I want to offer some corrections to English Club’s article “TOEFL Practice Section 4: Writing.”
EnglishClub published some information a while back about the integrated and independent writing tasks on the TOEFL iBT. At one point, EnglishClub presents a model essay showing visitors how to write a coherently organized response to a reading passage about Pluto and how it lost its status as a planet. In addition, EnglishClub includes an audio file plus a transcript of a lecture which explains that not enough scientists were able to vote on Pluto’s planetary status, and, if they had voted, Pluto would still be considered a planet today. Hence, EnglishClub is showing visitors at its site how, as is often the case on this type of integrated writing task, they will be presented with a lecture which disagrees with the points mentioned in the reading passage.
My first suggestion concerns the introduction of the model integrated writing tasks that EnglishClub uses. Below is the introduction in its entirety in EnglishClub’s own words:
“Pluto lost its status as a planet in our solar system at the International Astronomical Union Conference in 2006. The decision has been wrapped in controversy ever since.”
Please note that this is the only time that EnglishClub does not use voice markers in this model integrated writing task to reference the information as either coming from the reading or listening passage. Students should know that even in the introduction for the integrated writing task that it should the clear from where the information originates.
Therefore, I would like to offer a revision of EnglishClub’s introductory paragraph that 1000’s of potential students may be reading on a weekly basis:
“The reading passage explains that Pluto lost its status as a planet in our solar system at the International Astronomical Union Conference in 2006, but, according to the speaker in the lecture, the decision has been wrapped in controversy ever since.”
In my revision of EnglishClub’s introductory paragraph, instead of using two separate sentences, I created a compound sentence using the coordinating conjunction “but.” Adding “but” is important because it shows how the lecture is refuting some of the points mentioned in the reading passage. In addition, adding “the reading passage” and “according to the speaking in the lecture” exactly identify the sources being summarized which help to forecast what happens in the body paragraphs of the essay.
In the third paragraph of the model integrated writing response, EnglishClub needs to clean up the following sentences which are incorrectly written:
“Technically speaking, many planets have asteroids as neighbors, therefore, they do not clear their orbit.”
In the above sentence, EnglishClub combines two separate independent clauses with a comma. This type of error is known as a comma splice, and students who complete the integrated and independent writing tasks need to demonstrate better control over how they combine sentences. There are several ways to revise the sentence structure error at EnglishClub’s web site:
1. Technically speaking, many planets have asteroids as neighbors; therefore, they do not clear their orbit.
In my first revision of EnglishClub’s sentence, I used a semi-colon, instead of a comma, to join the two closely related sentences together.
2. Technically speaking, because many planets have asteroids as neighbors, they do not clear their orbit.
In the second revision of EnglishClub’s sentence, I used the cause-effect subordinating conjunction “because” making the first part of the sentence a complex sentence and attaching it to the independent clause which comes after it.
3. Technically speaking, many planets have asteroids as neighbors. Therefore, they do not clear their orbit.
In the third and final example, I placed a period after the first sentence. Then the second sentence follows it.
I also have some editing suggestions for the model independent writing task regarding point of view and syntactic variety, but I will deal with those issues on another day.
The author of this article is Michael Buckhoff, the founder, owner, and materials writer for STEALTH, the Online TOEFL Course “The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT.” Unlike the services offered at EnglishClub, students who join his course are able complete integrated and independent writing practice tests on a daily basis, after which these TOEFLers will get qualified feedback from TOEFL writing specialists.