• EMPOWERgmat Slider
    1 Hour Free
    BEAT THE GMAT EXCLUSIVE

    Available with Beat the GMAT members only code

    MORE DETAILS
    EMPOWERgmat Slider
  • Magoosh
    Magoosh
    Study with Magoosh GMAT prep

    Available with Beat the GMAT members only code

    MORE DETAILS
    Magoosh
  • PrepScholar GMAT
    5 Day FREE Trial
    Study Smarter, Not Harder

    Available with Beat the GMAT members only code

    MORE DETAILS
    PrepScholar GMAT
  • Economist Test Prep
    Free Trial & Practice Exam
    BEAT THE GMAT EXCLUSIVE

    Available with Beat the GMAT members only code

    MORE DETAILS
    Economist Test Prep
  • e-gmat Exclusive Offer
    Get 300+ Practice Questions
    25 Video lessons and 6 Webinars for FREE

    Available with Beat the GMAT members only code

    MORE DETAILS
    e-gmat Exclusive Offer
  • Kaplan Test Prep
    Free Practice Test & Review
    How would you score if you took the GMAT

    Available with Beat the GMAT members only code

    MORE DETAILS
    Kaplan Test Prep
  • Varsity Tutors
    Award-winning private GMAT tutoring
    Register now and save up to $200

    Available with Beat the GMAT members only code

    MORE DETAILS
    Varsity Tutors
  • Veritas Prep
    Free Veritas GMAT Class
    Experience Lesson 1 Live Free

    Available with Beat the GMAT members only code

    MORE DETAILS
    Veritas Prep
  • Target Test Prep
    5-Day Free Trial
    5-day free, full-access trial TTP Quant

    Available with Beat the GMAT members only code

    MORE DETAILS
    Target Test Prep

Writing tips/templates

This topic has 1 expert reply and 29 member replies
Goto page Next
DanaJ Site Admin
Joined
01 Jan 2009
Posted:
2567 messages
Followed by:
550 members
Thanked:
711 times
GMAT Score:
770

Writing tips/templates

Post Tue Feb 02, 2010 4:28 pm
As mentioned in my review of my test day experience, here are some tips that I’ve collected throughout my preparation for the writing bits of the Test of English as a Foreign Language.

The writing part is the last section of the TOEFL. It has two essays: the integrated task (because you need to combine reading, listening and writing to solve it) and the independent task (you are given a statement and are asked to comment). The fact that you are required to write two essays after having spent hours on end on a chair, trying to focus on the screen, does not make it easier for you to tackle this portion of the exam. However, if you come well prepared, I guarantee you’ll do just fine.

The Integrated Writing Task

OK, so in case you haven’t had the chance to go through the TOEFL OG, here’s the main things you need to know about this first essay. You are given a short passage with arguments regarding a certain topic, say the correct way to bake cakes. You are allowed three minutes to read this text, after which a lecture is played in your headphones. This lecture is on the same topic as the text, again with arguments. However, the arguments that you’ll be hearing in the lecture will most likely be AGAINST what you’ve read in the text. I understand you can also receive a lecture that strengthens the points in the text, but that’s comparatively more rare. You are asked to present this lecture and its relationship with the text.

Now, before I write down any other details, don’t forget that THE LECTURE IS THE CENTRAL PART. That is, the lecture is “always right”, so to speak. The essay that you’re writing must make this as clear and obvious as possible.

The basic structure of both the text and the lecture allows for three arguments. In most cases, as mentioned above, the lecturer will try to dismiss the three arguments presented in the text by bringing new evidence to the table regarding the subject matter. The fact that both the text and the lecture are structured in this way unavoidably influences the structure of the essay you are about to write. As such, the template that worked best for me was:

Paragraph 1: Introduction - what the lecture is about and the fact that it contradicts the passage

The lecture concerns the topic of baking pies, with an emphasis on the process of preparing the dough. The speaker takes the time to explain why the three techniques described in the text are not reliable when trying to bake fluffy pies. Because of this, the information presented in the lecture directly contradicts what is stated in the text.


Paragraph 2: 1st argument

The first argument that the lecturer makes concerns the selection of the flour to be used in the process. He believes that the best flour for baking pies is whole grain flour, contending that the use of whole grain flour adds to the flavor of the pie, complementing the taste of the fruit jam. His statements are in opposition with those made in the passage, that only white flour is appropriate for fruit-based pies.

Paragraph 3: 2nd argument - same as the first

Paragraph 4: 3rd argument - same as the first

Paragraph 5: Conclusion
- a rephrasing of the introduction

In conclusion, the lecturer successfully arguments against the techniques presented in the text. He does so by presenting three points about the process of baking pies, namely the selection of the appropriate flour, the best types of jam to be used and the ideal baking times.

So, five paragraphs of around 50 words each = 250 words in total, which is above the recommended value of 150 to 225 words. But, if you ask me, it’s not the recommended value of words that they’re most interested in, it’s the connectors you use that are going to make or break your essay. I remember seeing this mentioned somewhere in an account of the computer program that analyses the AWA essays: people who use connectors write considerably better than those who do not. So here’s a list you might want to use:

Opposition
In contrast to
As opposed to
Directly/blatantly/clearly opposes
This point contradicts
It is the exact/polar opposite of
A conflicting statement
He/she denies this by
It is inconsistent with

Similarity
Agrees with
It is consistent with
This supports/sustains
Offers further proof/arguments of the validity
He/she reinforces this idea by

Also, while these connectors specifically address the “supporting” or “contrasting” themes, do not forget to use other such markers, such as: besides, moreover, in addition, furthermore, however, as well as, first, second, etc.

One last thing: don’t forget to be as objective as possible. For instance, is “successfully” really necessary in my conclusion? Not really, since it’s not such an objective term. I am not supposed to express my feelings towards the arguments that I was given, I am just expected to summarize them in an orderly fashion. You get to be more creative/personal in the second part.

The Independent Writing Task

Here, you really need to “follow your heart”. I’ve noticed that most topics for essays are controversial or do not have a clear cut answer: is it better to travel with a guide or by yourself? Should you have boys and girls in separate schools? Of course, the way in which you answer this second question of the writing section depends on your personal beliefs and experiences.

There are a few things you need to keep in mind though. One of the most important would be avoid general, grandiose phrases in your piece. The Official Guide for the TOEFL gives an example of such an error: “this issue of implementing another national holiday has been the subject of a heated debate” or something similar. Do you see the problem with such a general statement that the student has probably learned by heart? In my opinion, there are other topics that spark much more “real” debates than another day off: same sex marriages, healthcare, wars etc. It’s just that you can’t have a “one-size-fits-all” sort of introduction for everything.

The reason why I’m emphasizing this even though it’s mentioned in the TOEFL OG is that I see people often falling into this trap, even myself! I had to write application essays to a graduate program and asked a friend to review them. He complained that they were much too general: any other candidate would have said the same thing. While it’s not that big of a deal for the TOEFL as it is for admissions essays, why lose points over something you can prevent?

Another crucial point (that probably also applies to admissions essays, btw) is that you need to use examples. At least one, preferably two or three short examples will spice up your task and earn you favor by keeping the evaluator interested in what you’re saying.

The structure that I use for this second essay was somewhat similar to that of the first essay: introduction, arguments (with examples and personal experiences this time though!) and a conclusion that pretty much just restates the introduction. I’m confident that this is a winning formula for the TOEFL - nothing convoluted, just your basic stuff to be easily written on test day.

Here's an example: stay at home with the parents or leave?

Introduction

In the post World War II era, the youth’s eagerness to express themselves and be free from parental control gave way to the hippie age, when young adults took hold of their lives and rejected strict societal constraints. They knew that freedom came at a price though, not living under the wing of parents, but they were willing to pay that price and more. However, times have changed: former hippies eventually settled down and had their own children. This post-hippie generation enjoyed much less rigid controls, which in turn translated in them being less eager to leave the comfort of home, behavior which has somehow perpetuated to the next generations as well. In my opinion, the decision not to try to stand on your own two feet is not the wisest for a number of reasons.

First argument

Firstly, when a young adult decides to leave home, he or she will undoubtedly enjoy more freedom. No matter how permissive parents are, there will always be a set of rules of the house, some of which will surely irritate the child-to-be-adult. Leaving home means that you can establish your own set of rules to live by, with no outsider intervention of any kind: come home at whichever hour in the night, bring home as many friends as you like and the list continues.

--- add two more arguments ---

Conclusion

To sum up, I strongly believe that young adults should try to leave home immediately after college. It will be a formative experience, with benefits on both sides: parents and children. It is also proof that “the kid” is now a mature person, capable of making decisions and of taking on responsibilities.

Of course, what I have written is not without its faults - but in a short time, you can and will be forgiven for some of your mistakes.

Again, do not forget to use connectors when writing this up. Also, make sure to mark the flow of your arguments with such words as: to start off, to begin with, first and foremost, second, another argument, in addition to that, besides this, to conclude/sum up and others. Other than this, you should also probably use stuff like: in my opinion, I believe, it is my belief that, I am confident that. This time, you ARE expressing your thoughts, so don't be shy to make that shine through your essay.

So that’s basically my strategy for the writing section. It seems it served me well, since I managed to get a 30/30. Of course, I am open to any comments or suggestions of improvement!



Last edited by DanaJ on Mon Jul 26, 2010 12:25 pm; edited 1 time in total

Need free GMAT or MBA advice from an expert? Register for Beat The GMAT now and post your question in these forums!
mircealitoiu Newbie | Next Rank: 10 Posts Default Avatar
Joined
10 Nov 2009
Posted:
6 messages
Post Wed Feb 03, 2010 5:29 am
Thanks a lot Dana for your post. I read it and it looks much easier now to write an integrated essay( that is my weak part I believe).
I have only one concern. Isn't "In conclusion" at the last paragraph a subjective approach?
And one more thing though I think I am in the wrong forum. I took the GMAT 3 week ago and scored 650(Q48,V30). To be honest....I am very disappointed. I learned for about 3 months and though my math skills are ok I can't boost my verbal score. If I would have hit 40 in the verbal I would definitely scored around 700 or more. I'm in a kind of dilemma. I'm 21 and want to apply to a Master abroad but I think that my GMAT score is not that good. Also the time is ticking and there is not much to go till the deadlines. My GPA is very good...What do you suggest me to do? Take the GMAT again, is 650 enough for a good school and if not what should I do about my verbal. I read you want to apply in Amsterdam....I was thinking of Rotterdam of Stockholm.
Thanks for your support and "jos palaria" for your GMAT and TOEFL score.

DanaJ Site Admin
Joined
01 Jan 2009
Posted:
2567 messages
Followed by:
550 members
Thanked:
711 times
GMAT Score:
770
Post Wed Feb 03, 2010 6:13 am
With regards to your first question: not really, no... You can also use something even more impersonal if you feel like it, such as "To conclude" (although the degree of differentiation between the two is pretty debatable). It's OK to use maybe one or two words that sort of "take a position", as long as the overall tone of the essay is objective, i.e. you don't use the first person in anything.

Yes, I did apply to the Amsterdam Business School and was accepted at their MIF program. The program is quite expensive though, at 26 000 euros per year. They have offered their support for the Huygens scholarship which will cover the tuition costs plus offer a monthly stipend for living expenses... I am anxiously awaiting the results, but they will only be posted on May 1st... I was also accepted at Rotterdam, the masters in finance and investments, but decided to try my luck with Amsterdam (the more expensive the better, a good friend of mine said Very Happy )... Anyway, the main thing that you need to remember from this experience is that a high GMAT really "opens a lot of doors", so to speak. I was joking around with my friends that whenever I would need an information from admissions offices, I'd send a email signed with something like "I have also obtained a 770 on the GMAT" and they'd answer extremely quickly and in a positive tone, even though I'd asked for something minor, like their opening times Smile)

Now, you see, this is why I cannot really recommend anything to you. Your score is not bad (well, it depends - for MBAs it might be a tiny bit on the low side), but a higher score definitely helps. I think it's best to look at school averages and compare that with what you have. For Rotterdam, it's sort of borderline, I think they requested a minimum of 620? I'm not sure how much weight they'd put on your GPA, because we Romanians tend to have obscenely high GPAs and they're probably used to that.

It's also a question of the type of masters you're looking at. If you want a masters in finance, you could have a decent shot even without any extra curriculars or work experience. If you're targeting something like the CEMS, you really need to have something on your CV other than grades that will help you differentiate yourself from other applicants.

All I can say is this: a friend of mine applied to Rotterdam, HEC Paris and Vienna University for the CEMS program with a 650. His GPA is not exactly stellar (little under 9 on the Romanian scale)... He is currently awaiting the results. When he gets a reply, maybe I'll be able to offer more advice.

If you do decide to try your luck with the GMAT again, you can PM me and we'll discuss which resources you could use.

Mult succes! Smile

Thanked by: beatthegmat

GMAT/MBA Expert

Post Wed Feb 03, 2010 10:18 am
Really awesome tips Dana!

_________________
Sorin Istrate - Community Manager

MBA Watch - Your one-stop shop for all MBA program research

Vitalina Master | Next Rank: 500 Posts Default Avatar
Joined
09 Dec 2008
Posted:
116 messages
Followed by:
2 members
Thanked:
3 times
Test Date:
11.06.2009
Target GMAT Score:
720
GMAT Score:
670
Post Thu Mar 25, 2010 8:01 am
Hi Dana,

I have a question regarding the integrated writing part of the test.
Are we allowed to take some notes when we read or listen to the lecture? Or are we supposed to be brilliant enough to remember everything? Very Happy

DanaJ Site Admin
Joined
01 Jan 2009
Posted:
2567 messages
Followed by:
550 members
Thanked:
711 times
GMAT Score:
770
Post Thu Mar 25, 2010 8:49 am
You will have sheets of paper for note-taking throughout the test and the writing part is no exception. Rest assured, you can take as many notes as you want!

Remember though that it goes as follows:
- you are allowed to read the text for 3-4 minutes
- you listen to the lecture (the text disappears in this interval)
- you can then type in your answer in a window that appears on screen. The text will be visible right next to it in case you can't remember something.

harsh.champ Legendary Member
Joined
20 Jul 2009
Posted:
1132 messages
Followed by:
6 members
Thanked:
64 times
Test Date:
30/03/2012
Target GMAT Score:
780+
GMAT Score:
760
Post Fri Mar 26, 2010 3:47 am
Thanks a ton,Dana.
Really important tips.

_________________
It takes time and effort to explain, so if my comment helped you please press Thanks button Smile



Just because something is hard doesn't mean you shouldn't try,it means you should just try harder.

"Keep Walking" - Johnny Walker Razz

Vitalina Master | Next Rank: 500 Posts Default Avatar
Joined
09 Dec 2008
Posted:
116 messages
Followed by:
2 members
Thanked:
3 times
Test Date:
11.06.2009
Target GMAT Score:
720
GMAT Score:
670
Post Mon Mar 29, 2010 7:14 am
Yes great tips Dana, many thanks!

Pdgmat2010 Master | Next Rank: 500 Posts
Joined
21 Feb 2010
Posted:
176 messages
Thanked:
2 times
Test Date:
7th Sep
GMAT Score:
710
Post Tue Oct 05, 2010 5:51 am
thanks Dana for the invaluable tips

MBACrystalBall Master | Next Rank: 500 Posts
Joined
30 Apr 2010
Posted:
351 messages
Followed by:
25 members
Thanked:
28 times
Post Mon Nov 08, 2010 9:46 am
DanaJ wrote:
I was joking around with my friends that whenever I would need an information from admissions offices, I'd send a email signed with something like "I have also obtained a 770 on the GMAT" and they'd answer extremely quickly and in a positive tone, even though I'd asked for something minor, like their opening times Smile)
Dana, I've completed my MBA program several years back. But your 'door opening' experiences have inspired me to take the GMAT again. Smile

Just kidding. On a serious note, good work with the detailed orig post.

_________________
Sameer Kamat, Founder - MBA Crystal Ball | Careerizma
Email: info at mbacrystalball dot com

Must read for MBA aspirants
1. Beyond The MBA Hype | 2. Business Doctors: Management Consulting Gone Wild

nonameee Master | Next Rank: 500 Posts Default Avatar
Joined
03 Oct 2011
Posted:
111 messages
Post Wed Mar 14, 2012 1:56 am
Dana, for question no 2: Is it OK to qualify an issue? The thing is, at least for me, that presented topics are never black and white and it's difficult to choose one side and stick to it. For example for the topic "Which do you prefer: to travel alone or with a companion?" I would say that sometimes it's better to travel alone and sometimes it's better with a companion.

DanaJ Site Admin
Joined
01 Jan 2009
Posted:
2567 messages
Followed by:
550 members
Thanked:
711 times
GMAT Score:
770
Post Wed Mar 14, 2012 2:08 am
Nope, that's fine! I even mentioned in my original post that it's OK to qualify a situation.

nonameee Master | Next Rank: 500 Posts Default Avatar
Joined
03 Oct 2011
Posted:
111 messages
Post Wed Mar 14, 2012 2:14 am
Dana, thanks. Do you have your sample essays (if they are not classified of course!Smile )?

nonameee Master | Next Rank: 500 Posts Default Avatar
Joined
03 Oct 2011
Posted:
111 messages
Post Wed Mar 14, 2012 3:28 am
Also, how meaningful should the examples and your overall thinking be?

DanaJ Site Admin
Joined
01 Jan 2009
Posted:
2567 messages
Followed by:
550 members
Thanked:
711 times
GMAT Score:
770
Post Wed Mar 14, 2012 3:48 am
Sorry, don't have those anymore... The post above lists two essays, I guess you could sort of guess the overall structure from there.

I'm not sure what you mean by how meaningful should the examples/overall thinking be... No one expects you to write the sort of essay that brings a tear to the reader's eye, not by a long shot. But they do expect you to do your best in the little time you do have! Smile

Best Conversation Starters

1 LUANDATO 157 topics
2 lheiannie07 87 topics
3 Roland2rule 75 topics
4 ardz24 64 topics
5 AAPL 58 topics
See More Top Beat The GMAT Members...

Most Active Experts

1 image description EconomistGMATTutor

The Economist GMAT Tutor

163 posts
2 image description GMATGuruNY

The Princeton Review Teacher

133 posts
3 image description Jay@ManhattanReview

Manhattan Review

128 posts
4 image description Rich.C@EMPOWERgma...

EMPOWERgmat

121 posts
5 image description Brent@GMATPrepNow

GMAT Prep Now Teacher

100 posts
See More Top Beat The GMAT Experts