Friday, April 26

Sample my TOEFL book!

Click on the book. It will take you to a Nook page. Nook is like Kindle. Paging arrows are on the far right.

Wednesday, April 24

Another 5-Star Review!

5.0 out of 5 stars Best writing strategy ever !!!, April 24, 2013

This review is from: Speaking and Writing Strategies for the TOEFL iBT (Book & Audio CD) (Paperback)
After reading dozens of useless books I have put my hand on this amazing book which has by far the best writing strategy for the Toefl IBT. I followed the instructions of the writing section of the book and I got 29 in my writing section so I strongly recommend this book for anyone interested in increasing his writing score.

Sunday, April 21

5-Star Review of Scoring Strategies Kindle

5.0 out of 5 stars Very helpful April 17, 2013
By Vanessa
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
I already have good English skills, so I needed a book to only drive me through what to expect and how to do the test more efficiently.
With this book I found out what the test readers expect from your written test and how to proceed to achieve a high score through it, step by step. I am still studying for the test and I feel a lot more confident about it.

Wednesday, April 10

Kateryna Kucher from Ukraine - one of my international editors

Oussama Bellaleh from Tunisia - one of my international editors

The TOEFL Integrated Essay

The integrated essay consists of three steps:

1. Read a short passage for 3 minutes.
2. Listen to a lecture on the same topic as in the reading for 60-90 seconds.
3. Write a fact-based essay that shows (summarizes) how points in the lecture "cast doubt on points in the reading."

Remember: You will hear the lecture only once so you must take good notes. The reading, however, stays on your computer screen.

For many test-takers, the integrated essay is a challenge. However, classroom experience proves that once my students understand ETS's testing methodology specific to the integrated essay, they score consistently higher on the integrated essay than on the independent essay. Why? Good question, TOEFL fans.

My theory is that the independent essay, because it is a subjective task, is also a creative task. Creative, in this context, means the test-taker must develop examples. Developing examples is a creative process that many test-takers find challenging. Why do some students just sit there looking at the ceiling when writing an independent essay? Because they can't think of examples/can't be creative. The ability to create (develop and write) examples will test your automaticity, your ability to write and think like a native speaker. Those test-takers who write high-scoring independent essays also demonstrate a high level of automaticity (creativity) when writing.

However, since the integrated essay is a fact-based argument, test-takers do not need to be creative with examples. They just have to summarize facts that are in the reading and in the lecture. In short, summarizing a fact-based argument (integrated essay) is easier than writing an opinion-based argument (independent essay).

Remember: The key to understanding how to write a proficient integrated essay starts with your understanding how to write a proficient independent essay. Why? Because the integrated essay tests your ability to integrate two independent essays. If you can't write an independent essay, then you will not understand how to write an integrated essay.

Want to learn how to write a proficient integrated essay that scores a 5? 

It's all in the book.

The Pro

 Mr. and Mrs. iBT

© Bruce Stirling 2011

Monday, April 8

Video - Scoring Strategies for the TOEFL iBT

I am producing a TOEFL instructional video series. The series will available online at in 2013. This video is a sample.


Friday, April 5

Sample Integrated Essay Response

Organic Food: Model Integrated Essay Response. 

Note how this response uses point-by-point style as the method of organization. Note also the transitions. The writing raters look for transitions. Transitions demonstrate topical and grammatical unity (OPDUL=C).

Prompt: Show how points in the lecture cast doubt on points in the reading.

The reading argues against buying organic food while the lecture supports buying organic produce.

First, the reading professor says that organic food is too expensive. For example, organic strawberries are 50% more expensive than regular ones. She concludes saying you can't feed a family buying organic. It costs too much.However, the lecture professor says organic strawberries are expensive because they do not have chemicals like pesticides that cause cancer. Buying organic, therefore, is an investment in your health.

Next, the reading professor says that organic food is not easy to buy. She says she has to drive a long way just to buy organic rice. It is easier to buy non organic rice at a local store and save time. In contrast, the lecture says you can buy organic food at local stores, such as Wal-Mart. This makes buying organic convenient.

Finally, the reading professor talks about organic milk. Her family can't taste the difference between organic and non organic milk, so why but organic? The lecture refutes this by saying taste is not the issue. The issue is your health. For example, non organic milk has lots of chemicals like rBGH, a dangerous growth hormone connected to breast cancer. Therefore, you should not buy non organic milk.

All in all, the lecture is against buying expensive organic food while the reading supports organic food.

Note: ETS says an integrated essay should be approximately 225 words. This essay is 225 words.

Want to learn how to write an integrated essay like this one? It's all in the book. 

The Pro

© Bruce Stirling 2011


This is a popular question on the web. What does the Pro think? The Pro thinks one is an American company (ETS TOEFL) and the other is a British company (IELTS Cambridge). Yes, some of the questions are different, but other than that, these two tests serve the exact same purpose: they both test English-language proficiency at the academic level. The only difference is American schools prefer TOEFL and British schools prefer IELTS. Why? Simple. Each company is protecting its market by telling schools their test is best for their market. The logic goes something like this: IELTS is British and Oxford University is British, so Oxford should use IELTS, right, Oxford? The same logic applies to TOEFL in America.

Believe me, if you got a high IELTS score, Harvard would accept it. The same with a high TOEFL score and Oxford. Why? Because they know what we know: The TOEFL v. IELTS issue is a non issue, academically. It's just two companies protecting their respective markets.

But, you ask, what about British v. American English? That too is a non issue. The difference between these two dialects is negligible; moreover, the subtle distinctions between British and American English don't even enter the equation as far as testing is concerned. Instead, it's all about argument development. Why? Because the British educational system is built on Greek rhetoric, so is the American educational system.  

REMEMBER: Before you take either test, contact the school or agency to which you are applying. See which test they prefer, and play the game.

REMEMBER: If you are planning to apply to an American school, the question you really should be asking is: Should I take the TOEFL iBT or the TOEFL PBT?

The Pro