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TOEFL Writing Self-study course

Welcome to Dr. Byrnes’ TOEFL Writing Course. In this self-study course, you'll learn how to craft high-scoring essays for academic discussion and Integrated essays. The two require different writing skills. The academic discussion response requires creative writing, as you need to come up with your own ideas and present them as persuasively as possible. On the other hand, the integrated essay requires analytical writing skills as your job is to summarize the given material as accurately, comprehensively, and coherently as possible.

To explain in more detail, the integrated essay task requires you to summarize the lecture in the listening section, where the professor provides counterarguments in response to the arguments presented in the reading. To summarize well, you need to understand how the professor breaks down the reading’s arguments. A high-scoring summary must be comprehensive (capturing all the relevant details), accurate (narrating truthfully from the reading and listening), and coherent (progressing ideas in a logical order). When you take organized notes while reading and listening, composing a TOEFL integrated essay is almost an automatic process. In this course, you'll learn the necessary tools to craft this type of high-scoring integrated essay: note-taking, templates, and sample responses.

By contrast, for the Academic Discussion response, to contribute to the already ongoing discussion of the two students in the question, you need to provide your own arguments. This is not an easy task to accomplish in the allotted 10 minutes. For some, it would take the total allotted time just to read the question itself, as the question includes the professor’s brief lecture on the background for the question and two arguments by two students. To be prepared for this writing task, you need to be as informed as possible with current social issues. For instance, student protests on campuses ignite the clash between students' rights to free speech and the university's obligation to maintain safety and order. When you shed light on related issues, your response is positioned to score high. You should also review past TOEFL Independent Essay questions, as many of them serve as excellent topics for academic discussions. In this course, you'll find hundreds of sample responses on potential academic discussion questions, organized by topics. By studying the example responses, you will gain insights into not only what issues are at stake but also how to craft persuasive arguments.

Course Syllabus

Part 1. Integrated essay 

Task overview

Scoring criteria 

ETS-scored essays

Reading note taking 

Article structure

First paragraph notes

Body paragraph notes

Listening note taking 

Lecture structure

Clues for paragraph division

Lecture's methods of refutation

Template types

Disagreement templates

Disagreement sample responses

Problem and solution

Method and outcomes

Proposal and reasons

Fact and purposes

Phenomenon and reasons

Agreement cases 

Agreement templates

Agreement sample responses

Part II: Academic Discussion

Task overview

Scoring criteria

ETS-scored sample responses and raters' comments


Question types

Standalone templates

Agreement templates

Disagreement templates

Writing strategies

Generating ideas

Connecting ideas


Sample Answers

Government policies

Education policy

Gender-separated schools

School uniform requirement

Fitness testing requirement 

Restriction on work hours 

Ban on homeschooling 

Ban on recording lectures 

Redistributive justice policy

Solution to housing shortage 

Affordable public housing 

Assistance to the unemployed  

Guarantee of universal minimal income 

Public transportation tax

Policy to promote rural life 

Environmental policy

Prioritization of economy over environment

Policy on air pollution 

Global environment problem 

Stimulus for locally sourced food 

Promotion of tourism 

Endangered species 

Other policies

Taxation on unhealthy products 

Restriction on targeted advertising 

Punishment of drunk drivers 

Ban on street cellphone use 

Electronic voting 


Impact of technology 

Declining social skills

Addiction to cell phones

Addiction to social media 

Libraries disappearing 

Decrease in reading books 

Decline of cinema

Internet, equalizer or divider 


Purchasing mistakes with tech devices 

Future society

Future of AI 

Future of augmented reality 

Mars colonization 

Zero waste society 


Gap between rural and urban areas

City history 

Museums’ value

Old buildings in city

Suburban neighborhood 

Urban planning 


Celebrity as a role model 

Celebrity charity 

Wearing fashionable clothes 

News about foreign countries 

News watching frequency 

Learning culture through TV 


Business practice

Best investment for companies

Factors for business success 

Employee productivity

Employee satisfaction 

Employee retainment

Job perks vs more money

Photos on resumes

Business travel

Reverse mentoring 

Career development

Outgoing person more successful

Perfectionism at work 

Big company or a start-up 

Small company or large company 

Different  tasks or routine tasks 

Multitasking vs mono-tasking 

Group work or solo work

One job or many different jobs

Work-life balance

Working on weekends 

More money or achievement 

Job satisfaction for happiness 

Work close home for less money

Personal email during work hours

Money or education 

Job before college 

Field research before career

Future of work

Job creation by AI 

Robots in the future 

Fewer work hours in the future 

Effective leaders

Consensus leader vs charismatic leader 

Communication or technical skills


Free will vs determinism 

Company’s social responsibility

Individual’s social responsibility 

Reporting violation of rules 

Animal rights


College courses

Math requirement as general education

Humanity course requirement

General education requirement

Writing course requirement 

Library resource requirement 

Best subject to study

Choice of major

Summer classes

College activities

Controversial guest speaker

Quitting a club

Campus eliminating a club

Jobs or club activities

Gap year

College education age

Friends as roommates

Roomates with the same major

K-12 education

Character education 

Music requirement

Cultural awareness requirement

Benefits of field trips 

Field trip requirement

Classroom management

Optional attendance

Two professors for one class

Online learning 

Video classes 

Books or lectures 

Journal writing in classroom

Elimination of computer labs

Group discussion

Classroom experiment

Free class period 


Homework usefulness 

Quantity of homework 

Assignment over vacation 

Note reviewing 

Reading list of books

Research topic assignment

Live or recorded presentation

Learning aptitude 

Games as learning tool 

Study group or tutor 

Teaching others as a learning method

Facts or concepts 

Doing math in head 

Intelligence or hard work 

Hard work or natural talent

Physical activity for academic success 

Grading methods

Extra work to improve grades 

Effort-added grading

Grading based on short assignments 

Grading based on performance of projects 


Teacher’s admitting making mistakes 

Experienced or young teacher 

Humorous teacher or harsh teacher 

Close teacher supervision 

Promoting class discussion

Teacher’s answering questions in class 

Disagreeing with instructor

Teacher mandate on professional courses

Teacher evaluation methods

Feedback methods 

Evaluation by senior colleague 

Promotion through evaluation 

Childhood development

Childhood as the best moment 

Physical activities leading to aggression 

Benefits of team sports 

Visiting relatives or friends 

Better learning with friends 

Friends of the same age

Learning basic living skills 

Learning about ancestors

Learning computer skills

Learning another language

Computer use at an early age 

Educational computer games for children 

Part-time jobs for teenagers

Kids’ spending their earned money


Limiting social media access 

Children rearing easier 

Activities for family bonds 

Advice on being well-liked

Advice on future jobs 

Giving advice to children

Teaching money management 

Children having cell phones 

Banning children using electronic devices 

Promoting children’s independence