Thursday, February 10

PreWrite, Write, Rewrite = Old School

When writing the 30-minute independent essay, all TOEFL texts tell you to prewrite for 5 minutes, write for 20 minutes, then rewrite for the last 5 minutes. Why do TOEFL texts tell you to do this? Because American high schools teach this method of essay time management. In short, TOEFL texts are teaching you what is taught in American high schools specific to managing your time when writing an opinion-based essay.

What does the Pro think of the prewrite, write, rewrite time management method for TOEFL? The Pro thinks it is old school. Very old school. Why? For myriad reasons:

1) It is not a scoring strategy. It is just an arbitrary way of dividing 30 minutes into three parts (Why not 10, 10, 10? Or 2, 26, 2?)

2) Most test-takers don't follow this method of time management. Instead, they are so nervous they simply start writing. I see this all the time in the TOEFL classroom. Few, if any, of my students brainstorm or rewrite. It's just write, write, write.

3) Many test-takers start typing because they need as much time as possible to correct typing mistakes. (see typing strategies).

4) Prewrite, write, rewrite works if you have a weekend to write your essay. But you don't have a weekend. You have 30 minutes - and you can't waste one minute of it.

5) If this time management method is recommended for the independent essay, why isn't it recommended for the integrated essay? It's not. Thus the logic of using prewrite, write, rewrite for the independent essay and not for the integrated essay falls apart.

Why do TOEFL texts tell you to prewrite, write, and rewrite? Because, as mentioned, it's based on American high school pedagogy. Moreover, TOEFL texts assume you have no idea what you will write about. Therefore, you must brainstorm (prewrite) for 5 minutes. By doing so, you will (hopefully) figure out what you will write about. Such an assumption, however, is false. You do know what you will write about. You will write an opinion-based essay. And, if you follow this blog, you already know the basic steps.

Step #1: State your opinion in one sentence (see introduction strategies). Avoid long introductions.

Step #2: Develop body paragraphs (see body paragraphs)

Step #3: Write a conclusion using a conclusion strategy (see conclusion strategies)

In my book Speaking and Writing Strategies for the iBT, I give you the complete argument map (see argument mapping). The Pro's argument map tells you what to write, how to write it, where to write it, and why for maximum scoring. Best of all, you no longer have to prewrite, write and rewrite. With the Pro's argument map, you simply write for the full 30 minutes. This, in turn, will result in a higher independent essay score.

Want to learn more scoring strategies? It's all in the book.


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© Bruce Stirling 2010-2011