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Introduction

Complete TOEFL Success


Question 4

Reading
Bonus Reading

Question 4 back to top

Listening
Speaking

In this question, we will again be faced with a reading and a listening that we must summarize.
Step 1 Speaking
Question 1

Outline

Question 2
Question 3

1st: you will be given 45 or 50 seconds to read a short passage of about 100 words.

Question 4

2nd: you will hear a lecture that lasts a little over 1- minutes.

Question 5
Question 6

3rd: you will be asked a question about the lecture.


4th: you will be given 30 seconds to prepare your response.
5th: you will then have 60 seconds to record your response.

Step 2 Speaking

6th: the computer will save your response and go to the next question

Step 3 Speaking
Practice

Let's put it together and practice a question. Record your 1st try on your computer so that you

Answers

can have it as a record and compare it to later records after you finish this program. Do your

Extra Practice

best and don't worry about making it perfect. Simply try the question and continue through

Speaking Homework

step 1. Use the stopwatch below to time you through the appropriate steps.

Dictation
Transcripts

Writing

For timing yourself: Stopwatch


Practice

Vocabulary

Reading time: 50 seconds


Sustainability
Most economic systems work to maximize the use of limited resources, often
without great attention to the harmful effects such use may have. Sustainability
relates to the management of resources to limit the negative impact placed on the
environment. Sustainable practices aim to achieve the best balance possible
between the use of resources and their maintenance for future generations. With
these practices, businesses attempt to attain the greatest amount of profit possible
by exploiting resources while managing them in a way that will allow both the
business to continue well into the future and future generations to enjoy the same
resources.
Listening

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Question: Explain sustainability by using the example of the printing company provided
by the professor.
Preparation time: 30 seconds
Response time: 60 seconds

Understanding the Reading back to top

This is one of the more difficult questions on the speaking section and the reading is a major
key to simplifying it. It is composed of two parts: a title and a 100-word paragraph. The title
will be the topic of the reading and the paragraph will define the topic.
Consider the title of the passage a new vocabulary word and the paragraph a 100-word
definition of it. The first thing you must do is write down the title in your notes, immediately.
Next read through the 100-word paragraph quickly because its complicated and you only have
45 or 50 seconds to read it. As you read, identify ONE and only one sentence that clearly
defines the title. How? The easiest way is to look for a sentence with the title in it. Easy, right?
This sentence may have a pronoun such as it or this that refers to the sentence before it so be
careful. Once youve identified the one, two, or three sentences that contain the title choose the
one that offers the clearest definition. Then, take notes on only that sentence and take exact
notes. That sentence will serve as the conceptual foundation of your answer, so we want to
write it down exactly as we see it. If we change or leave something out, it might change the
accuracy of the definition and hurt our explanation of the lecture. Lets practice this together by
examining our reading.

Sustainability
Most economic systems work to maximize the use of limited resources, often
without great attention to the harmful effects such use may have. Sustainability
relates to the management of resources to limit the negative impact
placed on the environment (our defining sentence). Sustainable practices
aim to achieve the best balance possible between the use of resources and their
maintenance for future generations. With these practices, businesses attempt to
attain the greatest amount of profit possible by exploiting resources while managing
them in a way that will allow both the business to continue well into the future and
future generations to enjoy the same resources.

Doesnt the passage seem a little easier to understand now?


The reading could be about anything: biology, psychology, architecture, and so on. But, it
doesnt really matter as long as you follow the simple steps I just gave you to produce these
kinds of notes. All we did was read and highlight in our mind the only sentence that we had

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with the word "sustainable." After analysis, we find that that sentence provides a perfect
definition of sustainability and so we write it down in our notes exactly.

Example Notes
Topic: sustainability
Definition: manage resources to limit negative impact plced on envir.

Now that you are able to find the sentence with the definition quickly, study it carefully before
your 45 or 50 seconds are up because the lecture that follows presents an example that
illustrates it. To make the biggest impact on your score, with any time you have left before the
listening starts, anticipate what the lecture will be about. Do this before the lecture starts, you
will understand it better, take better notes, and deliver a higher scoring speech. For example,
what can we expect our lecture to be about from the definition?

The circles illustrate the grammatical parts of the definition: subject, verb, and object. Those
are the parts that will repeat within the example in the lecture. So, what can we expect to hear?
Let's break it down.
management of resources:
We'll likely hear that a company is managing its materials/resources
limit the negative:
We'll likely hear that it does so in a positive, non-negative way
impact placed on the environment:
We'll likely hear about the company's influence/impact on its environment
With that in our head, we will have a much greater understanding of the lecture that follows.
This may not be easy, but always practice doing this as you study. It will get easier.

Understanding the Listening back to top

In the passage, we learned about sustainability. We read that it is the management of


resources to limit the negative impact on the environment. Consequently, you should expect
the lecture to be a story about somebody or something managing resources in a way that
doesnt hurt the environment (as we just saw how to anticipate earlier). Now, look at the
transcript of the lecture to see how accurate our expectation is.

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Lecture
Let me tell you about an organization doing big things in the field of
sustainability. Printing, like most other businesses, exploits limited resources
such as paper and employs certain substances that can damage the environment
such as ink, glues, and so on. If every printing company just went about their
business without any regard for what impact they were making, the industry
wouldnt last for very much longer.
A local printing company, however, has taken a different approach. This
local printing company is so unique not because it doesnt use such material in its
work, but because of the way it does so.
Rather than purchase paper from any company, it first attempts to purchase
recycled paper whenever possible. If a client demands clean, un-recycled
paper, the company buys it only from companies that themselves use sustainable
practices, such as planting a tree for each one removed in the process of making
paper.
Also, the ink used by most printing companies releases harmful chemicals into the
environment, chemicals that add to air pollution. This company reduces its
environmental footprint by taking advantage of vegetable oil based inks
that release almost no toxic substances into the air and that are themselves
made from sustainable companies.
The glue used to attach papers to produce books isnt itself as bad as the effect it has
on the recycling process. This glue tends to damage the machines responsible for
changing old, useless paper into usable, recycled paper. To limit this negative
effect, this printing company employs glue in only limited
circumstances.

Did you see the structure? Not so crazy, right? The information in bold is exactly what we
expect. Other information is important, but what's bold is the most important information that
we need to say for a high score because it illustrates the definition best. The lecture is nothing
more than a story about a printing company that practices sustainability; it uses resources in a
way that limits the negative impact on the environment.
The notes you take should focus on the key points that show how the example illustrates the
definition. Ive provided two sets of example notes: one shows the minimum you need and the
second shows the complete notes you need for a perfect score. When you take notes, compare
yours to ours and see where you are. If yours look similar to "basic notes," that's no problem;
we just need to work on our note-taking skills and we have exercises later in the system for
that. If yours look similar to our "perfect notes," then you're in a great position to improve your
score; you just need to master the delivery of your information to improve because your notes
are fine.

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Example Basic Notes


Unique printing company
Uses recycled paper
Uses non-toxic ink
Limits glue use

Example Perfect Notes


Printing damages envir.
Industry not last forever
Unique printing company
Uses recycled paper
Buys paper from sustainable companies
Plants tree for each tree used
Inks toxic cause air pollution
Uses non-toxic ink
Glue damages recycling machines
Limits glue use

In our notes, do you see how we have indented? That means that some notes were moved to
the right. This is very important to do to keep your notes organized and easy to explain. By
moving notes to the right, we are visually making it easy to see how some information is
directly connected to other information. If you look above, for example, you'll see that "Buys
paper from sustainable companies" was placed a little to the right of "Uses recycled
paper." We did this to show that "Buys paper from sustainable companies" is expanding
on the idea of "Uses recycled paper." This may not be too easy to do, but make sure to
always practice and review this to bring this structure and clarity to your notes.

Understanding the Question back to top

The question following the lecture always asks the same thing: explain the topic using the
example provided in the lecture. This question can be very helpful if you forget the topic and
the structure because it will restate the topic and remind you that the lecture gave information
that illustrated it. Look at the question to see what I mean.

Question
Explain sustainability by using the example of the printing company
provided by the professor.

You get not only the topic and structure again but also the fact that it was all about a printing

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company. Helpful, dont you think?

Your 30-second Preparation Time back to top

In this step, you need to organize your notes further to ensure that you can explain them easily.
Heres how.

Prepare your notes


1st: Circle the topic (the title of the reading passage)
2nd: Circle the words that define the topic (from the reading passage)
3rd: Circle the words from the lecture
4th: Cross out unimportant details
5th: Cross out notes you can't understand or explain as you draw your circles

You should have a total of three circles and have re-read the words as you circled them for a
quick review before you begin to speak.
Most students have a lot of trouble with time management for this question because they dont
understand that the lecture was 1 minute and 40 seconds long and so there is no way that
all of the information can be explained in 40 seconds, which is the approximate time
that we have in our speech to dedicate to the lecture (the other 20 seconds will be for the topic,
definition, and conclusion).
Please, please, please, don't be one of those students. You are hurting yourself with this thought
and if you keep the idea that "I have to say everything because it's all important," you've
ignored what I just taught you about the lecture and have essentially said, "I will completely
ignore what I'm asked to do and instead do only what I want to and still expect to get a high
score." That's tough to do when you don't follow the rules, right? Don't worry; I'll teach you
how to cross things out and focus on what's important as you draw your circles.
Were going to simplify this problem for you right now. Again, the lecture is 1 minute 40
seconds long and however good you are, its hard to take notes on every single detail of the
lecture, so your notes probably represent about 1 minute of speech (for the better note-takers
among you even more); consequently, you need to cut your notes almost in half in order to
have the ability to speak about the lecture for 40 seconds. I recommend cutting your notes by
30 to 40%. That means cross out 3 to 4 lines for every 10 lines of notes that you have. Later
we'll do an exercise to be more exact, but follow this general guide for now.
I know what you are thinking right now, but dont I have to say everything to get a good
score? The answer is NO. This question tests your ability to summarize and it is impossible for
you to say everything. A native speaker took 1 minute 40 seconds, so how can a non-native
speaker say the same in 40?

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Heres the most important part: cross out the words from your notes that add detail but do not
provide important points that show how the example in the lecture illustrates the definition in
the passage. Let me show you how.

We crossed out about 30% of our notes: we had 12 lines of notes total and crossed out 4 lines of
information that we learned earlier didn't directly illustrate the definition. This will take you
some time to master, but lucky for you, you have plenty of material to practice with. Be patient
with this and know that we'll review this conecpt again a few times in the program. It will get
much easier.

Your 60-second Preparation Time back to top

Here's the structure to model to deliver your answer.

What to explain

How to explain it

1st: title

1st: The article discusses . . .

2nd: definition

2nd: which the passage defines as . . .

3rd:transition

3rd: The professor provides an example

Timing

Finish 3rd by 40s

of . . . to illustrate this.
4th: lecture

4th: He/She explains that. . .

Finish 4th by 3s

5th: conclusion

5th: And so, this example clearly

Finish 5th by 0s

illustrates. .

The first limited example answer is the starting point. You need to be able to state that the
professor describes a unique printing company that is an example of sustainability and that she
gives three points that show how its sustainable: paper, ink, and glue. Miss a point and we
need to dedicate a strong amount of time developing your listening skills.

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You'll also find a fair and perfect example response so that you can see where you are among
the examples. The limited answer would earn a 14; the fair answer would earn a 24; and, the
perfect answer would earn a perfect 30 as long as you speak clearly and can deliver the
information within the 60 seconds.

Limited Answer
(step 1) The article discusses sustainability.
(step 3) The lecture provides an example of a printing company to illustrate
this.
(step 4) The professor describes a unique printing company. This company uses
recycled paper whenever it can. This company uses non-toxic inks. It also limits the
use of harmful glue.
(step 5) And so, this example clearly illustrates sustainability.
This response has 54 words and would earn a limited score: (14/30)

Fair Answer
(step 1) The article discusses sustainability,
(step 2) which the passage defines as the use of limited resources to reduce the
negative effects on the environment.
(step 3) The lecture provides an example of a printing company to illustrate
this.
(step 4) The professor explains that a unique printing company that cares about
the environment uses recycled paper whenever it can. And, when it cant, it buys
paper from companies that use sustainable practices. We also learn that it uses
non-toxic inks made from vegetable oil. Furthermore, she explains that glue can
damage recycling machines, so the printing company limits its use of harmful glue.
(step 5) And so, this example clearly illustrates sustainability.
This response has 105 words and would earn a good score: (24/30)

Powerful Tip for Masters of Question 4 back to top

If you understand everything that we've discussed well and feel confident in your
understanding of question 4, the example and explanation below are for you. If you're not quite
a master of question 4 yet, I recommend either coming back to this section when you feel that
you are or reviewing it to get an idea of what you are working towards. Our goal is to teach you
in a step-by-step process so that we're always making small improvements that will generate
big results rather than just teach everything and then leave you alone.
First, let's review a perfect example answer to this question.

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Perfect Answer
(step 1) The article discusses sustainability,
(step 2) which the passage defines as the use of limited resources to reduce
negative effects on the environment.
(step 3) The lecture provides an example of a printing company to illustrate
this.
(step 4) The professor explains that most printing companies dont care about
the negative effects their practices have on the environment. She describes a unique
printing company that does care. It manages limited resources to reduce its
negative impact. For example, this company uses recycled paper. When it
cant, it buys paper from companies that use sustainable practices, such as planting
a tree for each tree used to make paper. Most companies use toxic inks that add air
pollution. In contrast, this company uses non-toxic inks that dont. Finally, glue
can damage recycling machines, so the printing company limits its use of harmful
glue.
(step 5) And so, this company clearly illustrates sustainability.
This response has 143 words and would earn a perfect score: (30/30)

You see that we have some words highlighted in many ways (bold, italic, and underline). These
words hold a strong importance in a great response: they clearly demonstrate an
understanding of the important points in the lecture that illustrate the definition by
emphasizing them. Listen to our mini-lecture below to learn from this example and find out
how you can create it yourself. Reference the transcript above as you listen.

Also, put your personality into it. When discussing complex material, we still put emotion into
our speech to emphasize our points. Many students have a dry, monotone nature when they
deliver answers to question 4 (and similarly to question 6). This also--whether you know it or
not--adds to stress. Put feeling into it and things will be more understandable. Listen to this
professor and whether you understand him or not is meaningless; listen to his emotion as he
explains complex information and bring this into your speech (to the best of your ability).
Again, who cares whether you understand it, you can feel what he's saying. Listen and try to do
the same.

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I know this may look difficult to produce, but if you practice hard and follow every single step
Ive outlined for you, you will be able to do this on your upcoming TOEFL test. Remember; you
can do it! Work hard, stay confident, and dont give up.

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