How to write a TOEFL Integrated Essay…

toefl integrated essay

Ok, so after the last post regarding the five different independent essay types, it’s time to look at the integrated essay. This is the one where you read a passage, then listen to a recording and combine the two sets of information into an essay. To be more specific, you have to read around 300 words in three minutes after which you listen to a lecture of about two minutes. You have 20 mins to write between 150 to 225 words, although there is not a maximum word length and in fact longer is better as you can cover more ground and explain more. Making notes is vital for this task especially for the audio passage, if you cannot make good notes currently then this a skill you must practice before test day. The passage will be on the screen for you to refer back to while you write.

Now, we know exactly how this will look in terms of format (this will almost certainly not change), the opening paragraph of the reading will assert its main argument, followed by three body paragraphs with supporting points. Then the lecture begins by arguing the opposite to the reading, and continues making counter arguments in the same order as the reading. For a high scoring essay you need to make clear the points from both, and show how they are different.

So, first, we will look at a structure you can use for this, then an example, with key phrases highlighted in bold.


  1. General statement about the relationship between the reading and listening.
  2. Short description of the structure of the lecture (points 1,2, and 3)

Body Paragraph 1

  1. Reading first point
  2. contrast with lecture first point
  3. give more detail: explanation/example/elaboration, etc

Body Paragraph 2

  1. Reading second point
  2. contrast with lecture second point
  3. give more detail: explanation/example/elaboration, etc

Body Paragraph 3

  1. Reading third point
  2. contrast with lecture third point
  3. give more detail: explanation/example/elaboration, etc

Conclusion: ( not strictly necessary but if you have time you can restate the relationship/give summary, etc)

As you see, you only need to write 11 or 12 sentences and you are finished Now, I will copy the reading and audio transcript below (these are from the Official ETS TOEFL IBT Tests Vol 1, Second Edition) and show you an example of how this might be done.

Reading Passage


Audio Transcript


And here is the resultant essay…

The reading and the lecture are both about smart cars, that is computer controlled passenger vehicles which drive themselves without human control. The author of the reading passage believes that, given technology such as GPS, and other advances, such cars will make driving safer, faster, and cheaper. However, the lecturer argues that even if smart cars perform as expected, it is unclear if the advantages will indeed be as significant as claimed.

First of all, the author claims that smart cars will save many lives by preventing accidents. This will be in part due to having sensors and programs that will automatically avoid collision with other road users. The lecturer disputes this by pointing out that technology is not infallible and is sometimes prone to failure. She adds that the consequence of accidents involving smart cars will be worse than otherwise as there will be more cars packed onto the roads and hence more casualties.

Secondly, the author contends that the use of smart cars will result in faster driving speeds. As cars are controlled by computer they can drive closer together faster than currently which will save time spent in commuting. The lecturer rebuts this claim, she notes that history shows as driving becomes easier, more people do it. This means that there will be more cars on the roads, more congestion, and consequently, no savings in commuting time.

Finally, the author states that driving costs will be cheaper when smart cars are introduced. As these cars will take the most direct route to their destination, there will be less wear and tear on vehicle parts, such as transmission, tyres, etc, so less money will need to be spent on replacements. Conversely, the lecturer dismisses the claim that driving will be cheaper in the future. She makes the valid point that GPS, sensors, and other technologies which would make the cars operate are not cheap to replace, and are certainly more expensive than conventional repairs and replacement parts on ordinary vehicles.

332 words

So, there you go, I hope that is useful for you…as always, any qs, you can write to at, anytime…