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понедельник, 22 ноября 2010 г.

60. Reflecting diplomacy in your TOEFL essay


In my previous post (#59) on my top twelve writing tips for TOEFL preparation, the issue of "presenting the balanced view" came up, and I would like to elaborate on that and invite your comments on the topic. To make my post more interactive and less boring, I would showcase a part of my student's essay and suggest one way of how you can express your view without being called an extremist.


Generally, TOEFL tests your ability not only to put words together into sentences and then into paragraphs, but also to express your point of view, and list effective arguments for or against it. Here is one of the easier topics that you may encounter in the TOEFL section on writing: "Some people prefer to live in a small town. Others prefer to live in a big city. Which place would you prefer to live in? "

Being cautioned against "taking extremes," my student takes the proverbial "middle-way" approach and structures her essay in the following way:

1) introduction
2) Paragraph 1: living in the city (in general: why do people prefer living in the city?)
3) Paragraph 2: living in the city (continuation, perhaps even to make the point stronger and bring in some new arguments)
4) Paragraph 3: living in the country (in general: why do people prefer living in the country?)
5) Paragraph 4: personal opinion (introduced in paragraph #5, perhaps to sound more diplomatic and less extremist)
6) conclusion (restating personal opinion again).

While including your personal opinion in paragraph #5 may seem like a very diplomatic way to present your case, the topic of the essay remains underdeveloped. For the sake of time, I am just going to post two paragraphs and comment on them:

Many people find it advantageous to live in a big city, while others find small towns more suitable for their needs. Living in big cities and small towns both have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Nowadays people choose to live in big cities for a number of reasons. The standard of living in big cities is considered to be higher than in smaller ones. First of all, it implies the high level of health care system that allows people to get quick and effective medical service. Secondly, there is a great variety of educational institutions where young people obtain profound knowledge and get competitive career opportunities. Besides, the job options in metropolitan areas are known to be to a much larger extent. [...]"

These are the first two paragraphs of the essay, however, there is still no personal opinion stated. This may raise the examiner's eyebrows. Introducing your point of view as early as possible is essential, but how can you do it? Here is an idea:

The option that you do not support must be included in a clause that starts with although, though. This usually makes your essay sound less aggressive, more fluent, and eloquent. You can also include negative aspects of your opinion into though-clause to validate or emphasize it.

Although a number of people are choosing a quiet life in the country, I find city life more exciting.

Although cities have a number of problems with transportation, I can commute easily to any part of town without looking for alternative transportation.

To see more of my comments on my students' blogs, click any of the blogs listed!

And, if you are serious about writing, consider taking OnlinEnglish penpal program. It's easy, cheap, and effective!