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How to Revise TOEFL Writing, Part 1

 
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In a recent post, I talked about revision priorities– which part of TOEFL writing you should focus on when you make revisions. Today, we’ll revise a sample essay.

As I mentioned in my last tutorial on this subject, revisions to TOEFL Writing responses should be made based on priorities. You want to revise the most important aspects of the writing first, and then move on to smaller “proofreading” errors (punctuation, spelling, grammar, etc…) if you have time.

What are the highest priorities (and lowest) when you revise TOEFL Writing?

ETS’s rubrics for TOEFL Writing have the same scoring priorities you’ll find in a regular college writing class. The “broader” aspects of writing– sometimes called higher order concerns (HOCs) are the most importnat and hold the most point weight.

HOCs include the introduction and conclusion, paragraph structure, transitions, arguments, and supporting details.

The official TOEFL Writing score guides put less importance on lower order concerns (LOCs) that don’t directly deal with the deeper structure and meaning of a Writing response. LOCs are things such as spelling, grammar, sentence structure, word choice, and so on.

A TOEFL scorer will only take away points for LOCs if these smaller mistakes are so bad that they “obscure meaning” or make your writing less clear. In other words, lower order concerns aren’t important in TOEFL writing unless they’re serious enough to noticeably impact the HOCs.

Sample TOEFL Writing essay, with errors that need revising

To give you an example of how these HOC/LOC priorities are used in revising an actual TOEFL essay, let’s take a look at the first two paragraphs of an example Integrated Writing. This response contains both high priority and low priority flaws. For now, we’ll focus just on higher order concern revisions, since it’s best to take care of the most important stuff first.

This example will be based on a model Integrated Writing response I showed you in an earlier post. But I’ve added in some errors and mistakes. (The original audio and reading passage for this task is here.)

TOEFL Integrated Writing essay, with mistakes and errors:

    The speakur correct the writing which say comics being as American origin, not world art. Although these writing has all scholars agree that comics are uniquely as unAmerican, the lecturer says that in modern times, nobodie’s agree that. antiquated the popular comic strips were not American. According in first century before the comic strip started USA, there are European comics popularity. The professor says too Hogan’s Alley, of the 1890s comic strip in American in the article, is not completely American because the people who were the auience not the Americans

What a mess! Admittedly, I’ve made a kind of extreme example–you may or may not make this many mistakes in your own practice TOEFL writing. But with all these writing problems, we can look at plenty of ways to improve this essay by applying HOC and LOC priorities.

Making the first TOEFL Writing Revisions

Factual inaccuracy is an especially high priority–if a TOEFL writer misstates the facts from an Integrated Writing prompt, their whole essay is wrong in a way that will really hurt their score. Incorrect facts are incorrect facts, even after they’re revised for clarity.

If you look back at the content of the original prompt, the lecturer doesn’t say that nobody (incorrectly written as “nobodie’s”) agrees with the claim that comics are uniquely American art form. The lecturer simply says that this belief about comics is much less common than it used to be. Additionally, the lecturer actually says that The Yellow Kid is not a fully American comic strip because the characters and author are immigrants who are not originally from the United States. The lecturer does not say that the audience (slightly misspelled as “auience”) of the strip was completely non-American.

TOEFL Writing revisions for factual accuracy (changes in bold):

    The speakur correct the writing which say comics being as American origin, not world art. Although these writing has all scholars agree that comics are uniquely as unAmerican, the lecturer says that in modern times, very few scholars  agree that. antiquated the popular comic strips were not American. According in first century before the comic strip started USA, there are European comics popularity. The professor says Hogan’s Alley, of the 1890s comic strip in American in the article, is not completely American because the people who were the creator of the comic and the characters in the comic were immigrants.

Notice that with these HOC corrections, a few errors in lower order concerns are eliminated. The misspelled and mis-punctuated word “nobodie’s” is eliminated, and the phrase ” the auience not the Americans,” which contains mistakes in spelling, punctuation and grammar is also completely removed.

Next, we’ll look at three more higher order concerns that are closely related– introduction, paragraph structure and transitions. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post, where we will finish off our HOC revisions. And in part 3, we’ll start dealing with the LOCs.

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