To write logically or to write as much as possible? Both, of course, but…

Another round of the TOEFL tomorrow.
What drastic change do you intend to make tomorrow? A small subtle change in your attitude or strategy will not make a noticeable difference. If you are determined to improve your score, you should really take a chance. I’m sure you have nothing to lose (as far as the TOEFL is concerned), right?
 
One small piece of advice that would make a difference I gave the other day to one of my students was to write as much as possible in the independent writing task. Forget about all the formalities and logic.
 
Everyone is talking about logic. 
 
Everyone can point out an illogical flow of a response. I ask my students do this in class. I ask them to correct the paper and give it a score (from 1 to 5). Then many of them point out the lack of coherence (which means the paper is not logical).
 
However, it’s not like all of them can write as if their essays are logically impeccable, I regret to say.
 
If you can make it in such a tense situation, you should be exempt from this requirement of taking the TOEFL in the first place. As far as most ordinary test-takers are concerned, they notice that a part of their essays is not consistent…when 20 minutes have passed already!
 
Then, what do we do?
 
I would suggest that you write as many words as possible.
 
Compare the two.
 
1) Very logical, considering the essay was written in 30 min, but it has 230 words.
 
2) Not consistent or even messy, but the essay has 500 words.
 
Which of the two would you rate higher?
 
This is not an application essay or an essay exam at university. It is just a test that measures how well you can do in a foreign language.
 
Some of you would say, “You are given 30 min, and yet you only wrote 230 words?”
 
I can add here. Essay 1 looks like it’s logical and consistent. However, it is thought of as such considering the time restraint. If you have only 30 min, are you confident that your essay should be impeccably consistent? I’m not.
 
“University is a place to study, so it should offer as much homework as possible for students.” 
“University is a place to study, so it should NOT offer unnecessary homework so that the students can spare more time to study.”
 
Either is fine. It is very hard to reach a conclusion without logical flaws.
 
I make a point of giving this advice to those students who have a considerable experience of staying in the U.S. They have a good command of English, but they (still high schoolers) need to improve their logical thinking. The problem (and paradox, ironically) is that when they try to think logically, their brain stops functioning properly. It will hurt their future academic life for sure, but that’s that. Everyone, no matter how brilliant s/he may be, will be having a tough time working on their studies in one way or another. At this particular moment, unless they get the required score, they will not even get to first base (or even come to the stadium, for that matter).
 
If your teacher is very strict and always advises you to think logically and to write coherently, you are learning from a very good teacher. It will help you with university studies. However, if getting the score is your tentative, but urgent, goal, that can be a hindrance.
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the sooner the better and I mean it.

Haven’t had time to write in here.
I am currently working on the upcoming April issue of the TOEFL prep course. Have to get it done by 4/1.
 
Recently I have been asked for advice by five test-takers whose deadlines are nearing. Hope they do fine.
 
Unfortunately, the TOEFL test is just cold-blooded. It does not get moved by any tear-jerking appeals. It is test that embodies the entire state-of-the-art technology on education in the U.S. Just burning the midnight oil a couple of days in a row cannot make any difference.
 
However, I have to say that there are some things you should/can do that can directly affect your score!
 
Only if your current score is within the range from 85 to 95. Otherwise, those techniques that I can share with you will not work at all. 
 
1) If your score is below 40,
 
there is no room where any test-taking technique can work. You need to build up, brush up, and improve your whole language ability on a step-by-step basis. 
 
2) If your current score is 107 and your target is 109,
 
there is no such thing like an “TOEFL-for dummies” technique. It can even take as long as two years to improve your score as much.
 
What I want to say is that it does take a lot of time to reach the required score. Therefore, the minute you think of studying in the U.S. I would advise you to do the two things below.
 
1) save as much as possible (you never know how you will start your campus life: tuition may be on your company or you need to pay out of your pocket).
 
then
 
2) Start in earnest to prepare for the TOEFL test.
 
Start in any way: you start learning basic stuff first or you can take a test anyway so that you can get disappointed to know what a tall hurdle you are going to jump over.
 
I just hope the readers here have enough time to prepare. 
 
But better late than never! In case you are in trouble because you have only a little time left until the test day and don’t know what to do anymore (because you have done much enough but cannot get the score), then there may be some areas in which I can still help you. Most important, however, is to start prep as soon as possible.