Inside iTEP’s Writing Section
For many test-takers, the writing section of iTEP is one of the most challenging. You have to express yourself in writing, in a foreign language, in a limited amount of time. How could it not be a little bit intimidating?
This post is based on material from the Official iTEP Preparation Guide. It explains what you can expect to see on the writing section of iTEP, and how your work will be graded. It includes several sample prompts, so you can practice writing at home!
You have a total of 25 minutes to complete the writing section. For Part 1 of the writing section, you will be presented with a simple situation or topic, about which you will be asked to write a short note or letter. For Part 2 of the writing section, you will be asked to write a longer essay expressing an opinion on a topic and to support your answer.
Your score for the Writing Section is based on the following criteria:
- Accuracy and appropriateness – does your response answer what is specifically asked in the question? It is very important that you, the test-taker, demonstrate that you comprehend the assignment in order to avoid producing an irrelevant, off-topic, or inappropriate response.
- Ability to construct, express and support an opinion. Although you are being asked to express your opinion, it’s important to understand that there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers (your opinion will not be judged–only how you express it).
- Vocabulary and sentence structure – are you able to use a combination of independent and dependent clauses to form your sentences?
- Development of idea – do you come to a point?
- Grammar – are your responses grammatically correct?
Writing Part 1
For Writing Section 1 you will be asked to write a short note or letter (50-75 words) to respond to a simple situation or topic. You will type your answer on the keyboard. You will have 5 minutes to complete the task. You must click ‘Confirm Answer’ to indicate that you have finished. Once you click on ‘Confirm Answer’, you cannot return to the question.
Below is an example of the type of topic you may see on the test.
Think of your favorite book. Write a note to the author telling him or her that you are a big fan.
Here is a sample response:
Dear Andrew McCall-Smith,
I am a big fan of your book The Number One Ladies Detective Agency. The character of Mama Ramotswe and the details about her daily life have given me a sense of what it would be like to live in Botswana. I especially enjoyed learning that she has the same feelings about her country, her life, and her family that I do. Thank you for such a wonderful lesson about human nature.
Evaluation of the response:
The example above is a strong response and would likely score well. It is specific and appropriate. The writer clearly feels strongly about the book she has chosen to write about, and she clearly and concisely explains her reasons for feeling that way. Note that she also finishes the letter with a quick and genuine appreciation of the author’s work.
Here are some additional iTEP writing section prompts that you can use to practice.
- Think of one your favorite teachers. Write a note to him or her asking for a recommendation for you to get into a school or program where you are applying.
- Think of a place where you would like to work. Write a letter to the company, asking for a part-time job.
- Write about a place that you would like to visit one day. What makes it special to you?
Important things to remember:
- Letters should be appropriate to the topic, situation, and addressee.
- Write a few notes as ideas come to you—during the test, you are allowed to bring a piece of paper for this purpose.
- Try to make sure your sentence structure and word choice are varied. Proofread your letter to so that there are no serious problems with grammar and mechanics that impede understanding.
Writing Part 2
In part 2 of the writing section, you will be required to write an essay of 175-225 words (maximum 250 words) expressing an opinion on the given topic. To score well, you must give reasons and examples to support your opinion. You will type your essay using a keyboard, and you will be allowed 20 minutes to complete the assignment.
The writing required for Writing Part 2 is considered ‘persuasive’ writing, and is common in academic settings. Students will always be asked to form arguments based on evidence and previously stated positions. The ability to support an opinion is also important to success in the business world. Effective writing comes from planning and preparation. When preparing to write your argument, think through important points and be sure to support your assertions with reasons. Good persuasive writing requires a plan – it cannot happen by accident. You must logically build an argument that the reader can follow easily.
Writing Part 2 assesses your ability to do the following:
- Express, develop, and support a position
- Support a thesis with clear logic and reasoning
The response will be evaluated on how well the position is expressed and argued, not on its particular viewpoint. A strong response will demonstrate the following:
- A main idea that is clearly stated and presented.
- A response that is relevant to the prompt.
- Organization that is logical and easy for the reader to follow.
- Paragraphs and transitions that show how ideas relate to each other and to the main thesis.
Below is an example of the type of prompt you will see on the Writing Part 2 Section.
Some companies offer students internships to help them gain work experience. Others argue that this takes valuable time away from the student’s education. What do you think? Give reasons and examples to support your opinion.
Here is a sample response:
I think that internships are a good way for students, especially college students, to gain valuable on-the-job experience. My experience as a waitress taught me that I am well-suited for a career in restaurant management, which is what I intend to major in at college. Without this on-the- job experience, I wouldn’t know how much I enjoyed the atmosphere of a restaurant, or meeting and serving many different people every day. I have some friends who have also decided on their careers because of their summer jobs. One of my friends worked at a newspaper and is now studying journalism at college.
I do believe that it’s necessary for the intern to have a level of maturity and some theoretical knowledge if one is to perform well in an internship position and still be a good student. It’s difficult to mix work and study, but many students do it successfully. In addition, an internship should not take away from class time, but rather offer the student the opportunity to apply what is learned in class. The value of gaining this type of practical knowledge is recognized by many schools and colleges, since they frequently offer course tax credits for internship work.
In conclusion, internships can be very beneficial as long as they do not replace classroom experience, but offer the student a way to apply his or her knowledge and learn whether such a career is the right choice.
Okay, now let’s examine this response to learn from its strengths.
First, let’s consider what preparation this writer may have used before she started writing.
TIP: It’s very important to prepare BEFORE you write. Just as a pilot would not fly a plane without first preparing a flight plan, no writer should answer a question without first taking a few minutes to plan his response. So, take at least 2 to 3 minutes to prepare your response by doing the following:
- Re-state the question in your own words to be certain you fully understand the issue.
- Make a few notes about what you may write to support your argument.
- Choose one position based on your ideas.
Here are sample notes for a response that would be good preparation for the response above:
- my experience as waitress, — hotel, restaurant management
- practical knowledge is important
- can learn whether job is really right for the person
- can learn to apply abstract knowledge
- class credit for work experience
- not to replace what is taught in school
Now, let’s break down our model response above to learn from its clear structure:
- The thesis is stated in the first sentence.
“…internships are a good way for students, especially college students, to gain valuable on-the-job experience.”
- There are several kinds of support:
“My experience as a waitress…”
“One of my friends worked at a newspaper and is now studying journalism at college.”
- Transitions are used to keep the reader informed of their place in the argument:
“In addition, an internship should not take away from class time, but rather offer the student…”
- Clarity of the response is assisted by
- good use of paragraphs
- precise word choice
- varied sentence structure
- error-free grammar and mechanics.
- The final paragraph summarizes the position and main reasons, and re-states the thesis in a slightly different way.
NOTE: You have a limited time for your response, so be sure to budget some time at the end to write a proper conclusion. Your conclusion is your final expression and the lasting impression for the reader.
Try planning and writing an appropriate response in twenty minutes to each question:
- Certain countries protect their native industries by imposing heavy tariffs on imported goods. Other countries encourage imports in order to ensure their citizens access to as many goods as possible. Should countries be allowed to impose high tariffs on imports or should all countries allow each other free access to their markets? What do you think? Give reasons and examples to support your opinion.
- Often former government regulators are offered jobs by the industries that they had previously been overseeing. Critics say that this is a conflict of interest, while others say it’s not justifiable to restrict individuals’ actions once they’ve left public service. What do you think? Give reasons and examples to support your opinion.
For more writing section tips, see our previous post on improving your writing skills.