Friday, December 17

The Pro Rates a Sample ETS Essay

The independent essay below comes courtesy of ETS. ETS says that this sample independent essay scored a perfect 5. Really? Read and watch as the Pro analyzes it. Note: I have added numbers and underlines for reference.

Prompt: Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Always telling the truth is the most important consideration in any relationship. Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

(1) the traditional virtue of telling the truth in all situations is increasingly doubted by many in today’s world. (2) many believe that telling the truth is not always the best policy when dealing with people. (3) moreover, the line of a “truth” is becoming more and more vague. this essay will explore the importance of telling the truth in relationships between people.

Intro Analysis: Sentences #1 and #2 repeat the same information. This demonstrates redundancy (unnecessary repetition). Sentence #3 introduces a new topic: how "the line of a 'truth' is becoming more vague". What is "the line of a 'truth'"? I have no idea. This demonstrates a lack of word choice. Also, this sentence does not topically connect with the last sentence. The last sentence is not an opinion. It is an announcement. How can we check to make sure it is not an opinion? Click here; see point #7. This suggests the test-taker is using induction as the method of organization. Conclusion? This introduction demonstrates a serious lack of topical unity and language use. As a result, there is a serious lack of coherence.

(1) we all understand that often the truth is offending and may not be a very nice thing to both hear or say. (2) lies or white lies often have their advantages. the manipulation of white lies is the most obvious the business world. how many times have we heard that some product is “the finest” or “the cheapest”? how many times have we heard that products have such and such “magical functions”? advertising is about persuasion, and many would agree that if a company is to tell the absolute truth about it’s products, no one would be interested in even having a look at the products.

Body Paragraph #1 Analysis: Sentence #1 introduces the topic of "the truth" as being something that can offend. Sentence #2 introduces a new topic: "lies...having their advantages." This topic change demonstrates a lack of topical unity. Also, the business world example is wrong. If a salesperson says this [product] is "the finest," and it's not, then he/she is lying. This is not an example of a white lie. Clearly, the test-taker does not understand the difference between a white lie (idiom) and a basic lie, and the context in which they are used. The raters who rated this essay also fail to understand the difference between a white lie and a lie. Is this paragraph about the truth, white lies, lies, or advertising? This body paragraph lacks topical unity, development, and a lack of language use, specifically the idiom white lie. The result is an overall lack of coherence.    

(1) the same logic applies to human relationships. (2) if your friend had worn a newly purchased dress on her birthday and energetically asked you if it was a worthy buy, would you freely express your opinion that you had never seen a dress as the one she’s currently wearing? and spoil her birthday? unarguably, hiding(entirely or particially) the truth in some situations can be quite handy indeed. confrontations and disputes can seemingly be avoided.

Body Paragraph #2 Analysis: Sentence #1 suggests that the business example in body paragraph #1 is not a human relationship. If not, then what is it? This demonstrates a lack of word choice and topical unity. Sentence #2 also lacks topical unity. What is the connection between the friend wearing a new dress and you saying you had never seen a dress like that before? You are not lying. You (the friend) are stating a fact. Where is the lie, and why? Also, what causes "confrontations and disputes", and why? This paragraph is one big question. It lacks topical unity and development. Combined, these demonstrate a lack of coherence.

however, there is always the risk factor of the truth emerging sooner or later when telling an untruth. the basic trust in any relationships (businessman/customer, friends, parents/children) will be blotched, and would have an impact on the future relationship between both parties. the story of the “the boy who cried wolf” fully illustrates the consequenes of telling untruths. no one will believe you when you’re telling the truth. your word will have no weighting.

Body Paragraph #3 Analysis: This paragraph demonstrates a serious lack of word choice. "Blotched?" What does that mean? "Untruths?" What are they? "Weighting"? What does that mean? A lack of word choice results in a lack of coherence. There are grammar issues as well.

in addition, another “bad factor” of telling untruths is that you have absolutely no control over when the truth(of previous untruths) will emerge. untruths breed pain in both parties: tears when the truth is uncovered after a period of time; fear and the burden of sharing a “secret”. in the long run, it seems that hiding the truth is not beneficial to either party.

Body Paragraph #4 Analysis: Sentence #1 introduces the negative effects of lying. Sentence #2 introduces the topic of breeding "pain in both parties." What is the main topic? It is not clear. Is there an example for support? No. This paragraph, like all the rest, is built on vague generalities. The result is a lack of sustained coherence.

(1) everyone hates betrayal. (2) even if it is the trend to occasionally hide the truth in relationships, it is strongly recommended that not to follow that trend as the risk and the consequences of the truth unfolded overwhelms the minimal advantages one can derive from not telling the truth. afterall, it is understood that relationships are founded on “trust” which goes hand in hand with “truth”. indeed telling the truth is the most important consideration in any relationship between people. always.

Conclusion Analysis: Sentence #1 introduces a new topic: betrayal. Warning: Betraying is not the same as lying. They are two completely different topics, like apples and oranges. Also, the topic of betraying is not topically connected to the introduction. This demonstrates a lack of topical unity and organization. Sentence #2 is wordy. Moreover, it sounds like an Eastern European translating into English, as does much of the phrasing in this essay. This suggests the test-taker is not thinking in English. Combined, these result in a lack of coherence.

ETS gave this sample independent essay a 5. What would you give it? I give it a 3.5. 

Note that this essay is long. However, long does not always mean proficient. Some of the best essays I have rated have been short and to the point. More often than not, a long essay means a lack of coherence (the writer is just writing and writing, and saying nothing).

What would give this essay greater coherence, among other things? Specific examples for starters, one clearly developed and demonstrating a cause-effect relationship in each body paragraphRemember: the prompts says "give specific examples" not "vague generalities."

I rated this essay sentence by sentence. Yet what about rating it "holistically," as a whole, as ETS does (see rating holistically). Doesn't matter. Holistically rated or not, this essay still rates below 4. Why? Because the accumulation of mistakes in all areas of argument development - lack of organization, lack of development, lack of topical and grammatical unity, lack of proficient language use - all add up to a lack of coherence. Remember: Rating holistically means I (the rater) will ignore one or two errors (that, at least, is the theory). In this essay, however, there are too many errors, basic errors, which can't be ignored.

Okay, why so did ETS give this essay a perfect 5? That, TOEFL fans, is the $64,000.00 question.



Prompt: Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Always telling the truth is the most important consideration in any relationship. Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

Is telling the truth always a good idea? No. Personally, I think that telling the truth is bad for business, bad for love, and bad for jokes.

The truth is bad for business. For example, you sell cars. Your prices are the lowest in town. Are they? No. But what's the alternative? Do you say, "I'm lying, so go across the street because that dealer has better prices"? No. You'd be slitting your own throat. As you can see, lying is part of selling. Do customers know this? Of course. Are they offended? No. Like you, they know that telling the truth is bad for business.

The truth is bad for love. For example, your boyfriend's wearing a new cologne. He says, "You like it?" You say, "I love it!" Actually, you really mean, "God, that stinks!" Do you say this? Do you tell the truth? No. Why not? Because you don't want to hurt his feelings. In the end, you tell a white lie. In other words, you lie to make him happy. Why? Because love is more important than the truth.

The truth is bad for jokes. Last week, I was in a restaurant chilling with Jose when I suddenly said, "Yo, Jose. Look! Over there. It's Angelina Jolie. Serious. She's so hot!" Jose loves AJ. He looked and looked, but AJ wasn't there. Was I lying? Of course. If I told the truth, it wouldn't be a joke. Was Jose offended? Was he hurt? Are you kidding? He does it to me all time. It was simply payback.

As you can see, telling the truth is not always a good idea. Can you imagine if everyone suddenly started telling the truth? Car dealers would lose money, boyfriends would cry, and Jose wouldn't laugh at my stupid jokes.

ETS says an independent essay should be approximately 300 words. The above-essay is 300 words.

Why does the Pro's sample essay score a 5? Because it is a Coherent argument? Why is it a Coherent argument? Because it demonstrates OPDUL=C ("Op-dull-see").

Development        =    Coherence
Language Use

Note: I analyzed ETS's sample independent essay using OPDUL=COPDUL=C is a trademarked, argument proficiency analyzer I developed to rate TOEFL essays and TOEFL speaking task, quickly and accurately.

Want to learn how to write essays that demonstrate OPDUL=C? It's all in the book.


- The Pro at Work -

© Bruce Stirling 2010-11