Michael’s TOEFL students take a writing practice test.

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Eager to complete the last assignment for Spring Quarter 2015, my TOEFL students came early to class today. No one knew what the TOEFL independent writing task topic would be until they arrived:

Some famous athletes and entertainers earn millions of dollars every year. Do you think these people deserve such high salaries? Use specific reasons and examples to support your opinion.

Several students who had a lot of TOEFL iBT writing practice were ready to improve their writing scores. Nicki, who had already proved herself with a coherently organized and well-polished essay from a previous writing practice test in the class, spent some time considering the writing topic, made a short list of supporting points, and then stated to write her essay. Faisal, who had a clear pattern of organization on the two previous writing assignments in the class, needed to spend more time polishing this essay, for he had considerable language use and grammar difficulties during his previous writing practice tests. Many of these problems problems could only be solved by getting more exposure to the language, perhaps by listening to the radio, watching news and documentary programs, talking with native speakers, and reading magazines, newspapers, and books each day for 30-45 minutes daily. Like Faisal, Su Jen, Tammy, and Meshal also needed more exposure to the language, and like, Faisal, they had all been practicing English a lot to get ready for this independent writing practice test.

Not only did these students want to improve their TOEFL iBT scores, but they also wanted to improve their academic writing proficiency so that they could begin their Master of Art programs in their respective disciplines: public administration, accounting, computer science, business administration, education, social work, and psychology. In effect, these students needed TOEFL iBT writing practice so that they could learn how to create and defend arguments by providing specific supporting details. They also wanted to learn how to coherently organize their ideas more effectively by 1) using transition words, 2) repeating and rephrasing key terms, 3) using determiners and pronouns, and 4) using parallel structures. Of course, by being more coherently organized in their ideas, these aspiring graduate students would improve their abilities to communicate more effectively, which in turn would help them to handle the many writing assignment that lay ahead in their academic futures.

At the end of class session, all students had posted and saved their writing practice tests online for Michael Buckhoff, their TOEFL iBT writing mentor. Once the practice tests were graded, Buckhoff would give each student a score, some recommended lessons to help each student to improve, and a model essay of how to answer the question.

To conclude this article, here is an sample unedited essay posted from one of his Online TOEFL Course students. The essay scored 3.75/5.0 or 24/30 points:

Nowadays, atheletes and entertainers earn more and more money than ever before. Typically, a famous one can earn millions of dollars every year. I am sure that some people would think they do not deserve such high salaries; others would disagree. In my opinion, famous atheletes and entertianers obviously deserve to get high salaries for two important reasons.

The first reason is they are talented and they have gifts. Undoubtedly, although we want and try our best, not everyone can play or perform as well as atheletes or entertainers. The one who would like to become either an athelete or an entertainer is a talent. For example, the most famous Vietnamese singer lives next to my house. Her annual wage is roughly 5 millions dollar per year. But, her daughter would not be able to sing as wonderful as her mom even though her mom teaches her every day. Besides, she indeed practices very hard. As you can see, they deserve to get high salaries since they are talented.

The second reason is they have short working age. Unlike engineer, pharmacist and most of other majors, an athelete and entertainer usually have short working age. For instance, David Beckham who is one of the most famous soccer player in the world had to retire at age of 32. He actually wants to play more, but he could not since he is not strong enough to play in 90 minutes per match. This experience taught me that they have high salaries since their working age is short.

In sum, I think that atheltes and entertainers deserve such high salaries though some people would disagree. Not only are they talented and they have gifts but also they have short working age. In my view, newspaper should not focus on how much atheletes and etnertainer can earn because it might cause people jealous with them.

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