TOEFL Q5: Paper vs. Work


In this lesson, your tutor will help you go over question five from the TOEFL speaking test. Listen to a short conversation.
Note to tutor: read the text to the student. The text is not presented to the student in the actual test.  

M: You looked stressed out, Melissa. Is something the matter?

W: It’s just that I have to finish my paper for my sociology class. It’s due tomorrow morning, and I barely started working on it.

M: So why don’t you start working on it now? If you work hard the rest of the day, I think you can finish on time.

W: But there is a problem. I’m supposed to work at the restaurant tonight.

M: Then call your manager and explain the situation. Missing one day of work is not a big deal.

W: Yeah, but I’ve already missed a lot of work lately. If I take another day off, then I might lose my job.

M: In that case, you just have to write your paper after work. You might have to pull an all-nighter, but at least you’ll get it done.

W: But if I have to do that, I might not be able to concentrate well. Then my grade will suffer.

M: Well, you have to decide whether keeping your job or getting a good grade is more important.


The man discusses 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 l Response time: 60 seconds


Use the chart below to explain the student’s problem and the solutions offered.

The Problem The woman’s problem is that she must __ by the next morning. However, she has to __ at her job tonight.
Solution 1 The man suggests that the woman __ and explain the situation.
Reason He says that missing one day of work is not __.
Solution 2 The man also suggests that the woman writes the paper __.
Reason She will have to pull __, but she will finish her paper on time.


Use the following pointers as a guideline to refine your answer.

  1. State the problem
    • the woman must finish her paper but she has work in the evening
  2. What are the pros and cons of the solution 1?
    • Pro: She can work on her essay
    • Con: She could get fired
  3. What are the pros and cons of the solution 2?
    • ProShe gets to keep her job and finish her essay
    • ConShe might not be able to concentrate
  4.  Your opinion
    • Solution 2 is better
  5. Come up with two reasons to back your opinion
    • She can still finish her paper and keep her job
    • Pulling one all-nighter is not a big deal

Sample Answer

Reading great sample answers is one way to improve. Go over the sample answer with your tutor. Ask questions if you have any.

Sample Answer

Solution 1: The students are discussing a problem the woman is having. The woman has to finish her sociology homework by tomorrow morning. However, she must work in the evening. The man suggests that the woman call the manager and say that she cannot come to work. He also recommends going to work and writing the paper afterward. Personally, I believe that the first solution is better. The woman’s manager knows that she is a student. So, he should understand her situation. And as the man says, missing one day of work is not a big deal.

Solution 2: The woman’s problem is that she has to finish her essay by tomorrow but she has to work in the evening. The man suggests that she call the manager or that she finish the paper after work. I believe the woman should follow the man’s advice to write the essay after work. The woman has already missed many days of work. So if she misses work again, she might lose her job. In addition, the woman will still be able to finish her paper if she pulls an all-nighter and works hard. Overall, the second solution is better because the woman can keep her job and finish her paper.

Further Study

Got more time? Here is a list of common vocab words related to the text you studied today. Go over each one with your tutor.

Additional Expressions
due (adj) expected to be done at a certain time
e.g. When is the assignment due? [=when are you supposed to give the completed assignment to your teacher?]
barely (adv) by a very little; hardly
e.g. I barely recognized you with your hair cut short.
rest of~ (n) the remainder of something
e.g. He would regret that decision for the rest of his life.
on time (exp) at the expected time
e.g. I paid all of my bills on time [=when they were due] this month.
situation (n) a circumstance; a condition
e.g. He’s in a dangerous situation.
miss (v) to fail to do something
e.g. She could have joined us, but she missed her chance.
big deal (exp) something of great importance
e.g. The party was a big deal.
all-nighter (n) a night during which someone does not sleep
e.g. I have to finish this by morning, so I guess tonight will be another all-nighter.
concentrate (v) to think about something
e.g. All that noise makes it hard to concentrate.
suffer (v) to become worse
e.g. Their relationship suffered because of her work.

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