TOEFL iBT | TOEFL Membership Sneak Peek | Independent Essay | Comparing Essays for Clarity

A WONDERFUL video we have here today! So, it’s a work in progress, at the moment, but I decided to do this video to give a significant amount of guidance for one of my current students versus a student who has taken the test (waiting on the results).

This is the very beginning, and as you can see in the video, there’s lots to be done. However, when I show an essay of someone who has done their four Independent Essays, I can expedite the process. In this video, I break down, compare, give insight and steps after. This is one of my TOEFL Membership students, so during this process and the membership, she’s guided by a coach, such as myself. Hope you guys enjoy this one!

Arsenio’s ESL Podcast: Season 4 – Episode 96 – Developing Writing – Describing a Place (Two-Part Patreon)

Welcome back to another Developing Writing segment! This is going to be a two-part Patreon special, so in the part that’s available to the general public, there will be lots of speaking and vocabulary development. If you want the writing bank and the layout of how to write about a place, you’ll have to tune into my patreon in the links down below! Enjoy!


  1. Choose three cities in the photos. Which would you prefer to live in and why?
  2. What factors do you think decide the quality of life in a city?
  3. Which cities in the world do you imagine offer the best quality of life? Choose five and discuss the reasons.

Each year a consulting company called Mercer ranks cities around the world according to the quality of living of the inhabitants. The living conditions are analyzed according to different factors grouped into these ten categories:

1. Political and social environment

2. Economic environment

3. Health and sanitation

4. Socio-cultural environment

5. Schools and education

6. Public services and transportation

7. Recreation

8. Consumer goods

9. Housing

10. Natural environment

These were the results of 2014….

  • Vienna
  • Zurich
  • Auckland
  • Munich
  • Vancouver
  • Dusseldorf
  • Frankfurt
  • Geneva
  • Copenhagen
  • Bern, Switzerland


Here are so vocabulary terms describing cities and towns: Atmospheric, bustling, cosmopolitan, crowded, filthy, hilly, historic, industrial, isolated, magnificent, picturesque, quaint, renowned for, run-down, shabby, spotless, sprawling, steeped in, thriving, touristy, vibrant, welcoming, well-connected, well-off

  1. interesting or attraction with a slightly strange and old-fashioned quality.
  2. full of noise and activity in a pleasant and interesting way
  3. friendly and pleasant, especially to someone who has just arrived at a place.
  4. build over a wide area in a way that is not carefully planned, and maybe ugly
  5. in bad condition because no-one has spend money on repairs
  6. where people from many different countries and cultures live
  7. having a lot of particular qualities or things
  8. famous/well-known for…

More on my patreon!


Arsenio’s ESL Podcast: Season 4 – Episode 79 – Developing Writing – A Letter of Complaint

Woohoo! Developing writing is back! Today we’ve got ourselves a rundown of an email/letter of complaint, along with a phrase bank and an exercise for you.

Ban on Slang

In an effort to improve language skills, a school in London has decided to ban the use of slang by its students. The school has placed a series of posters around the school premises with lists of words that students are no longer permitted to use. The school’s spokeswoman explained at a press conference that ‘in addition to giving students the teaching they need to thrive academically, we want them to develop the soft skills they will need to compete for jobs and university places.’

The school has received strong support for the ban. Many people have praised the action, including the local MP, who said: “speaking slang is fine in a social setting…but a school should be a professional, educational environment, and if part of that means banning slang then that’s fine by me.’ His comments have sparked concern that the ban will now be extended to other schools.

Gateway B2+

So, what’s your opinion? Do you agree?

Here’s a letter from a writer’s opinion about the situation.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to protest about the possible enforcement ban on the use of slang in schools. I believe that this measure would not only be unpopular but would also be completely ineffective.

Although I agree that a number of young people use slang when they are talking to their peers, the vast majority of students are able to distinguish between when it is appropriate to use slang and when it is not, and are able to express themselves perfectly in more formal situations. The fact is that by trying to control the language that students use, schools will merely encourage the use of slang, since it is a well-known fact that banning something only services to make it more interesting.

To make matters worse, I believe that the measure will prove to be ineffective as the only way to enforce the ban is by means of supervising conversations between students. On the one hand, this could be highly expensive as it would involve installing more CCTV cameras or recruiting staff to listen to students during break times. On the other hand, if teachers are required to enforce the ban, this would surely take their attention away from the more important business of teaching.

In conclusion, I should like to draw your attention to the fact that there are more important issues that the school should be concerned with than the use of slang. On behalf of the numerous students who are hoping to attend university in the future, might I suggest that you concentrate on providing the best possible education and facilities, not on enforcing a ban that will simply alienate many students?

Writing Bank

  • I am writing to complain/protest about…
  • I am writing on behalf of…..
  • I should like to draw your attention to….
  • My second/next/main complain concerns….
  • To make matters worse……
  • I urge you to…
  • I demand that you…
  • I would ask you to….
  • Might I suggest you….?
  • The fact/trust/problem is that….
  • What annoys/surprises/amazes me is….
  • Yours faithfully (after Dear Sir/Madam)
  • Yours sincerely (after Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms)

Activity is in the podcast!

Arsenio’s ESL Podcast: Season 4 – Episode 49 – Developing Writing – A Film Review

Arsenio's ESL Podcast
Arsenio's ESL Podcast
Arsenio's ESL Podcast: Season 4 - Episode 49 - Developing Writing - A Film Review

Work with a friend, partner, sibling or anyone and rank these, from 1-10 (1 = not important, 10 = very important) when deciding to watch a film.

In the podcast down below…..

  • the star and supporting actors
  • the genre (comedy, science fiction, etc)
  • the plot
  • the length
  • the special effects and visuals
  • the soundtrack
  • the setting and location
  • reviews and recommendations


  1. inter
  2. dis/un/im/ir/in/il
  3. re
  4. ex
  5. under
  6. mis
  7. over
  8. co
  9. post
  10. pre
  11. sub
  12. super
  13. anti

a. wrong, incorrect

b before

c more, bigger, better

e too much

f between

g the opposite, not

h again

i with, together

j a position or situation that existed before, but not now

k below

l after

m against


Arsenio’s ESL Podcast: Season 4 – Episode 25 – Developing Writing – Opinion Essay II

Developing Writing is back! Opinion Essay II is on the menu for today, and because a many of you enjoyed and viewed both the podcast and blog so much, I knew this would be something to get into again. So, let’s go over the 5 paragraph format in this one.

  • Topic
  • Essay on the topic
  • Paragraph format
  • Writing Bank
  • Benefits and Drawbacks of bicycles in the cities
  • Topic for you


Topic: The minimum legal age to obtain a driving licence in the UK should be lowered to 16.

The idea of lowering the minimum legal age to obtain a driving licence to 16 is, without doubt, a very sensitive one. Nevertheless, there are many things that 16-year-olds can already do, such as work part-time and leave home and even get married with their parents’ consent. I certainly believe that the legal age to get a driving licence should be lowered and will discuss the reasons why in this essay.

Firstly, to my mind, there is no question that a driving licence is essential nowadays. Many teenagers, particularly rural areas, need to be able to drive because public transport services are limited. Not all families have the time to chauffeur their children to places they need to go for work, studies or leisure. Without a licence, many 16-year-olds cannot take advantage of opportunities available to them.

A second major reason to lower the legal driving age is that the majority of teenagers are capable drivers. It is widely accepted that the ability to react quickly is key when driving, and young people are known to have faster reactions than older people.

Whilst it is true that the number of accidents involving young people is high, studies show that accidents usually occur in a driver’s first year, regardless of age. It would be more sensible to address the issue of safety by ensuring that young drivers have plenty of driving experience. Moreover, strict testing procedures and graduate licensing rules would prevent the kinds of behavior that lead to road accidents.

In conclusion, I am convinced that it is time to lower the legal age to obtain a driving licence. Most 16-year-olds are mature enough to make sensible decisions and act appropriately. Allowing them to drive would enable them to become more independent and develop responsibility.

Gateway B2+

Writing Bank

Expressing Strong Opinions

  • I am certain that….
  • It has long been my feeling that….
  • Without doubt,
  • Without a doubt,
  • I certainly believe that….
  • I am convinced that….


  • There can be no justification for….
  • I believe there is no evident to support…
  • I cannot agree with…..

Expressing opposing views and giving counter arguments

  • Despite the fact
  • Whilst it is true that….
  • Althought…,…..
  • Nevertheless/However,

Giving general opinions

  • Is usually considered to be
  • It is often said that
  • It is generally believed that…
  • On the whole, it is thought that….

Your additional task and essay topic is in the podcast.

New York Times’ Writer with a Broken Approach to Life

“Do what you love” is often terrible advice. Instead of taking the job that will make you happiest, look for the one where you’ll learn the most.

Adam Grant, NYT Writer

Terrifying. Unbelievably terrifying. I’m scared as hell to see the future generations head in this direction. If that’s the case, we too, will become the robots! Let’s break this down in micro and come up with a MACRO solution.

Do what you love is often terrible advice — so become a slave on a plantation.

I mean, I love working out in the morning, traveling and working at different locations across Bangkok, influencing people, and a half-dozen other things….that “job” in America would certainly not allow me to do that. In America, there’s zero job security, right? I mean you can walk in and you get one week pay and you’re DONE. You’re a number. Sure, you have those say, “omg my boss is amazing and I love my job.” Can you take holiday whenever you want? Do you have assets in the company? Does he teach you how to buy and sell different things like stock? Ok, then.

My passion revolves around teaching and speaking, which I ABSOLUTELY love to do. It’s my breath of fresh air. It’s my passion; and it’s something that I ABSOLUTELY love to do. Was that bad advice? Nope….it was me becoming an entrepreneur.

Job that learns the most? A JOB? A job teaches?

Come on, like Wal-Mart? Jobs don’t teach you how to create assets or invest in yourself. You’re working for someone else’s goals and not yours…on a job. Does the Wal-Mart CEO give a damn about the families he cuts ties with before the holiday season? Come on, simple question. Did Elon Musk give a damn about reducing his staff 80%, a lot of which were Aeronautical Engineers? Hell nah! It was for him to increase HIS networth. Sure, space expeditions and other things are expensive, but if you know how to manage your money, you will always keep your staff. I get it, some of my friends laid off their staff temporarily before bringing them back. That’s called TRUST….would you ever go back to work at a “job” that laid you off?

It’s like American government workers. They were taught to go to school, get an education, go to college, get a degree, and got a job at the government. At any point did they learn how to save/invest their money in case storms come? Nope…30 day layoff and they posted stories about their houses going into foreclosures. Come on…this is what JOBS do!

You learn the most from getting punched in the mouth. I know, most people are built to survive, therefore they believe jobs have security. Not everyone is built for entrepreneurship, but you’re at least built to make multiple sources of income and pursue your passion. My passion came from when I was racially discriminated against. I then become the voice of other people who are being/have been marginalized in their countries around the world — and now I’m teaching accelerated English language programs for massive companies all around Bangkok (and soon Asia). That’s what I wake up and breathe every morning, and guess what, nothing is guaranteed! I had students drop off after 5 hours of learning and said “I’m busy.” I thought it was me, but it was only them. I had one source of income fall and 8 came right after that. There are months I’ll make minimal, and then there are months I can gross the most EVER. That’s what makes life exciting.

Steps to Take

  • No Comfort in Life; live in the uncomfortability zone.
  • Find a need and fill it.

Arsenio’s ESL Podcast: Season 4 – Episode 17 – Writing Skills – Examples of Brainstorming

Writing skills and three ways to brainstorm! One might be better for you than the other, but the goal is to find one that best helps you in writing articles, blogs, papers, or anything for that matter. Here’s the write up!

Before you write a longer text, such as an essay, you need to gather ideas so you will have something to organize and then write about. This idea – gathering is called brainstorming. Different methods of brainstorming suit different writers and different essay topics. Learning to brainstorm quickly will help you write better essays timed exams.

  1. Label the examples of brainstorming

chart           free writing          word map

flute player        music           Chosen traits cat lover kittens

                             ▽                              ▼                

         classical music lover                football fan



2.      For me I think my most important personality traits are my achieved ones, I mean I can’t help the born ones ones I was born with so I don’t really  count those. If I had been born tallest, I could have been better at sports, I  think, so I regret that a little, but I don’t think about it so much. I focus  (sp??) more on what I can choice myself. When I acheive achieve something  through my own efforts, it means more to me because

ascribed achieved chosen
short honor student flute player (or achieved)
black hair high school graduate Monterrey football fan!!
Mexican driver’s license cat lover

2.      Choose one of these topics. Brainstorm for five minutes using one of the methods above. Then brainstorm for another five minutes using a different method.

  •       An achieved personality trait I am proud of.
  •       An identity trait I want to change.
  •       A recent or new identity trait of mine.

  • 3.  Work with a partner. Which brainstorming method helped you get the most ideas? Which one would be easiest for you to write an essay from?

Arsenio’s ESL Podcast: Season 4 – Episode 11 – Developing Writing – A Story – Similes – Ways of Talking

Arsenio's ESL Podcast
Arsenio's ESL Podcast
Arsenio's ESL Podcast: Season 4 - Episode 11 - Developing Writing - A Story - Similes - Ways of Talking

Developing writing! Using an array of adjectives in your writing to describe settings and actions! Oh, this is going to be a great developing writing task. I love this! I’ve missed putting so much into my writing, and now as English learners, it’s time to learn a few things.


  1. What is the last story you read? What was it about?
  2. Did you like the story? Why/why not?
  3. What do you think makes a good story?


Match 1-10 with a-j to make similes.

  1. as strong
  2. as cold
  3. as quick
  4. as cool
  5. as quiet
  6. as fresh
  7. as clear
  8. as easy
  9. as solid
  10. as light

a. as a daisy

b. as a feather

c. as ice

d. as ABC

e. as a mouse

f. as a flash

g. as mud

h. as an ox

i. as a cucumber

j. as a rock

Vocabulary – Ways of Talking

A. “Oh well, I won’t be able to go to Japan this year,” I sighed.

B. “It can’t be! I thought you weren’t coming!” I gasped.

C. “No! You’re going in the wrong direction!” I yelled.

D. “But I’m already working 10 hours on Saturday!” I whined.

E. “It’s a cockroach!” I shrieked.

F. “Don’t tell anyone I told you,” I whispered.

G. “Sorry, I didn’t really wanna take you, nor see you,” I muttered.

H. “Oh, no! Why are we going there!?” the kids groaned.

  1. to speak in a loud high voice because you are so scared or angry that you cannot control yourself.
  2. to speak in a loud voice because you are angry, excited, or in pain.
  3. to speak very quietly so that other people can’t hear you.
  4. to speak in a way that shows you are unhappy.
  5. to speak breathing out slowly, making a long soft sound, especially because you are disappointed, tired, annoyed, or relaxed.
  6. to speak while you are breathing in suddenly, for example because you are surprised, shocked or in pain.
  7. to complain in a way that annoys other people.
  8. to speak in a low voice that is difficult to hear.


Arsenio’s ESL Podcast: Season 3 – Episode 77 – Grammar – Season Finale – Question Tags – Part II

Arsenio's ESL Podcast
Arsenio's ESL Podcast
Arsenio's ESL Podcast: Season 3 - Episode 77 - Grammar - Season Finale - Question Tags - Part II

Welcome to the finale! I just want to say thank you so much for this amazing season. A very LONGGGG season, but so grateful for the process. No, I won’t be stopping podcasts because that will disrupt the learning flow and learning is constant and every-going. There are some things I might do like breaks and stuff, but that’s only if I get really busy.

I’ve done question tags before, but this goes a little bit more in-depth.

In questions tags we use pronouns, not nouns.

We make question tags with auxiliary or modal verbs. If there is no auxiliary or modal verb, we use the auxiliary do. In affirmative sentences, the question tag is negative. In negative sentences, the question tag is affirmative.

With everybody, nobody and somebody, we use they.

We reply using the auxiliary or modal verb.

You don’t like classical music, do you? No, I don’t/ Yes, I do.

We use question tags to change a statement into a question. The question is to confirm what we are saying. When we are very certain of the answer that somebody is going to give us, the intonation falls in the question tag.

You’re teacher Aj, aren’t you?

When we aren’t so sure of the answer, the intonation rises in the question tag.

The film has just started, hasn’t it?

  1. I’m late, aren’t I?/ I’m not late, am I?
  2. You like R&B music, don’t you?
  3. You don’t like classical music, do you?
  4. She could do the exercise, couldn’t she?
  5. They enjoyed the parts, didn’t they?
  6. Everybody likes going to the cinema, don’t they?


Arsenio’s ESL Podcast: Season 3 – Episode 73 – Developing Writing – A Formal Email of Complaint

Arsenio's ESL Podcast
Arsenio's ESL Podcast
Arsenio's ESL Podcast: Season 3 - Episode 73 - Developing Writing - A Formal Email of Complaint

Yes, I want to make sure I get all the specifics out of the way before heading into the upper-echelon levels that will be pretty difficult. The last develop writing podcast and blog scored big, so I decided to do another one. I’m first going to show you useful expressions, then an email, then practice for you. Be sure to send your emails to my Facebook page.

Useful Expressions: Linkers in formal emails and letters

  • Consequence: Therefore, and so, as a result
  • Time and sequence: next, then, after that, finally
  • Contrast: but, although, however, nevertheless
  • Reason: because, as, since
  • Addition, in addition, what is more, furthermore

Dear Sir or Madam,

I’m writing to complain about the goods and service in your store.

On 19th August I bought an e-reader at your store in Guildford. When I arrived home, I removed the e-reader from its box and discovered that the screen was broken. As a result, I took it back to the store the following day. However, the shop assistant told me that I could only have a refund if I returned the e-reader in its original box.

The next day I went back again with the e–reader in its original packaging. This time a different shop assistant told me that I could not have a refund because he said I had broken the screen myself. This was not true. In the end, I had to leave the store with the original, faulty e-reader and without my refund.

I will not go back again to the store in Guildford since the shop assistants there are so rude. I demand a full refund for the faulty e-reader. Furthermore, I would like a written apology for the bad treatment I have received. If I do not hear from you in the next two weeks, I will take my complaint to a Consumer Advice Center.

Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Gateway B1+

Pretty good complaint, huh? This is how you write it in English, in my podcast, I’ve gone some more things on how to deal with people in these situations.

Now it’s time to write your email. Here’s your scenario.

In July, you ordered two tickets for a concert by your favorite band on the internet. The tickets were very expensive. The concert was suppose to be August 1st, but the tickets only arrived two days after so you couldn’t go.

You rang the ticket company three times before August 1st, but they promised the tickets would arrive on time. Write a letter of complaint to the manager of the ticket company.