Recently, students have reported to me that the reading in Prompt 2 contains a letter from a professor that is addressed to the students. Many TOEFL students are not sure how to respond to this type of prompt. This blog post will give an example of this kind of prompt, and a sample answer. Here is the sample letter:
Beginning next semester, assignments printed on paper will no longer be accepted. Instead, students should email their assignments to me at my university email address. This change had been made for two reasons. First, paper uses natural resources which could be saved by sending these documents by email. In addition, with this new change, students can email their assignments at any time. Students will no longer be required to meet with me during my office hours to turn in assignments. This change should make it much more convenient for students to submit their assignments.
When students see a letter like this, they begin to panic. Students are used to reading the purpose of the announcement in the title, but aren’t sure what to do if it starts with “Dear Students.” My advice is this: Keep reading! The purpose of the letter will be in the first line or two. Here, the purpose is to let the students know that ASSIGNMENTS PRINTED ON PAPER WILL NO LONGER BE ACCEPTED. STUDENTS SHOULD EMAIL THEM. Take notes, such as the following:
- LETTER; ASSIGN. ON PAPER NO LONGER ACCPT., SS SHOULD EMAIL
Then, continue reading! The professor will give two reasons to support the announcement he is making. Here, the two reasons are: paper uses natural resources which could be saved by sending these documents by email. And students can email their assignments at any time.
Note these two purposes down on your paper. Here are sample notes:
PAPER USES NAT. RESRCES; SS CAN EMAIL ANY TIME
As you know, after 45 seconds, this letter will disappear. Then you will listen to a conversation. Take notes as usual.
Here is an audio script of a sample conversation:
W: Hey John, did you see this letter from Professor Rosenthal?
M: Yes, I did. What do you think of it?
W: I think it’s a great idea. I love that he’s trying to do something to protect the environment.
M: What do you mean?
W: Well, In my environmental studies class, we’re learning just how bad paper is for the environment. It has a huge impact on our forests—after all, to make paper, trees have to be cut down, right? Not only that, but the factories that make paper- well, they put a lot of pollution into our air and water. So cutting back on paper seems like a good idea.
M: Plus, it’s nice you don’t have to hand in the paper during his office hours.
W: That’s another great thing about this. He can be so difficult to meet with. This will be much more convenient.
W: I mean, his office hours are so limited. He’s only in his office twice a week. So before, if you couldn’t make it to his office during his hours, you ended up handing your paper in late. Now, we can just email it to him anytime, even late at night.
Prompt: The woman expresses her opinion of the professor’s letter. State her opinion, and the reasons she gives for holding her opinion.
QUICK TIP: As a TOEFL teacher, I have noticed many of my students think the details in the conversation are not important to their score. For instance, they might say “She thinks it’s better for the environment” but they do not mention her supporting reasons—that paper has an impact on forests, and that the factories that make paper pollute the air and water. You MUST give her supporting ideas to get a full score.
Here is a sample answer:
According to the letter (or “announcement”) the professor will no longer accept assignments on paper, they must be emailed. This is because the he wants to save natural resources, and allow students to email their assignments at any time. The woman agrees with this announcement. First, she points out that it’s great the professor is trying to do something to protect the environment. In her environmental studies class, she learned that paper has a big impact on forests, because trees are cut down. Also, the factories that make paper put a lot of pollution into the air and water. In addition, it’s much more convenient to email assignments to the professor. She says his office hours are limited, and they are only twice a week. Before, if students could not go during his hours their papers were often late. She says now they can just email it at any time.
So, TOEFL students, that is how you handle the letter from the professor. The most important thing to remember is that if you see something new or unexpected on the TOEFL, don’t panic. Always do your best and keep practicing!