Understanding the INT Essay's Reading Passage
KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES
REMEMBER: A topic could be easy for one person and hard for someone else
THEREFORE: Focus on the topics you have trouble with. Here's how:
- Identify the topics you have trouble understanding. Most generally, academic topics break down into two basic categories: The Liberal Arts (history, philosophy, literature, sociology, archeology, art, music, etc) and The Hard Sciences (biology, psychology, astronomy, geology, meterology, etc). PLEASE NOTE that TOEFL Rarely uses the topics of chemistry, physics, mathmatics, or other topics that are far too technical even at their introductory level.
- Study those weaknesses.
TOEFL IS NEVER AS HARD AS YOU THINK IT IS
THEREFORE: Do the following when studying for the INT Essay's Reading Content
- Avoid Over-Thinking. When you find yourself reading and re-reading a sentence or paragraph, that is a sure indication that you're thiking too hard. Step back and try to grab only the KEY WORDS. Then think with your own mind about how those terms might relate logically to each other.
- Keep it Simple. Just because you're reading about academic topics, doe NOT mean that you have to read acaemic articles. So, when we told you above to read websites that specialize in academic topics keep it simple. Do a google search for something like "history for middle-school students". This will give you all the CONTENT information you need to learn about, say, Native American Culture, in easy to understand English. Once you understand that level of English, you can do another search on the same topic but change "middle-school students" to "high-school students". Make the English level more difficult ONLY AFTER you understand the content at a more basic level. As an example, here is a great site for HISTORY CONTENT.
TOEFL USES PREDICTABLE CONTENT
- This is what the passage is about.
- It will appear within the first one or two sentences of the passage
- It is a NOUN (e.g., "Mozart") or NOUN PHRASE made up of multiple words (e.g., "The Mozart Effect")
- Go for the more specific noun when you have two choices. For example, you might get a first sentence like "Americans love the automobile". In this case, the topic is "the car"; not "the United States".
- Also, you might have to combine the two nouns into a noun phrase. Case in point, look at this sentence: "Women have struggled with gaining equal rights for decades". Here, the topic of "women" is too general and the topic of equal rights" is also too general. But the topic of "Woman's Rights" is exactly correct.
- This will be the author's OPINION about this topic. (e.g., "The Mozart Effect makes kids smarter")
- It will be found toward the END of the introduction
- There will always be 3 points that the author uses in order to prove his/her argument
- If the passage has 4 paragraphs, then the introductory paragraph will not have any points in it. Each point will be given its own paragraph below the introduction
- The point is presented as either a factual statement or as a commonly held belief
- Every point has an accompanying Specific Example.
- A Specific Example might be a historical fact or a piece of scientific research
- The author uses these specific examples to make the reader believe that his/her point is a fact.
- Remember, though, that there are no factual arguments in the Reading Passage. So, even if the specific example is true (e.g., 80% of smokers die of lung cancer), it doesn't mean that argument is also true (e.g., "all smokers will die of cancer"). True facts can be used to aruge for untrue arguments.
TOEFL USES A PREDICTABLE PATTERN OF ORGANIZATION
REMEMBER: Again, TOEFL is a "standardized test"
THEREFORE: All INT Reading Passages have standardized organization
- an introduction of the topic
- an argument about the topic
- a general statement of the argument's first piece of evidence
- a specific example of the first piece of evidence
- a general statement of the argument's second piece of evidence
- a specific example of the second piece of evidence
- a general statement of the argument's third piece of evidence
- a specific example of the third piece of evidence