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The TOEFL Integrated Writing Task

The integrated writing task is one of the more interesting parts of the TOEFL, because it gives you a chance to draw together information from multiple sources and synthesize it into one clear argument. It’s a more difficult task than the independent essay in most cases, but it’s also more engaging. The independent essay topics are necessarily simple—otherwise, you wouldn’t have time to answer the question fully. But with the integrated tasks, you have more information to work with, so you can deal with slightly more complex, academic topics.

Started the writing task

Before you write your integrated essay, you’ll read a paragraph and listen to a lecture excerpt. Both of them will deal with the same topic, although they will likely offer different opinions or interpretations of it. You’ll generally have about 3 minutes to read the topic, and the lecture will be about the same length. Needless to say, it will be very difficult to keep all that information straight in your head without taking notes. You will be able to view the reading passage while writing your essay, but if you have time in the three-minute reading period, you still should consider beginning to write down the key points from it for easy reference.

Remember: The Integrated Writing task is not about you

In the independent essay, you were asked to give your opinion of an issue. That’s not the case in the integrated task. As much as possible, keep your thoughts and opinions out of it; the questions are generally phrased in a way that encourages you to compare the resources you were given with little to no consideration for what you think. Any time you spend writing about your opinion is wasted time. Focus on the material that you heard in the lecture.

There are, naturally, several sample integrated writing assignments in the Official Guide. But if you don’t have the guide or want more examples, you can find them on the ETS website. If you want more detailed information about the structure of the integrated writing question, check out this document from ETS (or watch our Magoosh TOEFL writing lesson videos).

Keep it short

If you looked at the document I linked to above, you may have noticed this fact: “…typically an effective response would be 150-225 words.” That’s not much. It’s about as much as the first two paragraphs of this article combined. So from the beginning, set out with an idea of what you want to say and where you want to end up, and when structuring your essay, take the most direct route to get you there.