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It is possible on your TOEFL that you will want to invent some examples, that is, create some examples that, well, that are not true. So this is possible because the TOEFL is not a test of honesty. It’s not a test of truth. It’s a test of communication. As long as you communicate correctly and say what the grader will understand, then that’s pretty good.
And if you’re communicating fiction, communicating a lie, something that’s not true, then it’s still communicating. So for independent tasks, you can tell fictions, you can tell lies, because in the independent tasks, you’re talking about stories from your life. You’re not talking about scientific advancements, for example, or some other things in the news necessarily.
You can talk just about your life and experience, and the grader does not know about your life. The person who listens to your answer and gives you a grade has no knowledge about your life and experience. So they don’t know and they don’t care. But in the integrated tasks, on the other hand, those are about facts on things that you read and heard.
So in the integrated tasks you cannot invent examples. You have to give the examples from the reading and the listening. You have to say the same thing as what you read and heard. So really, when we’re talking about inventing examples, we’re talking about independent tasks, not the integrated tasks. Now how do you create a good example?
This will show you why inventing examples can be helpful, because a good example, well, let’s look at a real life example. In this case it has details that are easy to use because, well, your real life is detailed. You just need to remember the details. But it can be hard to make it relevant.
It can be hard to relate your real life to the question, to the topic that you need to speak about. On the other hand, fiction, it’s a little bit harder to create those details, because you don’t have them in your memory. This is being a good storyteller, coming up with fictional details. And if you write books, if you write stories, then great.
Maybe this is easy for you. But for many of us, it’s not easy to create good details from nothing, from fiction. However, it is easy to make fiction related to the question, related to the topic. So what you can do is take a little bit of both.
Take the easy part from real life examples and the relevance from fiction, and we have fiction based on real life. So you’re going to give details from your real life, but you’re going to change them a little bit and make them relevant. So here’s an example. This question, should snakes be kept as pets?
Okay, I’m going to start with any real world experience with snakes that I have, which can give me some real specific details. And then I’m going to make it relevant to this question about should they be kept as pets? So the truth is my friend in high school had a two-foot corn snake. It stayed in a glass tank.
And the other truth is that I never touched this snake. I don’t really know anything about this snake being a good pet or a bad pet. It doesn’t matter, because I can tell a little bit of a lie, I can tell some fiction here. It often tried to escape the tank because the space was too small. Okay, now I have something that’s a little bit more relevant for should they be kept as pets?
This sounds like no, they shouldn’t. This was a bad experience. So I took some truth that had specific details about this specific snake in a glass tank and then I made it relevant by inventing, by telling a little lie, by inventing a detail that is more relevant to the question.
So the overall idea here is that it’s more important that you communicate than tell the truth in the independent tasks. So it’s okay to lie, but only for the independent tasks. For the other ones you need to talk about what you heard and read. It should be relevant. So if you have a relevant experience, that’s great, use it.
But if you don’t have a relevant experience, you can take something that you know about from your life and make it relevant, invent a relevant experience. So this way you have some specifics, and it’s related to the question. If you already have that, then awesome. If you don’t have it, then you can invent the relation to the question.
So start from the truth and invent the details for relevance. Invent what you need to make it relevant. Begin from your actual experience and modify it.
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