TOEFL iBT | Listening | Lecture | Urbanization in America

Welcome back to another TOEFL iBT Listening! Because the podcast on Beluga Whales has done extremely well, I decided to do another for you, follow by listening tips for success and a reading test! So we have an action-packed week of TOEFL coming up beginning today and going through the beginning of next week. In saying that, let’s get into it!

My Notes

Process of which rural to urban/industrial

more and more move, cities got bigger and bigger

Why did they want to live there?


No need for them before factories because most people just farmed

1800s — inventors came up with machines of mass production

transformed agriculture, less human activity

people flocked to factories

Foreign countries and largest boom in immigration

fair share of positives and negatives


To house them, cheap building thrown up overnight

crowded and unhealthy — proper access to water, clean air, sanitsation

sickness and disease

new form — rise in crime

strong anti-immigrant feelings -=- strong racial biases and hate crimes


More opportunities, pay is higher in cities

Improvements to roads and businesses, transportation, subways, public trains

mass expansion of museums, libraries and theatres

parks established

revelation that public health mattered

first-large scale hospitals

As a result of massive movement

some of americas greatest cities: hundreds of new cities were born, New York 1.5 million and doubled to 5 million

Chi town – 300k people to 3 million people

Why cities had a tough time keeping up with growth

Most people live in urban landscapes

cities are much different: hospitals, libraries, parks, after 100 years, now we have policies

In what ways do we wstill need to grow, making same mistakes as a hundred years ago


1. According to the lecture, what was the main cause of urbanization?

– a lack of farming jobs because of famine encouraged people to find work elsewhere

– the invention of new machines transformed cities and farming, encouraging movement

– the attractive benefits of city life encouraged many people to make the move

– overpopulation meant that there wasn’t enough space in rural areas for all people

2. What does the professor suggest caused higher numbers of people to grow sick in cities?

  • The lack of proper sanitation in people’s homes and neighborhoods
  • the housing options forced people to live in overcrowded neighborhoods
  • a lack of planning mean there was no trash or water services
  • all of the above

3. According to the lecture, what was the result of so many new immigrants moving to America?

  • The rise in population led to more communal sentiments and a strong country.
  • along with new people came a new perspective on cultural acceptance.
  • all the new people created racially divided communities discrimination and anger.
  • the new races of people didn’t interact often and established their own cities.

4. What does the professor mean by the term “infrastructure”?

  • The structures in a city that make life easier and enjoyable
  • the shape that the different structures in cities take on
  • the imagined potential for a city after planning is done
  • the parts of a city that constantly need improvement

5. Why does the professor suggest that it’s understandable to see why cities had so many problems at first?

  • he describes the lack of technology that was available for providing basic needs
  • he explains that the political structures were bad and didn’t work for the people
  • he illustrates that the population growth happened faster than the cities could keep up
  • he imagines that the problems are part of any city at any time in history

6. What was the main point of this lecture?

  • to provide questions for improving our modern cities
  • to explain the causes and effects of urbanization
  • to describe the poor living conditions of the early cities
  • to compare and contrast past cities with modern cities

TOEFL iBT | Writing | How to Write a High-Scoring Introductory Paragraph

You guys are going to love me for this. Yes, I know there are a ton of standard templates out there that the majority of planet Earth uses, but what if I told you that you can write a fully functional introductory paragraph and get even more points? In today’s blog/podcast/video, I will discuss just that.

A high-scoring TOEFL introductory paragraph can be split into two parts.

  1. General background information about the essay topic.
  2. A thesis statement

General background information

There are many different ways of writing the general background information about the topic. For example, you could write about a brief history of the topic or an explanation why this topic is controversial or important. Alternatively, you can begin with other people’s opinions on this topic.

Thesis statement

The thesis statement is the single most important sentence in your essay and you must include it in the introductory paragraph. A thesis statement is your main opinion on the essay topic, and it also includes a preview of your key points in which you will be writing about in detail in your body paragraphs.

Developing an industry is more important than saving the environment for endangered animals. Do you agree or disagree with the statement? Use specific details and examples to support your viewpoint. 

Typically, unprepared test takers will write something like this: 

I do not agree with the statement that developing an industry is more important than saving the environment for endangered animals. 

Before we continue, please take a moment and try to figure out what’s wrong with this introductory paragraph. Is there a problem with this intro? Well…yes…there are actually two problems. First, it simply reused the words from the topic question. TOEFL will deduct marks, if you do this. Don’t do it! :), Secondly, the paragraph is too short. 

OK, now that we figured out the issues, let’s see how we can solve this problem. 

OK! First, before you write your thesis statement, give some general background information about it or you can give someone’s opinion on it. Don’t worry, I’ll give examples later.

Now it’s time to write your thesis statement. Remember that simply copying the essay topic will cost you points, so instead you will paraphrase the essay topic. 

Let’s look at the definition for Paraphrasing: to express the same meaning by using different words or different sentence structures. Remember when I paraphrased the word “problems” into “issues”? Well, you will do the same thing for your thesis statement by paraphrasing the essay topic. 

So now that we have added background information before the thesis statement and paraphrased the essay topic into our thesis statement, we have solved the issues from the first example. 

Now let’s look at a high-scoring intro paragraph that uses everything we just learned.

Developing an industry is more important than saving the environment for endangered animals. Do you agree or disagree with the statement? Use specific details and examples to support your viewpoint. 

The debate on the competition between economic development and the protection of endangered species has been going on for decades. I disagree with the statement that developing industry should take precedence over saving the environment for endangered species because I firmly believe that destroying the environment will eventually take its toll on humans in the long run.

Notice the word “debate”? This word is very useful when it comes to TOEFL writing. Any time the essay prompt asks you to agree or disagree with a statement, you can use the word “debate” to point out that the statement has both sides of opinion. Here we write “The debate on the competition between industrial development and the protection of endangered species has been going on for decades”. So what did this sentence give to the intro paragraph? 

It gave general background information about this topic. 

Now, let’s look at the thesis statement “I disagree with the statement that developing industry should take precedence over saving the environment for endangered species because I firmly believe that destroying the environment will eventually take its toll on humans in the long run.” 

The writer used paraphrasing!. “Take precedence over” means the same thing as “is more important than”. He also uses “species” instead of “animals”. 

There are multiple ways to paraphrase sentences and words. For example: “take precedence over”can be written as “take priority over”. Here is the full sentence: “Developing industry should take priority over saving the environment for endangered species”. You can practice paraphrasing by thinking of different ways you can paraphrase essay topics and vocabulary. 

Let’s look at another example that starts off with other people’s opinions.

When people succeed, it is because of hard work. Luck has nothing to do with success. Do you agree or disagree with the statement above? Use examples and details to support your position. 

It is generally believed that success comes through hard work and luck does not play a part. However, in my opinion, hard work can certainly improve a person’s situation, but luck will to a large extent influence the course of a person’s life because the social circumstances that people are born into play an amazingly large role in the potential they have throughout their lives.

As you can see, it begins with other people’s opinions by using the common pattern “It is generally believed that”. Then, it uses “however” to introduce the thesis statement which is “ in my opinion, hard work can certainly improve a person’s situation, but luck will to a large extent influence the course of a person’s life because the social circumstances that people are born into play an amazingly large role in the potential they have throughout their lives.”

TOEFL iBT | Reading | Techniques for Inference & Complete the Table Questions

We’re back with another reading part. In today’s podcast/video/blog, we’re going to discuss another question type that was requested by some TOEFLtakers. Inference questions, which prove to be the most difficult, will be broken down, as well as a detailed “complete the table” section. So, it’s time to dive in!

Complete The Table

“Complete The Table” question requires you to read and understand the whole text. However, unlike the “Complete The Summary” question, instead of choosing major ideas and themes from the text, you need to pick out and categorize minor details. There is no limit on how many answers you can choose, but remember, not all the choices will be used. I will show you an easier way to saving more time in not having to read the entire text.

This question type defers from the “Complete The Summary” question type. You will be categorizing minor details instead of major ideas. 

Let’s look at an example….

[1] A tree is a perennial plant that consists of a long stem, trunk, branches and in most species, leaves. They have evolved their structure to compete for sunlight with other plants. Trees usually live for a long time, up to thousands of years old and they have existed on the planet for 370 million years. A tree has woody tissue and is surrounded by bark that protects the plant. The root of a tree anchors it in place and the branches carry leaves that capture light and process it into sugar by photosynthesis. 

[2] The function of trees in our environment is invaluable. They release oxygen into our atmosphere and remove carbon dioxide, storing carbon in their own tissues. Trees prevent soil erosion by soaking up water in areas with high rainfall. In tropical rainforests and various other regions of the world, trees provide a habitat for a vast number of animal and plant species. Other functions of trees are in the provision of wood for fuel, cooking, heating, construction, paper production and fruit. 

[3] The leaves of trees are formed for photosynthesis. The broad sizes and shapes of deciduous trees attract the light to be converted to energy. Coniferous trees sometime have needles which are adapted to environments with less water, such as frozen regions with a higher latitude and altitude. {B} The thin shape of the needles and position of evergreen branches allow the leaves to shed snow. Broad-leaved trees in temperate zones of the world shed their leaves as days get shorter in the autumn and winter seasons. This is because the leaves are no longer making new chlorophyll through photosynthesis due to less light. The red and yellow pigments of the leaves’ blades become visible, causing the bright orange, red and yellow-colored autumn leaves. The synthesis of auxin – a plant hormone – also stops. Once the production of auxin ceases, the cells at the junction of the twig and the petiole of the leaf weakens and the leaf breaks off and falls on the ground. In regions of the world with more sun exposure, trees may not shed their leaves. 

[4] There are several other reasons that trees shed leaves and twigs. During a drought season, trees often shed about ten percent of their leaves, thus losing less water. Another reason for leaf-fall is when vigorous trees shed excessive leaves to adjust to the summer heat. Moreover, leaves near the base of the tree are more likely to drop off due to lack of sunlight. Another cause is insect-tunnelling of leaf stalks, leaving short, fragile petioles which leads to more leaf-fall. Disease, such as Dutch elm disease or root rot, or injuries to the tree, is another source of leaf-fall. Fungus, such as leaf-spot disease, also causes increased shedding of leaves. Fungi such as anthracene and apple scab defoliate crab apple trees, sycamore, ash, white oak and maple. 

[5] Squirrel activity or twig- girdling insects can also cause clusters of fallen leaves that are attached to short twigs. There are specific tree species, such as poplars, that shed twigs during moisture stress period. The end of the twig will be like a smooth curve. The metallic wood boring beetle prefers red oak and other oak trees. They lay eggs onto twigs. Once hatched, the larvae bore into twigs in a spiral fashion until there are clusters of dead leaves. The longhorn beetle is gray-brown in color. The adult beetles appear at the end of the summer. The female beetle chews the twig, girdling it and laying eggs on it. The twig then withers and dies. The new larvae thrive in the dead twig. The behaviour of these two insects could be another explanation of excessive twig fall.

Complete the table by matching the phrases below

Directions: Select the appropriate phrases from the answer choices and match them to the Radiocarbon Dating and Faunal Analysis to which they relate. Some of the answer choices will NOT be used. 

This question is worth 4 points.
Coniferous treesDeciduous trees
  • A. Needles are shaped upward to prevent leaf-fall.
  • B. Needles are shaped specifically to allow the shed of snow.
  • C. Broad leaves help to cause a faster rate of photosynthesis.
  • D. Leaves become orange and red due to the increase of the hormone auxin.
  • E. Adapted to regions with higher altitudes due to the then shape of the needles.
  • F. Autumn-colored trees are caused by the increase in yellow, red and orange pigments as chlorophyll drops.
  • G. Leaves are shed in autumn and winter seasons due to less light.

Arsenio, before showing me the answer, can you show me the techniques to answer this question?

Sure! But before we begin, please keep in mind that there is no logical order of steps or any real techniques to help you solve this question. 

The TOEFL Tournament

Who’s ready for this year’s tournament? You guys are going to LOVE this.

In the link down below, there are a series of question for you to sign up for this month’s TOEFL tournament.

In the tournament, you will immediately start off in the quarterfinal round and you’ll be writing against someone else. So, it could be someone from Brazil vs. someone from Denmark. Whoever writes the best Independent Essay, moves onto the next round (semifinals). In the semifinals, you will be given an integrated task. And like the quarterfinals, whoever writes the best integrated tasks moves onto the finals. In the finals you will submit a package of four speaking questions (all materials will be provided by me) and the winner gets a free, 4-hour package of coaching (valued at $160 USD)!

Loser of the quarterfinals gets 2 speaking question evaluations.

Loser of the semifinals gets 1 free hour of coaching and 1 independent essay/integrated essay review.

So, WHO’S UP FOR THE TASK? Sign up today!

For your information, I will be making videos to grade your essays, speaking tasks, etc. This is all part of the process, but your name won’t be used. If you don’t want your voice or essay being used on video/audio, this tournament won’t be for you. But remember, it’s just a voice/write-up…no one will know WHO YOU ARE! Ha! Let’s go!

Sign Up Sheet

TOEFL iBT | Independent Essay | Evaluating an Essay #5 | High-Risk = High Reward

I was born during the greatest era of college basketball in Las Vegas history.  The Runnin Rebels of UNLV were a dominant force for more than a decade in college basketball, and it’s because the coach had a system called the amoeba defense which basically had a high-risk of giving up a lot of points, but also had a ridiculously high reward with scoring many more points than their opponents.

In this podcast, I restructure an introduction with one of my students and implemented an internal preview instead of using the super-common templates that are out everywhere. After that, I break down the rest of the essay.


TOEFL iBT | Reading | Techniques for Complete The Summary & Reference Questions

Welcome to the first-ever TOEFL iBT Reading section! If you guys are reading this on my blog, the podcast and video are down below. If you’re reading this on Spotify, thank you so much for supporting my podcast! If you’re reading this on Facebook, welcome to the live show! In today’s episode, we’re going to go over the 2 first types of reading questions on TOEFL iBT and how to navigate your way through them. I know quite a few of you have difficulty with specific ones, so I’ll cover all of them individually. Let’s kick this off.

Reference Questions

A Reference question is the type of reading question that will take you less than 30 seconds to read both the question and all the options. Also, this is probably the easiest TOEFL reading question type. Especially if you follow the strategies from this lesson, you will almost always get the question right! 

Let’s look at an example:

[2] Many millions of years after ferns evolved (but long before the Hawaiian Islands were born from the sea), another kind of flora evolved on Earth: the seed-bearing plants. This was a wonderful biological invention. The seed has an outer coating that surrounds the genetic material of the new plant, and inside this covering is a concentrated supply of nutrients. Thus the seed’s chances of survival are greatly enhanced over those of the naked spore.

The word “This” in paragraph 2 refers to: 

  1. the spread of ferns and mosses in Hawaii
  2. the creation of the Hawaiian Islands
  3. the evolution of ferns
  4. the development of plants that produce seeds

As you can see, in a reference question, you will see a word, usually a pronoun highlighted in the passage. You are asked what the highlighted word refers to. If it’s a pronoun then you need to identify what word the pronoun is replacing. 

Here are highlighted words you might be asked about:

  1. Subject pronoun: it, they
  2. Object pronoun: it, them
  3. Demonstrative pronoun: these, those, this, that
  4. Possessive adjectives: its, their
  5. Other reference words: the former, the latter, one, ones, another, other, others

Now, it is important to remember that you don’t need a full understanding of the passage in order to solve this question type. You just need to study the context surrounding the word. Usually, you just read the sentence where the highlighted word is mentioned, and then read a few sentences that come before it. 

Next, you need to analyze the sentence structure and find out the answer. 

Usually, you will see two structure types:

  1. Two sentences separated by a period
  2. One sentence separated by a comma

TOEFL iBT | Speaking | 1 on 1 Coaching | Question 4: Declining Frog Populations & How Eggs Stay Moist

Yay! We’re just shy of the New Year, and I just want to quickly update you guys that there’s a (buy 1 get 1 free) buddy deal from December 25th-31st. This means if you want online coaching, you can bring another friend — free of charge. Take advantage of this because price increases begin in January!

Now, onto the podcast. There’s a lot to cover, and because I’m uploading this in advance, I’m making a prediction of 96 for Paula’s TOEFL score on December 20th. I will edit and write the score down below. She wants just an 80, but I hate lowering expectations.

In addition to that, this podcast is about how you focus on the ramble instead of the substance. Very critical for a lot of you out there.

Update: She got a 24 in reading and 28 in listening, making that 52 out of the 80 points she needs. She’s currently waiting on her speaking and writing score.

TOEFL iBT | Independent Essay | Evaluating an Essay #4

Welcome to another Patreon special! For every essay my students submit, they get a video response. In this video, I talk about many parts of the essay and how she can improve her essay leading up to her TOEFL test in about 4 hours. Hear the breakdown!


TOEFL iBT | 1 on 1 Coaching | Speaking Question 3 | Target Marketing

In this episode, you’re going to hear me speak about her rhythm and how it sounded a bit unnatural at the beginning. In addition to that, she had spent 19 seconds on the reading/introduction before going into the talk. This is a big NO NO because you’re being graded based on what you hear and what you report, not the reading or introduction. Keep that in mind. On a positive note, her paraphrasing was good and linkers were spot on. She needs to allocate the right time for all phases of the talk because in the end it sounded a bit rushed.


TOEFL iBT | 1 on 1 Coaching | Speaking Question 2 | Campus Policy

In this speaking question, you’re going to hear her use some colloquial language, stumbles over multi-syllable words, and make other minor errors.  Keep in mind, this was her speaking test at the beginning of my course. I’ll have to upload the before-and-after later but listen to my feedback.