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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.)

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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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4 Responses to Note-Taking and Organizing Your Answer in TOEFL Integrated Writing

  1. Kamal March 30, 2016 at 5:53 am #


    Is there any form of a perfect writing answer on which we can build our practices?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 30, 2016 at 8:49 pm #

      That’s a really great question, Kamal. The answer to this is yes… and no.

      Yes, there are examples of perfect and near-perfect answer templates, and you can use key phrases and other structural features from these templates in your own answers. Magoosh offers a helpful set of TOEFL Writing templates here.

      But in a way there is no one perfect writing answer. There are a lot of tips and tricks for writing a good TOEFL response, but every student has a different style and makes different decisions. And while templates can be helpful, it’s certainly possible to write a top-scoring TOEFL essay without using any of our templates.

  2. Lana A Al-azzawi November 10, 2016 at 11:55 am #

    I keep scoring 22 in my writing section. Till today I don’t know what am doing wrong. I did read your notes besides other notes. However, I still Don’t know what am missing to keep scoring 22!
    I only need 24 to pass. I already passed my total score that required by the board of pharmacy. But keep repeating TOEFL just because of the writing section.

    • David Recine
      David Recine November 13, 2016 at 5:15 pm #

      I’m sorry you’ve been having such frustrating experiences with the TOEFL Writing Section, Lana! 🙁 Many factors contribute to your TOEFL Writing Score. To get a feel for why you might be getting a 22, carefully read the official TOEFL Writing Rubrics. (If you haven’t done so already.)

      When your TOEFL Writing score gets “stuck” in this way, it also may be worth our while to do a few tutoring sessions with a real TOEFL tutor. This doesn’t necessarily cost a fortune. There are many sources for affordable TOEFL tutoring online, and offline too. And for free help from real human beings, you may also want to share some of your practice TOEFL essays on some TOEFL Forums.

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