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Table of Contents

Although the focus of this course had been originally set on scientific writing, the fact that almost all of the present participants are still in the early stages of their study programs, have not completed their short or long internships and are not looking for a professional job any time soon, made the activities shift towards more general themes. For this reason we will not cover report writing and probably will not get to compose résumés either.

In the past eight weeks I hope you have realized that writing is largely a process of socialization and acquisition of culturally appropriate ways of interacting and expressing oneself. We must be even more aware of this process when we are writing in a second or foreign language and will be read by natives and foreign language readers as well. We need to avoid being misinterpreted or making the wrong impression.

Audience is a key element in the process and this week we will be practicing how to write an essay in a test situation where the audience is restricted to the test correctors. As some of you may know, the Toefl and IELTS exams are required by universities abroad in order to be admitted to their programs. Other institutions ask for these test scores as well, as is the case of some employers, even here in Venezuela.

It is important to know exactly what test correctors look for in the two to five minutes they spend checking each essay.

Even if the time to write is very limited, just 30 minutes, there is a specific tight structure to follow which can be easily mastered through practice. If you make very few mistakes, use varied syntactical structure and include transitions to present your ideas in a coherent way, you can get to the high score of 6.


  • paper copies of sample Toefl tests
  • online samples of Toefl and IELTS
  • five minute video on essay writing
  • essay test to be completed in 30 minutes during the class
  • pictures for sharing ideas on Venezuela, our university, Caracas or any other topic with our Japanese friends


1) Analize some paper sample Toefl tests in class as a group.

2) Read the top ten list for the Toefl exam and then watch a 5-minute video on essay writing from Ashworth University in Georgia, USA.

3) Write a 30-minute Toefl-like essay in class on a given topic following the appropriate essay structure. Include it in your wiki page. We will do it in the lab. Later, evaluate your essay, identify if there are sections that are missing, if you discussed all aspects of the given topic, check subjects and verbs in every sentence, see if you included transitions to connect some sentences and paragraphs; in sum, try to improve it to get to the test standards. You could blog about this experience if you want to (what went right, what went wrong, if you had enough time to think and write, how you would go about writing an essay in 30 minutes the next time, what strategies could be more effective, etc.)

4) Upload a picture to our international project wiki page (and your personal blog, as we decided last Tuesday) and write a paragraph about it to share with our Japanese friends. Select something of our country or culture that you think would be worth mentioning to them. Remember that they do not know much about Venezuela and what you tell them will be part of their first impressions about the country, its culture, etc.

5) Go to the wiki pages of our Japanese friends and read the posts of the students you were assigned to, write brief comments in the discussion tab, answer their questions and ask some questions in return.

6) Complete the following concordancer exercises: prepositions with nouns and verbs, do the last sections of nouns and verbs 1, and nouns and verbs 2
7) Review how many of the weekly benchmarks you have completed so far. Eduardo and Gabriel already handed them in on Tuesday. Bring them next class.


I have:
  • analyzed some paper sample Toefl tests
  • read a brief list of hints and watched a 5-minute video on essay writing
  • written an essay in 30 minutes about a given topic
  • uploaded a picture to my wiki page and written a paragraph about it (and copied the same information in my blog)
  • written comments to three of our Japanese guests
  • completed some concordance exercises
  • reviewed the weekly benchmarks so far.