TOEFL® Integrated Writing Practice 26

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You'll have 3 minutes to read a passage. After reading, you'll listen to a lecture regarding the same topic you just read. Finally, you'll have 20 minutes to write a response to a question that asks you about the relationship between the lecture you heard and the reading passage. Try to answer the question using information from the reading passage and the lecture.

Typically, an effective response will be 250 to 300 words.

We recommend you practice taking notes with a pen and paper like you will during your TOEFL exam.

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Question: Summarize the point made in the lecture and explain how the speaker cast doubt on specific points made in the reading passage.

The post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, known as the Roman Empire, was characterized by a government headed by emperors and large territorial holding around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Roman Empire was the largest empire of the Classical Antiquity period, and one of the largest in world history covering 6.8 million square kilometers. It was also among the most powerful economic, cultural, political and military forces in the world holding sway over 21% of the world's entire population during that time period. The longevity and vast reach of the Empire provided a lasting influence of Latin and Greek language, culture, religion, inventions, architecture, philosophy, law, and government on future descendants. There are three reasons the Roman Empire became so powerful.

The first reason was their large armies that occupied the lands of other countries. These armies were made up of captives forced to serve in the army and by the professional soldiers of the Imperial Roman army. Professional soldiers volunteered for 20 years of active service followed by five years of reserve duty. This was a definite shift from the material of the former republic in which an army of conscripts exercised their responsibilities as citizen to protect their homeland in specific campaigns against specific threats, whereas Imperial Rome's army was a full-time career.

The second reason for the Roman Empire's rise to power was the power held by the monarchs. This state of the absolute monarchy began with Diocletian and endured until the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 CE. The authority of the emperor was based on the consolidation of several of the republican offices. The emperor had powers of inviolability of the tribunes of the people, authority of the censors to manipulate the hierarchy of Roman society, central religious authority as Pontifex Maximus, the right to declare war, ratify treaties, and negotiate with foreign leaders. These functions were clearly defined during the Principate, but over time the emperor's powers became less constitutional and more monarchical creating the dominate.

Finally, the high taxes placed on their empire helped to make the empire richer. The taxes an individual paid ranged from 2 to 5 percent of the gross product. The bewildering tax code involved a complicated system of direct and indirect taxes as well as taxes paid in cash and some paid in kind. The taxes might be specific to a province, property, or in effect for a limited time. The Roman Empire justified their tax collection as a necessary cost to maintain the military; however, taxpayers sometimes received a refund if the army obtained a surplus of booty. Less monetized areas that were unable to pay their taxes in cash were allowed to pay in-kind especially if they could supply grain of goods to the army camps.

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Question: Summarize the point made in the lecture and explain how the speaker cast doubt on specific points made in the reading passage.

Word Count: 0

Listen to part of a lecture on the same topic.

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Sample Essay

In considering what exactly made the Roman Empire powerful, the lecturer questions the information presented in the reading. While he agrees that much of the reasoning is accurate, he takes a different interpretation to how each of those categories gave the empire power. 

To begin with, although the empire derived much of its power from its military force, the reading was misleading in that not all soldiers were Romans. While the military conquered lots of land for the empire, many soldiers were from those conquered lands, and as loyalties waned the government would have to restructure the military. In this way they ensured that their power was unchecked by the soldiers. 

The second questionable source of power was in the form of the holder of power. While the reading suggests the emperor held monarchical powers, the lecturer suggests that the ruler’s power came not through their undisputed role, but through their control of the military. This led to power struggles whenever a leader died as power seekers vied for the support of the military as the path to power. This led to bribing and paying off of military leaders to gain support. 

Another section of dispute came in their views about how taxes were used to increase wealth. While the lecturer agrees that taxes were a source of revenue, he argues that this came initially through taxing wealthy landowners. However, as time went on and they needed more money, they began taxing everyone, leading to discontent and eventually the downfall of the empire. 

In conclusion, the lecturer shows how these ideas, while correct in their inception, were not interpreted correctly. Rome’s power came through their military, while being kept in check. The lecturer also believed that one initial source of power eventually led to the downfall of the empire. 

Steps to tackle the TOEFL Integrated Writing Task
Step 1: Read the passage

The passage is important in giving you general background information of the topic. Read the passage carefully and make sure you understand it well. Take notes of the main ideas of the passage but do not go into too many details. Even though there will be a three minute timer for you to read the passage, the passage is actually displayed while you are writing your essay. Your goal while reading the passage the first time should be to understand the main points in each paragraph.

Step 2: Take notes during the lecture

Needless to say, you need to take careful notes during the lecture. Unlike the passage, you will not have a chance to listen to the lecture again, so make sure you take careful notes of either the contrast between the passage and the audio or the similarities. The lecture will provide wither counter examples and disagreements or will provide examples to further prove the passage correct. Every main point from the passage is discussed again in the lecture, but with a different angle and attitude. For example, if the lecture is disagreeing with the reading and the reading says "teamwork allows individuals to respond quicker to their assignments", then the lecture might say "teamwork takes away the opportunities for hard working, talented individuals to be recognized".

Step 3: Organize your response

There are many ways to organize an essay, but there are still a few good rules you can follow. The essay should have three sections: introduction, body, and conclusion. See the "TEACHING" tab in Independent Writing for an overview of the basic essay format.

1) Introduction
Write a short and concise introduction for your essay. This introduction should include an explanation of your topic, and how the article and the professor either agree or disagree with each other about the topic. Keep this introduction short. Do not go into details of the reasons. You will only need to introduce the topic briefly, so the reader knows what to expect in the body section.

2) Body
This section should include 2 to 3 paragraphs, each one with the main point that is mentioned in the reading. So each paragraph should start with a sentence that introduces the point to be discussed in the paragraph. Use the specific examples from the article and lectures. Use the same paragraph structure for all the paragraphs in the body section. Remember to start a new line for every paragraph. Don't clump all the paragraph together as a big block, and also do not break a paragraph into many small paragraphs. Each topic should be contained in one paragraph only. Do not copy the article or the lecture into your essay. This is your essay so all the information should be conveyed in your own words. Paraphrase as much as you can. Use a variety of words and sentence structures to avoid repetition in your essay, as well.

3) Conclusion
Write a short conclusion to sum up the whole essay. This conclusion can be considered a paraphrased version of the introduction. Restate the list of the main points and how the article and the professor either agreed or disagreed. Because this is the last section of the essay, many people tend to run out of time do not write a conclusion. First of all, running out of time can be avoided with proper organization and following our process. Secondly, forgetting to write a conclusion is a big mistake that you should avoid. Even if there is only one sentence in the conclusion, you still need to have one. It is essential for an essay to have three sections. Missing one section will make the essay incomplete, and that will cost you some points.

Step 4: Review

You should time yourself so that you have about 5 minutes left to review your essay. Fix typos, check for inconsistencies of the tenses of the verbs, the plurality of the subjects and verbs, and add transition words wherever you see fit. Having good transitions will gain you some extra points. Make sure the essay flows in a logical order.

Writing Template for Scenario 1: Contradiction

This scenario is the most common scenario. In this scenario, the lecture will contradict or cast doubt on the key points in the reading passage.

Writing Template:
The reading and the lecture are both about ______. Whereas the author of the reading states that _______, the lecturer suggests that ________. The lecturer casts doubt on the main points made in the reading by providing two/three reasons.

First of all, according to the reading, _____________ .However, the lecturer disputes this point. He/She says that _________. Furthermore, he/she mentions that ___________

Secondly, the reading states that _______. Nevertheless, the lecturer refutes this argument. He/She argues that __________. In addition, he/she points out ________.

Finally, the reading claims that _________. On the other hand, the lecturer believe that _____. He/She thinks that _______. Moreover, he/she feels that ________

In conclusion, although the reading and the lecture are both about _______, the two/three main points made in the reading are effectively challenged by the lecturer.
Writing Template for Scenario 2: Supporting with examples

In this scenario, the main points of the lecture are examples that support the key points in the reading passage.

Writing Template:
The reading and the lecture are both about _____________. The reading states that ____________. The lecture builds upon those same ideas to give a more comprehensive picture with two/three examples.

First of all, according to the reading, _________. Supporting this idea, the lecturer explains that _________. Furthermore, he/she mentions that __________.

Secondly, the reading states that_______. The lecturer then goes on to explain that ________. In addition, he/she points out ________.

Finally, the reading claims that _______. In support of this idea, the lecturer brings up the point that ________. (Optional) Moreover, he/she feels that _________.

In conclusion, although the reading and the lecture both discuss __________, the two/three main points made in the reading are effectively supported by the lecturer.
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