На этом занятии мы представляем вам анализ сочинения на одну из тем, указанных в информационном бюллетене TOEFL за 2001-2002гг. Анализ сочинения представлен в виде воображаемой беседы между студентом, который готовится к сдаче экзамена TOEFL, и его преподавателем. Мы надеемся также, что сможем ответить на ваши самые важные вопросы, которые могут возникнуть в ходе подготовке к этой самой трудной части экзамена.
Желаем успеха в вашей работе!

Сначала прочитайте сочинение (TOEFL writing question 19. TOEFL Information Bulletin, 2001/2002), по поводу которого состоится данная беседа. 

Should governments spend more money on improving roads and highways, or should governments spend more money on improving public transportation (buses, trains, subways)? Why? Use specific reasons and details to develop your essay.

If I were king for a day, there would be no more cars. I despise cars and I hate the fact that they are the most common means of transportation. Therefore, if the question should arise of whether government funds should be spent on improving roads or improving public transportation, I would definitely choose the latter. My strong opposition to cars can be explained in a few simple examples of the harm they cause to society.

First of all, cars are the number one polluters of our environment. Harmful emissions from cars are largely responsible for the giant holes in the ozone layer. Cars also pump harmful toxins into the air which form acid rain – rain which is laden with deadly chemicals that destroy our lakes, rivers, and other water reservoirs. If we do not stop the kind of pollution caused by car exhaust, we may soon be unable to live on this planet.

Secondly, the production and operation of cars waste a huge portion of the earth’s natural resources. The amount of metal, plastic, rubber and other materials required to meet production demands each year is phenomenal. Worst of all, cars are eating up our reserves of nonrenewable fuels like oil. Once all the earth’s supply of oil is gone, it cannot be replaced. No wonder wars around the world are being fought over the control of oil deposits.

On a more personal level, car exhaust affects the individual’s health and safety in frightening ways. In some modern cities, a person cannot even go jogging without doing serious damage to his or her lungs. It is no longer an uncommon sight in some major world cities to see people wearing gas masks in the city center. Above all, driving cars can be deadly: the number of traffic fatalities that occur every year are enough to rival the number of soldiers killed in war. 

Some of the damage cars have caused to the earth and to the lives of many people is already irrevocable. However, by breaking our dependence on cars, we may be able to stop polluting our environment at such a terrifying pace. Thus, it is critical that we spend money on improving public transportation – or even offering free public transportation! — so that people will prefer riding subways, buses, commuter trains, etc., to traveling in their cars.

А теперь обратимся к анализу сочинения, который представлен в виде вопросов студента и ответов преподавателя.
(S — Student, T — Teacher)

S: What is the most important thing to remember when writing a 
TOEFL essay?
T: To answer the whole question. All parts of it. 

S: What do you mean by “the whole question”?
T: That depends on the essay topic as each TOEFL question is 
different. For example, this particular question has three 
parts: the two sides of the transportation issue (private and 
public means of transportation); saying which approach the 
writer would prefer; giving reasons for this choice.

S: And in this case, did the writer accomplish this task?
T: Yes. The introduction mentions the disagreement on this 
issue and indicates the writer’s opinion, which consists in 
his or her strong opposition to cars because of the harm 
they cause. It also indicates that the writer’s choice will 
be supported with some specific examples. Thus, the 
introduction responds to all three parts of the question. It 
clearly shows the general topic of the essay and the plan of 
its discussion. Paragraphs 2, 3, and 4 respond to the third 
part of the question. The last paragraph responds to the 
second part. It includes a summary of the arguments and a 
conclusion to the discussion. 

S: But there must be more to the TOEFL essay than simply answer 
the question?
T: Of course. The first essential is to make sure you address 
all parts of the question, but that is only the first step.
The real objective is to show that you can express your 
opinion in writing in a clear and logical way.

S: Is this essay a good example of clear and logical writing? 
T: In the first place, the structure of each paragraph is clear 
and easy to follow. 

S: What makes you say that the structure of each paragraph is 
easy to follow? 
T: First of all, every paragraph in this essay has a topic 
sentence (the first sentence in each case, as it happens). 
And each topic sentence is supported by an explanation. Then, 
there is a clear relationship between all the parts and the 
whole essay. For this purpose, the writer uses logical 
indicators to the reader or transitions (first of all, 
secondly, on a more personal level), which show how the 
writer changes from one subject to another when he or she 
changes paragraphs. These transitions also show how the new 
topic is related to the old and to the essay as a whole. 

S: O.K. That answers my question about how to structure my 
essay. The next thing I want to ask about is the level of 
English that I should use.
T: That’s important, of course. But remember that only two of 
the six criteria for scoring your essay refer to the 
language itself. It is certainly not necessary for your 
essay to contain English as complex as this writer uses. The 
secret is: think clearly and use only a level of language 
you feel confident with.

S: But what are the six criteria for evaluating an essay? 
T: Here’s the list of the criteria:
1) Does it follow a clear plan of organization?
2) Does it answer the question that is asked?
3) Does it offer effective support for the ideas it puts forward?
4) Is there a clear relationship between all the parts and the whole essay?
5) Does it show your command of the language?
6) Does it use appropriate grammatical constructions, vocabulary and style? 
The essay should be written in a formal academic style, but 
the degree of formality will depend on the topic of the 
essay. It can be less or more formal. Remember, no 
contractions or slang expressions should be used. And one 
more important point — it is not quantity here, but quality 
that matters. No marks can be gained for writing more than 
two pages, and writing too much may mean that the quality of 
your work suffers as a result. 

S: If I understand what you’re saying, our essays should not be 
an attempt at great literature? 
T: Absolutely! All this has nothing to do with literature, and 
it shouldn’t have! If you were asked to write literature you 
wouldn’t have a thirty-minute time limit or a suggested 200-
300-word length, even if you were writing in your own 
language. Literature often involves breaking rules; here you 
are only have to show that you can follow them.

S: And one more question. If I can think of better arguments 
for one side, should I support that side in my essay even if 
I don’t really agree with it?
T: Certainly. The writing task in this section has no right or 
wrong answers. Really, there’s no correct answer to any of 
the questions, and you are free to express your own opinion. 
You’re not expected to have any specific knowledge of the 
topic and you won’t be evaluated on the factual accuracy of 
the information, either. You must simply show that you can 
develop your ideas clearly and logically with the best 
English you are capable of.

До нашей следующей встречи!

Лариса КОПТЕЛОВА и Лонни ХАРРИСОН,
преподаватели Лингвистической школы
общения "Система-3"

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