writing

iTEP Prep: Inside iTEP’s Writing Section

writing

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!

Overview

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.

Scoring

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.

Example

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.

Sincerely,

James Myers

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.

Practice Prompts

Here are some additional iTEP writing section prompts that you can use to practice.

  1. 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.
  1. Think of a place where you would like to work. Write a letter to the company, asking for a part-time job.
  1. 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.

Example

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.

Practice Prompts

Try planning and writing an appropriate response in twenty minutes to each question:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 11.58.00 AM

iTEP Prep: 12 Verb Tenses You Need To Know for iTEP

12 Verb Tenses You Need To Know for iTEP

One of the most difficult things about learning English is conjugating verbs properly and knowing which verb tense applies to which situation. The Official iTEP Preparation Guide includes a review of the essential verb tenses that are included on all of the iTEP English assessment tests. You’ll find the list below as well as a few sample iTEP questions about verb tense. Scroll slowly to see if you know answer to the question before it is revealed!

Mastering the use of these verb tenses not only will help your iTEP score, but will greatly benefit your English language skills in general.

SIMPLE PRESENT TENSE                               Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 11.58.00 AM
I eat.

SIMPLE PAST TENSE
I ate yesterday.

SIMPLE FUTURE TENSE
I will eat tomorrow.

 

PRESENT CONTINUOUS TENSE
I am eating right now.

PAST CONTINUOUS TENSE
I was eating when the phone rang.

FUTURE CONTINUOUS TENSE
I will be eating at 9 a.m. tomorrow, so do not call me at that time.

 

PRESENT PERFECT TENSE
I have eaten eggs every day this week.

PAST PERFECT TENSE                                    
I had eaten eggs every day until yesterday.

FUTURE PERFECT TENSE                              
By tomorrow, I will have eaten eggs every day.

 

PRESENT PERFECT CONTINUOUS TENSE       
I have been eating for ten minutes.

PAST PERFECT CONTINUOUS TENSE
I had been eating when the phone rang.

FUTURE PERFECT CONTINUOUS TENSE        
I will have just finished eating by the time you  come tomorrow morning, so I will have to wait before I go swimming.

 

Verb Tense Question #1

Susan is not coming with us because she __________ that movie already.

A) will see
B) was seeing
C) will have seen
D) has seen

Correct Answer = D

The correct tense is the past perfect.

The correct sentence will now read: Susan is not coming with us because she has seen that movie already.

 

Verb Tense Question #2

While on my way to the cafeteria, I noticed that I ____________ my wallet.

A) forget
B) sometimes forget
C) am forgetting
D) had forgotten

Correct Answer = D

The correct tense is the past perfect. The first part of the sentence indicates an action that takes place in the past, and the second part of the sentence indicates an action that takes place even further in the past, so it requires the past perfect.

The correct sentence will now read: While on my way to the cafeteria, I noticed that I had forgotten my wallet.

 

Verb Tense Question #3

If I __________ able to go to the play, she would not have had to drive her car.

A) had been
B) was
C) have been
D) am going to be

Correct Answer = A

The correct tense is the past perfect. The second part of the sentence indicates an action that takes place in the past, and the second part of the sentence indicates an action that takes place even further in the past, so it requires the past perfect.

The correct sentence will now read: If I had been able to go to the play, she would not have had to drive her car.

writing

iTEP Prep: Exercise Your Writing Skills

Test Prep: Exercise Your Writing Skills

writing

Nothing makes writing in a foreign language easier than practice. When you write, there are so many decisions to make. What is the correct word here? How is it spelled? How do a conjugate this verb? It’s enough to cause anxiety! However, the more you practicing making these decisions, the better you become. Your writing starts to flow freely, and that’s when you perform your best.

Whether you have already taken iTEP or are planning to, it’s a good idea to keep your English writing skills sharp. This exercise from the Official iTEP Preparation Guide is a great way to practice in just 20 minutes!

Try planning and writing a response in 20 minutes to each question. These are examples of actual writing prompts used in iTEP Academic.

  • Read each question
  • Plan a response
  • Write down notes
  • Write a response
  • Spend the last two minutes to proofread and make minor edits

1. 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.

2. 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.

Some tips to keep in mind

  • Good writing requires clarity. Be sure to express and develop a position supported with clear logic and reasoning.
  • Scoring well on the iTEP test requires good preparation. Start by summarizing the question to make sure you understand it.
  • Practice forming concise and informative opinions on a variety of subjects.
  • Writing uses reading and grammar skills. Understanding the prompt is the first step toward answering it effectively.
  • Read examples of persuasive writing such as newspaper editorials to learn how arguments are constructed.
  • Make sure to write a complete response: one that contains a main idea or thesis, elaboration and support, conclusion, and a clearly stated position with specific examples and details.
  • Use transition words to connect ideas within sentences. Use paragraphs to indicate new ideas.
  • Take a minute or two at the end to proofread your writing for any errors. This is also a good idea before sending an email or posting on social media too!
mouth

iTEP Prep: Building Speaking Skills

mouthiTEP Prep: Building Speaking Skills

The following is adapted from the Official iTEP Preparation Guide

Your iTEP speaking score is determined by how clearly and effectively you respond to the prompt. First, your response must be relevant to the topic. For instance, if the prompt asks you to discuss an important person from history and you choose to talk about your favorite dessert, even if you say many enlightening and informative things about dessert, your score will be marked down for responding to the wrong topic.

So, to prepare for the test, you want to be sure that no matter what the topic is, you will be able to craft a response that answers the question.

Here are a few tips:
• Give a clear statement that clearly answers the question or topic.
• Explain and support the statement with details and examples.
• Be organized, expressing one idea per sentence.
• Utilize natural, conversational transitions.
• Vary vocabulary and sentence structure.
• There are no right or wrong answers with opinions.
• Use words precisely.
• Speak clearly and calmly.
• Use the preparation time to plan the points to make in the speech.
• Give specific details and examples to support and develop the main point.
• Errors in grammar, word choice, organization, pronunciation, tone, and ease affect the overall quality, and therefore the score, to the degree that they get in the way of clear communication.

A great way to approach the speaking section is to imagine you are actually speaking to someone, preferably a friend or acquaintance. Here are some ways to improve your English speaking skills before taking iTEP.

• Practice speaking in English as often as possible.
• Speak to native English speakers and ask them if you are pronouncing words correctly.
• Use the internet to listen to native English speakers.
• Practice speaking into a tape recorder; then listen to the response to improve clarity.
• Prepare possible speaking points before you take the test. Think of ideas for your responses if asked about authors, stories, historical figures or other topics.

parts of speech

iTEP Prep: Parts of Speech

parts of speechiTEP Prep: Parts of Speech

The following is an excerpt from the Official iTEP Preparation Guide

“Parts of speech” are the basic types of words that English contains. Most grammar books say that there are eight parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, conjunctions, prepositions and interjections. We will add one more type: articles.

It is important to be able to recognize and identify the different types of words in English, so that you can understand grammar explanations and use the right word form in the right place. Here is a brief explanation of what the parts of speech are:

Noun: A noun is a naming word. It names a person, place, thing, idea, living creature, quality, or action. (Examples: cowboy, theatre, box, thought, tree, kindness, arrival)

Verb: A verb is a word which describes an action (doing something) or a state (being something). (Examples: walk, talk, think, believe, live, like, want)

Adjective: An adjective is a word that describes a noun. It tells you something about the noun. (Examples: big, yellow, thin, amazing, beautiful, quick, important)

Adverb: An adverb is a word which usually describes a verb. It tells you how something is done. It may also tell you when or where something happened. (Examples: slowly, intelligently, well, yesterday, tomorrow, here, everywhere)

Pronoun: A pronoun is used instead of a noun, to avoid repeating the noun. (Examples: I, you, he, she, it, we, they)

Conjunction: A conjunction joins two words, phrases or sentences together. (Examples: but, so, and, because, or)

Preposition: A preposition usually comes before a noun, pronoun or noun phrase. It joins the noun to some other part of the sentence. (Examples: on, in, by, with, under, through, at)

Interjection: An interjection is an unusual kind of word, because it often stands alone. Interjections are words which express emotion or surprise, and they are usually followed by exclamation marks. (Examples: Ouch!, Hello!, Hurray!, Oh no!, Ha!)

Article: An article is used to introduce a noun. (Examples: the, a, an)

interview

iTEP Prep Tip: Interviewing the Passage

iTEP Prep Tip: Interviewing the Passage

interview

During the reading section of iTEP, it’s important to use a technique called “interviewing the passage” by asking yourself “What?” “Who?” and “Why?” Try it with the passage below. Who person is speaking? What is she talking about? How do you know?

I’m not very happy with my schedule of classes this year. I have algebra right after lunch. And right after I eat lunch, I always feel really tired. On Monday, I actually fell asleep during class! Last year, my mathematics class was at eight o’ clock in the morning and I had a study period after lunch. I feel a lot fresher in the morning, and I got a really good grade in math last year. I’m going to talk to my advisor this afternoon to try to change my schedule.

What is the passage about? A person is not happy with her schedule.
What is her problem? She has more energy in the morning than she has after lunch.
Who is she? She never directly tells us, but we can infer that she must be a student.
Why? She explains that she needs to fix her class schedule.

Asking these questions as you read will help you be ready to answer questions about the passage as soon as you are finished. For more tips for preparing to take iTEP, follow us on social media using the links on the side of the page or order a copy of the Official iTEP Preparation Guide.