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Writing Section Directions

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This section measures your ability to use writing to communicate in an academic environment. There will be two writing tasks.

For the first writing task, you will read a passage, listen to a lecture, and then answer a question based on what you have read and heard. For the second writing task, you will answer a question based on your own knowledge and experience.

Now listen to the directions for the first writing task.

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Writing Based on Reading and Listening Directions

For this task, you will read a passage about an academic topic. A clock at the top of the screen will show how much time you have to read. You may take notes on the passage while you read. The passage will then be removed and you will listen to a lecture about the same topic. While you listen, you may also take notes. You will be able to see the reading passage again when it is time for you to write. You may use your notes to help you answer the question.

You will 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 as completely as possible using information from the reading passage and the lecture. The question does not ask you to express your personal opinion. Typically, an effective response will be 150 to 225 words.

Your response will be judged on the quality of your writing and on the completeness and accuracy of the content.

Now you will see the reading passage for 3 minutes. Remember that it will be available to you again when you write. Immediately after the reading time ends, the lecture will begin, so keep your headset on until the lecture is over.

(Click on Continue at any time to dismiss these directions.)

Sea otters are a small mammal that lives in the waters along North America's west coast from California to Alaska.  A few years ago some of the sea otter populations off of the Alaskan coast started to decline rapidly and raised several concerns because of their important role in the coastal ecosystem. Experts began investigating and came up with two possible explanations. One explanation was environmental pollution and the second was attacks by predators.


At first it seemed as if the pollution was the most likely cause for the population decline. One reason pollution was more likely was because of the known pollution sources along the Alaskan coast such as oil rigs. Also water samples taken in the area showed increased levels of chemicals that could decrease the otters' immune systems and indirectly result in their deaths.


Another thing that pointed to pollution as the culprit was the decline of other sea mammals such as seals in the same areas. This indicated that whatever was affecting the otters was also affecting the other sea mammals. Environmental pollution usually affects an entire ecosystem instead of just one species. Only predators that occurred in a large area, such as orcas (a large predatory whale), could cause the same effect, but they usually hunt larger prey.


Finally, scientists believed the pollution hypothesis would also explain the uneven pattern of otter decline. In some Alaskan locations the otter population declined greatly while other populations remained stable. Some experts  suggested this could be explained by ocean currents, or other environmental factor, might have created uneven concentrations of pollutants along the coast.


Directions: Your response will be judged on the basis of the quality of your writing and on how well your response presents the points in the lecture and their relationships to the reading passage. Typically, an effective response will be 150 to 225 words.

Question: Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to explain how they respond to the specific arguments made in the reading passage.

Sea otters are a small mammal that lives in the waters along North America's west coast from California to Alaska.  A few years ago some of the sea otter populations off of the Alaskan coast started to decline rapidly and raised several concerns because of their important role in the coastal ecosystem. Experts began investigating and came up with two possible explanations. One explanation was environmental pollution and the second was attacks by predators.


At first it seemed as if the pollution was the most likely cause for the population decline. One reason pollution was more likely was because of the known pollution sources along the Alaskan coast such as oil rigs. Also water samples taken in the area showed increased levels of chemicals that could decrease the otters' immune systems and indirectly result in their deaths.


Another thing that pointed to pollution as the culprit was the decline of other sea mammals such as seals in the same areas. This indicated that whatever was affecting the otters was also affecting the other sea mammals. Environmental pollution usually affects an entire ecosystem instead of just one species. Only predators that occurred in a large area, such as orcas (a large predatory whale), could cause the same effect, but they usually hunt larger prey.


Finally, scientists believed the pollution hypothesis would also explain the uneven pattern of otter decline. In some Alaskan locations the otter population declined greatly while other populations remained stable. Some experts  suggested this could be explained by ocean currents, or other environmental factor, might have created uneven concentrations of pollutants along the coast.


Word Count: 0

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This is the end of the Writing Question 1. Writing Question 2 will begin automatically in 60 seconds.

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