The Reading Section Overview- TOEFL-iBT® (2/4)

Everything to know about the passage Passage

Estimated reading time: 20 minutes

This post is the continuation of The Reading Section Overview- TOEFL-iBT® (1/4). If you haven’t read that yet, then it is strongly recommended that you to do so by clicking here.

If you read it already, then you can continue reading.

This post will be segmented into the following areas:

A re-introduction to the passage

Passage breakdown

Timing

Ok, now without further delay, let’s start.

A re-introduction to the passage

As I mentioned before, the passages found in the TOEFL-iBT will be in Academic style writing. I briefly explained it in the last post and will go deeper here.

You may be wondering exactly what Academic Writing is. So, here I will help you with a simple definition:

Academic writing is a form of writing which is clear, structured and supported by evidence and arguments. Though it is not complex, it maintains a formal style and focuses on the topic of subject discipline being discussed.

TIP: The keyword here is “structured” as this is what will help us in the Reading Section.

Here we will re-place the last post for us to break it down into more digestible parts. Feel free to re-read it.

Renewable just isn’t enough.

P1
For a few decades now, mankind has been claiming that in order to help counter the effects of global warming, a much larger portion of the resources must be allocated into renewable energy, specifically solar and wind power. Sunlight is inherently unreliable and as wind is the child of the sun, it too is deemed dubious as a steady source of energy. In addition, they create a significantly large carbon footprint due to all the material they require for construction, transportation, and maintenance. Adding the sheer cost of building solar and wind power plants is not only an overwhelming investment in the short term, but it has increased the prices of power in those countries who have already shifted towards these sources of energy. Many have looked at other alternatives in order to mitigate the negative effects.

P2
Ever since humans have harvested the energy of the sun and wind, it was known that these methods could not be applied to all areas, as the amount of sunlight and wind that a given area received, varied widely as soon as you shifted the geographically. The equatorial part of our planet receives the most amount of constant sunlight, making this the optimal place for solar farms to be built, which in consequence leaves nearly 75% of the planet without the capacity to do the same as conditions won’t be as advantageous. The northern and southern hemispheres with only partial sunlight through the larger portion of the year cannot compete, so alternatives must be set out. Yet wind is no stranger to this phenomenon. There are few places on the planet where the wind can be harvested at its maximum leaving us with the same geographical problem.

P3
In an ironic turn, the damage that these alternative sources of energy generate towards the environment is deterring many future projects. The energy output from a solar panel or a wind turbine takes years or even decades to erase the carbon footprint it leaves behind. It becomes clear once thinking that a standard wind turbine is over 300ft of height and can reach 250 tons in weight. Besides, many local communities have protested the construction of solar and wind farms due to the amount of space they require to function properly. Deforestation has taken place in parts of Europe and Brazil to make space for huge wind farms, devastating the local flora. Furthermore, the transportation of local fauna to new locations has led to tougher competition for their resources and many animals have not been able to adapt. Adding the amount of birdlife that has died by the heat produced by solar farms or by the blade of a turbine, it becomes clear that a larger degree of damage than what was expected is occurring.

P4
The largest barrier for these sources of renewable energy has been the cost. An investigation in the energy investment sector showed that the money that was injected into these two sources of renewable energy is long from harvesting its profits. According to a national press investigation, more than $300 billion were invested each year between 2010 and 2016 in solar and wind energy. However, by 2016 the combined output of solar plants and wind turbines constituted close to 5,5% of the planet’s electricity where solar made up 1,3% and wind 3,9%. Although countries like Denmark have been able to increase their solar and wind energy to over 50% of its energy output, they are not the role model everyone wishes to follow, as they have become one of the countries with the most expensive costs of electricity for the end-user.

P5
These findings have shifted the attention of many towards other forms of renewable energy, leaving one as the prize winner. The lack of consistent sunlight and wind have made France and Sweden a new beacon of hope when they proved themselves with some of the world’s lowest amount of carbon emissions per capita. Sweden has managed to make 95% of its electrical output from zero-carbon sources with 42 % of its electricity coming from Nuclear power plants and 41% from Hydroelectric power plants. Though Hydroelectric is a great and safe source, it has some immediate environmental effects and is limited to areas with sufficient water flow and specific geographical conditions. The greatest advantage of Nuclear is that it has very little restrictions with regards to geography and weather, in consequence, it can offer a constant output of electricity. Other countries like Costa Rica and Norway are following their steps working on a zero-emission plan through sources that will have far fewer negative effects on the planet.

Lets analyze it.

Passage Breakdown

We can gather information from the title which reads

Renewable just isn’t enough.

From here we understand that we are talking about renewable energy. A statement that is made more evident when we read the Topic Sentence of the first paragraph:

TIP: A topic sentence is a sentence that summarizes the main idea of a paragraph. They are usually found in the first sentence in a paragraph.

“For a few decades now, mankind has been claiming that in order to help counter the effects of global warming, a much larger portion of the resources must be allocated into renewable energy, specifically solar and wind power”

This Sentece serves as an introduction to the topic of the whole passage and as a funnel to the information that we are about to get in the following supporting sentences that are broken down here:

  • Sunlight is inherently unreliable and as wind is the child of the sun, it too is deemed dubious as a steady source of energy.
  • In addition, they create a significantly large carbon footprint due to all the material they require for construction, transportation, and maintenance.
  • Adding the sheer cost of building solar and wind power plants is not only an overwhelming investment in the short term, but it has increased the prices of power in those countries who have already shifted towards these sources of energy.
  • Many have looked at other alternatives in order to mitigate the negative effects.

The first paragraph will usually summarize the whole passage, making its Topic Sentence and supporting sentences into individual paragraphs. Though there are exceptions, this will be the trend in the Reading Section.

We can compare here the sentences of the first paragraph with the topic sentences of each paragraph.

Sentences of paragraph 1Topic Sentences of supporting paragraphs
Sunlight is inherently unreliable and as wind is the child of the sun, it too is deemed dubious as a steady source of energy.Ever since humans have harvested the energy of the sun and wind, it was known that these methods could not be applied to all areas, as the amount of sunlight and wind that a given area received, varied widely as soon as you shifted the geographically.
In addition, they create a significantly large carbon footprint due to all the material they require for construction, transportation, and maintenance.In an ironic turn, the damage that these alternative sources of energy generate towards the environment is deterring many future projects.
Adding the sheer cost of building solar and wind power plants is not only an overwhelming investment in the short term, but it has increased the prices of power in those countries who have already shifted towards these sources of energy.The largest barrier for these sources of renewable energy has been the cost. An investigation in the energy investment sector showed that the money that was injected into these two sources of renewable energy, is long from harvesting their profits.
Many have looked at other alternatives in order to mitigate the negative effects.These findings have shifted the attention of many towards other forms of renewable energy, leaving one as the prize winner.

If we read these sentences par on par, we can see how they are expressing the same message. And this is what we have to train to expect in the Reading Section of the TOEFL-iBT.

Here we will decompose a paragraph for you to see things clearer.

To do this, we will break down paragraph 2 into sentences and analyze what each does.

Type of SentenceContent of the sentenceObjective
Topic SentenceEver since humans have harvested the energy of the sun and wind, it was known that these methods could not be applied to all areas, as the amount of sunlight and wind that a given area received, varied widely as soon as you shifted the geographically.Gives an introduction that will be spoken of in the rest of the paragraph.
Supporting Sentence 1The equatorial part of our planet receives the most amount of constant sunlight, making this the optimal place for solar farms to be built, which in consequence leaves nearly 75% of the planet without the capacity to do the same as conditions won’t be as advantageous.Supports the Topic sentence by giving statistic and further explaining the argument.
Supporting Sentence 2The northern and southern hemispheres with only partial sunlight through the larger portion of the year cannot compete, so alternatives must be set out.Gives examples of areas that are ineligible for solar power plants.
Supporting Sentence 3Yet wind is no stranger to this phenomenon. There are few places on the planet where the wind can be harvested at its maximum leaving us with the same geographical problem.Continues argument declaring that wind turbines have the same problem of geography as solar farms do.

Once we have managed to find the objective of each sentence and its function in each paragraph, we can have a better understanding on the text as a whole.

This is a skill that has to be developed with anticipation in order to be quicker when in the test.

Timing

This passage above is close to the 700-word, band which is what you will find in the test. So, this can help as a time management test. Keep in mind, you will only have a few minutes to read the whole passage.

Time management is key in all sections of the TOEFL-iBT, and to succeed in this section you will have to follow some short guidelines.

Though some of the questions you will find in this section can be answered from context and it won’t be necessary for you to read the whole passage, others will ask you more broad questions where you will have to gather information from all the passage. This will make it quite difficult if you chose not to read the complete passage.

In general terms, students are always recommended to read the whole text regardless of their English level. This will give you more insight and a big advantage with those tricky questions.

You want to try and divide your time to have under 18 minutes to read the whole passage and respond to its questions.

Some questions will require more time than others, but on average you don’t want to spend more than one minute on the first questions to save time for the latter ones (which take more time).

If you do some simple math you get 10 questions per passage, so you want to spend close to 7 minutes reading the passage itself, which leaves you with around 11 minutes to read and respond the questions.

If your unable to read the whole passage in about 6 to 7 minutes while understanding the information that is presented, then you may need to work on your reading comprehension and reading speed as this will be crucial for this section and the rest of the test.

Having a lower level of English will slow you down, so make sure you have the right level for the score that you are looking for.

You can go ahead to this link to check out some more information about the correlation to the TOEFL score and the CEFR by clicking here.

This has hopefully given you some better insights into what to expect from the reading passage in the TOEFL. In the next post, we will continue with the multiple-choice questions. Specifically, those for which we must solve in under one minute!

To go to the next post that focuses on the questions, click here.

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