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January 06, 2008


Strictly English

I think a good way to resolve this issue is to think of the "description" as explaining the "reason". Therefore, you wouldn't give a description and THEN give your reasons. That would take too long and with only 45 seconds, you wouldn't be able to give a level of detail that the test requires. So to answer the "admired teacher" question, I'd say, "A teacher I really admired in college was my English professor because she was compassionate and fair. Then I would talk for 20 secs about compassionate and then 20 secs about fair. This is describing WHILE AT THE SAME TIME offering reasons.

Jason Renshaw

I respectfully disagree! I'm following the specific advice from ETS on this count, and despite all of our opinions as teachers or speaking experts, at the end of the day, the ETS folks grade the test!

What I recommend is a short contextual description following the stated topic, to create a framework of reference for the listener, and to adhere to the idea of the question being about personal experience as much as personal opinion.

The good scores for test takers following my advice on this issue continue to roll in (at last count, I had more than 25 students and blog/youtube/site followers claiming they were using my specific tips and getting scores above 26 in the speaking section), so I'm inclined to think I have it right.

However, to be fair, I think there is also some openness to the format of this question. It may well be that some test takers can still score well using the format you (and all of these copycat textbooks) recommend. My recommendation of a contextual description (again, as I say, drawing directly on tips published by ETS), appears to be working, but it's not to say other formats aren't useful as well.

Thanks for your comment!

~ Jason

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