Essay topics:

Question 5

The Integrated Listening/Speaking tasks in questions 5 and 6 do not have a reading passage associated with them. For question 5, you will listen to a short conversation about a campus-related situation and respond to a question based on what you have heard.

In the conversation, two people will typically discuss a problem and two possible solutions. The problem is one that concerns one of them or both of them directly. After you listen to the conversation, you will be asked to briefly describe the situation that was discussed in the conversation and to give your own opinion about solutions to the problem. You will have 60 seconds in which to give your spoken response. The topics for this task are based on common, everyday situations or problems that might arise at a college or university.

Typically, the speakers in the conversation will be two students, or a student and a professor, or a student and a university staff member (e.g., a teaching assistant, librarian, administrator, etc.). The problems may involve such issues as scheduling conflicts, unavoidable absences, unavailable resources, student elections, financial difficulties, and so forth. In some cases, the problem is one that affects both speakers equally, and they must decide on a single, common solution. In other cases, the problem may involve only one of the speakers, and in this situation that speaker will present his or her problem and the other speaker (or both of them) will propose the two possible solutions. The conversations are usually between 60 and 90 seconds long.

The question you are asked when the conversation has ended has several parts: you are asked first to describe the problem that the speakers are discussing, then to state which of the two solutions you prefer, and finally to explain why you prefer that solution. The reasons you give for your preference can include information provided by the speakers in their discussion as well as your own experiences. For example, if your own experience with a similar or related problem is relevant to your choice of one solution over the other, you may draw on that experience when explaining your reasons.

Here, as in other Speaking tasks in which you are asked to choose between two alternatives and give reasons for your choice, it does not matter which of the two proposed solutions you choose, and there is no "right" solution or "wrong" solution. Your response will be rated not on which solution you choose but rather on how well you describe the problem, state the solution you prefer, and explain the reasons for your preference.

The types of problems discussed by the speakers in these conversations will vary. The problem could be that one of the speakers needs to arrange transportation for a class field trip and does not know whom to ask. Or the problem could be that a student has a doctor\'s appointment scheduled at the same time as a meeting with job recruiters. Another could be about a student who is not getting along with other members of his or her study group. In the following sample question, the speakers are discussing a problem that you may find very familiar: too much schoolwork and not enough time to do it.

It is very important to practice your conversational speaking skills as often as possible. One way of doing this might be joining an English language conversation club. If such clubs do
not exist in your area, you may want to start your own and, if possible, invite native
speakers to join in.
The following example shows how you would hear and see this task on your computer:
You will hear:
In this question, you will listen to a conversation. You will then be asked to talk about the information in the conversation and to give your opinion about the ideas presented. After you hear the question, you will have 20 seconds to prepare your response and 60 seconds to speak.
Then a picture of two students will appear on the screen.

Then you will hear the conversation:
Student A
Hey Lisa, how’s it going?
Student B
Hi Mark. Uh, I’m OK, I guess, but my schoolwork is really stressing me out.
Student A[sympathetically]
Yeah? What’s wrong?
Student B
Well, I’ve got a paper to write, and two exams to study for. And a bunch of math problems to finish. It’s just so much that I can’t concentrate on any of it. I start concentrating on studying for one of my exams, and then I’m like, how long’s it gonna take to finish that problem set?
Student A
Wow. Sounds like you’ve got a lot more work than you can handle right now. [Not wanting to sound too pushy] Look have you talked to some of your professors...I mean, you know, try to explain the problem. Look, you could probably get an extension on your paper, or on the math assignment...
Student B
You think? It would give me a little more time to prepare for my exams right now.
Student A
Well, I mean another thing that you might do ... I mean have you tried making yourself a schedule? I mean that’s what I do when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
Student B
What does that do for you?
Student A
Well, I mean it helps you to focus your energies. You know, you make yourself a chart that shows the next few days and the time till your stuff is due and...
Student B
Uh-huh [meaning “I’m listening”]
Student A
I mean think about what you need to do, and when you have to do it by. You know then start filling in your schedule--like, all right 9:00 [nine] to 11:30 [eleven-thirty] A.M., study for exam. 12:00 [twelve] to 3:00 [three], work on problem set. But I mean don’t make the time periods too long. Like, don’t put in eight hours of studying--you know, you’ll get tired, or start worrying about your other work again. But if you keep to your schedule, you know you’ll just have to worry about one thing at a time.
Student B
Yeah, that might work. [somewhat noncommittally]

5. The students discuss two possible solutions to the woman’s problem. Describe the
problem. Then state which of the two solutions you prefer and explain why.

Preparation time: 20 seconds
Response time: 60 seconds

After you hear the question, you will be told when to begin to prepare your response and when to begin speaking. A "Preparation Time" clock will appear below the question and begin to count down from 20 seconds (00:00:20). At the end of 20 seconds you will hear a short beep. After the beep, the clock will change to read "Response Time" and will begin to count down from 60 seconds (00:00:60). When the response time has ended, recording will stop and a new screen will appear alerting you that the response time has ended.

TO answer this question, you should begin by briefly describing the woman's problem, giving just enough details so that someone listening to your response but who has not heard the conversation would know what you are talking about. Then you would state which solution you prefer, and explain why. If you believe the second solution is preferable, you would probably begin by saying that you think it would be better if the woman prepared a schedule, and then you would proceed to explain why.

There are any number of reasons you can give: you might say, for example, that the problem of too much work to do is something that the woman is going to confront in the future as well, and that if she learns how to organize a schedule now, this will help her throughout her academic career. You could also speak about the disadvantages of the other solution: for example, even though her professors might be willing to give her an extension, they might somehow penalize her for it by grading her assignments more severely.

If your own personal experiences are relevant to your reasons for choosing one solution over the other, you may wish to mention those experiences, but you should keep in mind that the focus of the question is the problem faced by the speaker or speakers, not your own situation. Remember, too, a question like this can be answered in many different ways, and there is no "right" or "wrong" choice.

Average: 10 (3 votes)
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