Use this integrated writing essay sample to practice your English reading, listening, note-taking, and writing skills
While studying the TOEFL Integrated Writing Task, I wondered if I could make a similar task using related reading and audio passages.
I didn’t have much success. It's difficult to find related selections, especially some that are short enough for the TOEFL time limits.
It helped me appreciate the effort it takes to develop the materials for a truly integrated writing essay task!
The best task I made is below. It’s good academic skill and timed essay practice. But it isn’t direct practice for the TOEFL Integrated Writing task.
I didn’t feel qualified to write related reading and writing selections at the exact TOEFL level myself. The selections I found are good, but the audio does not discuss the reading passage. They are worth thinking and writing as general essay practice.
If you want to write a timed essay, please read this whole section (without reading or listening to the linked passages) before you start the timer.
Treat the transcript of this TED talk by Bina Venkataraman as a reading passage, since the related passage is audio only. Read from 05:43- 07:15. That’s 267 words, well within the 250-300 word range suggested by the TOEFL task guidelines.
Then listen to just minutes 4:27-7:00 (2.5 min.) of Shamini Bini’s discussion (how cognitive bias affects our planning for the future). It’s right after paragraph 4 in this article on gaming human nature.
Locate the articles, a timer or stopwatch(online or off) and a way to write and take notes. Then read the writing prompt (instructions) below and start your timer. You have 20 minutes to read, listen, and write.
Instructions: Summarize the points made in the talk, noting their relation to the points made in the reading passage.
(This is different from most TOEFL Integrated Writing prompts. Here's a sample TOEFL task 1 prompt. “Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to explain how they oppose specific points made in the reading passage.”
The speaker in the task on this page does not oppose or even contrast her points with the points made in the reading. They are not connected at all.)
Once you have finished your essay, you can check my sample essay below.
Abbreviations I used in my notes (in case they’re not obvious):
• ‘prob’= problem here (Sometimes I use it for ‘probably’)
• ‘enuf’= enough
• ‘ea’= each
• ‘yr’ = year (I also use it for ‘your’)
• ‘Univ of Chi’= University of Chicago
• ‘prof’= professor (also could be professional)
• ‘fut’= ‘future’
• ‘co.’= company
• ‘>’= ‘less than/under’
When you take notes, use any abbreviations you know you will recognize. (That’s one good reason to practice note-taking in English. You will develop your own system.)
My actual notes:
prob: 40% workers in US—not saving enuf for retirement
“save more tom.”—ea yr
Richard Saylor, Univ of Chi. prof. Overcome cog bias by using them: fut, risk-averse, & inertia
Use those biases—start in fut, link to raises to limit loss aversion, & must opt out
took time, but when a co. willing to try, tripled savings rates in > 3 yr.
To help, must recognize our bias 1st.
How to get ppl 2 invest in long term values
Ans fr rdg: make it pay enough in pre
Ans spkr- use cog bias to help.
Integrated Writing Essay:
How can we solve long-term problems when people most easily pay attention to our immediate future?
One answer, according to BinaVenkataraman, is to look for solutions that not only resolve the most important long-term problems but also help us in the present. She gives the example of saving soil by producing longer rooted plants. However, farmers must also know they can sell these crops now.
George Washington Carver set the example. He encouraged poor farmers to grow peanuts, and he made them profitable by making products that used them. His purpose was not to just make a new crop, but give farmers one that would have the soil benefits of peanuts.
Another answer is suggested by the lecture. When University of Chicago professor Richard saylor wanted to help people save more for retirement, he realized he must make our cognitive biases work for us, not against us. So he designed a program that would start saving in the future, when people feel they will be more able. To avoid the risk aversion bias, he increased savings only when their salary went up, so it would not reduce the current amount of income to work with. Finally, to avoid the inertia bias, he made the program automatic, so people would be in it unless they opted out, rather than only starting IF they opted in.
When he was finally able to get a company to try it, they found the people in the program tripled their savings in under three years.
Conclusions: find win-win solutions that aren’t too difficult in the present but still offer great future gains, and work with our cognitive biases, not against them.
At 277 words, the essay I wrote is longer than necessary or recommended, but I was racing to write the key points.
When you compare your own essay, remember that I had three big advantages. I'm a native English speaker. I was already familiar with the ideas in the selections, and I have a spell-checker on my computer.
I also may have some disadvantages compared to you. I no longer can type well, and I hit a lot of wrong keys due to twisted fingers. The spell-checker is like a ‘handicap- accommodation' for that.
I was able to save almost a minute for last-minute correction of typos. (I saw two others—an uncapitalized name and two names run-together-- after the alarm went off! I left them, above, since this is an example of my actual test essay. Remember, the essay doesn't have to be perfect.)
It's most important that the essay answers what the instructions ask for. I did not address the prompt as well as I would like, but I did the best I could in the time allowed.
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