Note-Taking and Organizing Your Answer in TOEFL Integrated Writing

The TOEFL Integrated Writing Task can be tricky. The passage and the lecture are both fairly complex, and they contradict each other.

There’s a lot of important information to be found between the reading and the lecture that challenges parts of the reading. You need to make sure you notice, record, and correctly recall the key points. The trick here is to know what to expect in the reading and what to listen for in the lecture that comes after it.

Reading passages in the Integrated Writing Task always have three main points. In turn, the lecturer you listen to will always challenge those three main points with three counterpoints. Be sure to mentally note the three main assertions in the passage—and perhaps write them down in the form of very short, simple phrases. (Heavy note-taking on reading can distract you and slow you down, so keep any reading notes as brief as possible.)

Once you’ve identified the three main ideas in the reading, you’ll be very prepared to listen to the lecture. You’ll know what to listen for—points the professor makes that are directly connected to the main ideas from the passage. Only take notes on points from the lecture that are directly comparable to the reading. The professor may also say a few things that don’t directly connect to the reading passage—these are things you can ignore.

Stay focused throughout the task. Understand that TOEFL Integrated Writing focuses on how the lecture challenges points in the reading, not on the ways in which the professor may agree with the author.

So mentioning agreements is less essential to the task… but it can be useful. Including the instructor’s occasional agreements with the author (if there are any) can give a more complete picture of how and why the professor is challenging the author’s points.

But again, mentioning the agreements is not the most essential part of the task. Unless you add this kind of extra information carefully, you risk running out of time or creating a disorganized, unfocused essay. Mention the times the professor agrees with the passage only if you feel you have the time and skill to incorporate these extra ideas into your essay successfully.

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  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he's helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master's Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he's presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!