are not sure you have expressed yourself well.
      • Ask your teacher to review your summary to see if you have accurately understood what you listened to and if you have accurately expressed your understanding in English.
      • With a teacher or friend, listen to the recording again and pay close attention to the places where you had difficulty understanding.
  2. Read 2 short articles or essays that take related or opposite views on the same topic or issue.
    • Outline each text and compare the main points.
    • Write a summary of each one and have someone check your outlines.
    • Do another writing task in which you explain the ways in which these points are related, the ways they are different, or the ways in which one article supports the other or makes you look at the other in a different way.
  3. Read 1 lengthy article in English from a magazine or a website each day.
    • Outline the article.
    • Write a summary of it in English as quickly as you feel comfortable.
    • Ask your teacher to review your summary to see if your sentences are grammatically correct and if your sentences and vocabulary have accurately expressed the ideas from the original source.
    • If you are writing many short, simple sentences, try to combine related ideas into more lengthy, complex sentences.
  4. Read short but interesting academic articles in magazines and on websites in your own language each day.
    • Translate them into complex, accurate sentences in English.
    • Ask your teacher to review your translations for accuracy of content, vocabulary and grammar.
    • Learn to recognize common errors you make so you can correct these on your own.
  5. Practice combining information that you have heard and read in a written summary.
    • Read a text before listening to a talk on the same subject. Make a list of the similarities and differences of information presented.
    • Read an editorial on a subject. Then talk to someone about it and listen to what they say about the issues. Then write a summary of the different views.
  6. Get a book that teaches the different types of connecting words. These expressions show the relationship between sentences and paragraphs.
    • Know expressions that show
      • reasons (because, since)
      • results (as a result, so, therefore)
      • examples (for example, such as)
      • comparisons (in contrast, on the other hand)
      • a process or list (first, second, then)
      • conclusions (in conclusion, in summary)

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