Writing Task 2 : Scoring In-Depth part 2
Last time, I discussed the initial steps of how your essay gets scored: your grader initially decides if your essay is 3 or lower OR a 3 or higher based on length and structure. Obviously, this is somewhat of a generalization as a short essay may actually fulfill all the necessary criteria or a longer essay may be basic gibberish, but this initial step is a guideline for action.
Once your grader applies the initial score, she gets into the dirty work of separating your essay through an even finer set of filters. For example, if she decides your essay is at least a 3, she goes on to decide if it’s at least a 4 (out of 5) OR at most a 4. Here’s where some of those finer points of your writing style come into play.
According to the TOEFL, the difference between a 3 and a 4 is a matter of clarity, unity, and appropriateness. What does this mean? If your essay has an introduction, body paragraphs, a conclusion, and all the nifty transition words but doesn’t really seem like a unified approach to the topic, you might be looking at a three. If you are only using vague reasons without specific examples, you’re probably looking at a three. If you have trouble connecting your reasons to your opinion, you’re looking at a three.
On the other hand, the difference between a 4 and a 5 is a matter of polish. If you happen to be redundant, you’re looking at a 4. If you have difficulty with idiom or word forms, you’re looking at a 4. If you’re unable to clearly explain your example, you’re looking at a 4. If your example is a little digressive, you’re looking at a 4.
On the whole, there’s a large difference between a 3 and a 5, but a much smaller difference between a 3 and a 4, likewise with a 4 and a 5. The good news is this: knowing what the TOEFL is looking for allows you to practice those particular points, not worrying about those things which earn a higher grade in English Composition class but are unnecessary for the TOEFL.
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