28 Mar 2017

Writing Task 2 : Scoring In-Depth Part 1

So you’ve been sitting in front of a computer for about two and half hours, and you’ve finaly reached the final section on the TOEFL: The Writing. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you’ve still got another hour to go, and hour spent writing about stuff no one is interested in and no one wants to read, even the people who are getting paid to read it (your graders). You’re given 2 tasks for the writing section, but I’m only going to talk about the second one today.

Once you’ve completed Task 1, now it’s time for Task 2. This task is a standard essay we all remember from elementary school: you’re given a random topic with which you agree or disagree with, and then you are given 30 minutes to write this essay. The suggested minimum word length is 300 words, so this is actually more of a typing test than a writing one.


In a previous post, I mentioned the scoring system (0-5) but today we’re going to look at this a little more. Specifically, what is the difference between an essay that scores a 3 versus an essay that scores a 4? Or a 4.5? Because the scoring is somewhat subjective, it’s always a little tricky to break down the 0.5 differences, so a better place to start is what is your essay grader’s mindset when she opens your essay?

The first thing that runs through your graders mind when she looks at your essay is a strict division: Is this essay 3+ or 3-? Meaning, is this essay at least a 3 or at MOST a 3? This is a very simple and uncomplicated step, because it depends on length and structure. The first thing a grader sees is how long your essay is. She doesn’t read it, she just looks at it. If it’s short and unorganized, the highest score you’ll get is a 3. If it’s long and organized, then it’s at least a 3 (unless the only thing going for your essay is its length and structure; if you’ve just typed random words, this doesn’t hold true).

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After the initial assessment, your grader starts to fine-tune your score. Just like starting out in the middle (more than or less than a 3), your grader will now decide if your essay is at least a 4 or at most a 4. The actual details of this process are a little more involved, so I’ll address this fine tuning in my next column. Until then, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at [email protected]. And now, a sloth seeks some comfort.

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