There is a lot of confusion about the types of essay questions for Task 2 of the TOEFL exam, and the correct structure for answering these. Some people believe there are four types of essays while other believe two and others still, believe many more. In fact, these are all true and false at the same time. A much better way to think about ‘Task 2’ writing in the TOEFL is to understand the nature of the questions. Almost always, the essay task is persuasive and first person voice. This essay can be asked in either an open or closed question format. Of course, there are a few different types of open and closed questions possible, each of which is further defined below. Keep reading.
The primary goal of ‘Task 2’ writing in the TOEFL is to evaluate whether or not you are able to make a clear and convincing argument related to a specific topic question. This type of essay is called a persuasive essay because your goal is to persuade the reader of your opinion. In addition, this essay is best written in the first person voice – the subjective voice of the writer – using “I, me, my, and myself” in sentences; especially examples in body paragraphs. The way to be sure about the first person voice is simply to pay attention to the part of the questions which states, “use your own knowledge and examples to support your opinion”. The thesis, usually last sentence(s) of the introduction should indicate first person voice and style, ex. I believe that physical exercise should be mandatory in public schools in order to benefit children’s health and mood. This thesis shows an opinion and personal voice. As long as you know what a first person persuasive essay should read like you are on the right track.
The next point to pay attention to is whether the question is open or closed. Simply, open ended questions are those which can have many answers like, “What did you do today?” versus closed ended questions like, “Do you prefer to ride your bike or drive your car to work or school?” – These questions force you to choose among only a few options. In TOEFL Task 2 questions are often closed questions because they are easier to answer and mark. But be careful, about one from five is open ended questions like, “What is important for job satisfaction?” or “How have computers changed education?” The trick is to decide quickly. If the question is an open question, think of two or three points which will be body paragraphs. For example: A good salary, schedule and atmosphere are important for job satisfaction. If the question is a closed question, and does not ask you to discuss both sides of the argument then stick to one side with two strong points, ex. I prefer to ride my bicycle to school because it is good for my health and environment. Then, develop these points into strong body paragraphs. Whether the question is closed or open, make sure to have a clear opinion. There is nothing worse than a writer who sits on the fence in an argument.
Now, some more details for closed ended questions. Here are the different kinds of closed ended questions that you may see for Task 2: discuss both sides, describe the advantages and disadvantages of (both), do you agree or disagree, which do you support and why. In the case of the first two, you are asked to give both opinions or the benefits and deficits of each. For instance, “Some people believe that higher taxes are better for society while others argue that no tax is the approach. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of either tax or no tax systems…” In this case, body paragraph one should explain the advantages and disadvantages of no taxation, and body paragraph two should discuss the advantages and disadvantages of taxation; provided you believe that taxation is a better system. You should always emphasize the side you believe in more at the beginning (introduction/thesis) and end of your essay (last body paragraphs and conclusion). This is also true if you have to write about both sides of a debate, end with the side you believe in more. The logic is simple, leave your reader with the idea that you support. This is the law of first and last impressions. If the question does not ask you to explain both sides of the argument, stick to just one side with two or three strong supporting points outlined in your thesis. I have already given you an example in body paragraph two about ‘riding a bicycle to school’. Again, start body one with your weaker point (my health) and then end body two or three (depending if you have two or three points) with your strongest point (my environment). Again, you need to implement the law of first and last impression.
Given that all of the information provided in this essay is clear, you should now have a good idea about how to answer any type of Task 2 on the TOEFL exam; regardless of the specific information or question that is being asked. The correct thinking is purely logical: know that the essay is first person voice and persuasive, the question is open or closed, asks to discuss both sides/pros and cons, or just one side of the argument. Based on the answers to this information you can formulate the right thesis with a good parallel grammar structure and begin to write. Just remember, stay on topic and give good examples! For lots more help with writing join our full course: www.toefltesthelp.com/full-course