TOEFL Q14: Notes vs Lectures


In this lesson, your tutor will help you go over question two from the TOEFL speaking test. Read the question below out loud with the tutor.

Some students like to take notes during class while other students prefer to concentrate on the lectures. Which do you think is better and why? Include details in your explanation.

Preparation time: 15 seconds l Response time: 45 seconds


Choose a question at random from the list below. Answer the question right away without making notes. Try to speak for at least 10 seconds.

  • How do you usually study for your classes?
  • What would the teacher think if you sat in class without taking notes?
  • In what ways can taking notes make it harder to concentrate?


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

  1. Brainstorm before you choose your position
    • Taking notes:
      • allows you to easily review class material
      • it lets your teacher know you are paying attention
    • Concentrating on the lectures:
      • allows you to more fully focus on the material
      • you can participate more easily when not taking notes
  2. Choose your position
    • Taking notes: I prefer taking notes in class rather than concentrating on the lectures.
  3. Come up with 2 reasons to back up your argument
    • I cannot remember the whole lecture without taking notes.
    • If I don’t take notes, the teacher will think I don’t care about the class.
  4.  Give a concrete example of one of the reasons
    • Notes become crucial when studying for tests and exams. 
  5. Conclude with your argument
    • I think that overall taking notes can lead to better grades than simply concentrating on lectures.

Sample Answer

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

Sample Answer

Taking notes: I prefer taking notes in class rather than just concentrating on the lectures. To begin with, notes make it easier to study. I can easily look at my notes to review the material covered in my classes. After all, it’s almost impossible to remember every part of a lecture. Furthermore, notes become crucial when studying for tests or exams. I think overall taking notes is better than simply concentrating on lectures.

Concentrating on the lectures: Most students take notes in class. However, I am convinced that concentrating on the lecture is better. One reason is that I can focus on the material being presented. When I take notes, I get distracted. By focusing only on the lectures, I can understand the material better. Concentrating on the lectures also allows me to participate more easily. I can think about the lecture and ask the teacher questions. This way, I remember the material long-term, so I don’t have to study as much outside of class.

Further Study

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

Additional Expressions
material (n) something used in doing a particular activity (usually plural)
e.g. She left her writing materials at home and was unable to take notes.
distract (v) to cause (someone) to stop thinking about or paying attention to someone or something and to think about or pay attention to someone or something else instead
e.g. Students are easily distracted, especially when they’re tired.
review (v) to study or look at (something) again
e.g. She reviewed her notes for the speech.
concentrate (v) to think about something : to give your attention to the thing you are doing, reading, etc.
e.g. All that noise makes it hard to concentrate.
grade (n) a number or letter that indicates how a student performed in a class or on a test
e.g. I received a satisfactory grade on my TOEFL test.
engaging (adj) very attractive or pleasing in a way that holds your attention
e.g. The Lord of the Rings is a very engaging story.
participation (n) to be involved with others in doing something: to take part in an activity or event with others
e.g. He noted a lack of participation in the group activity.
record (v) to write (something) down so that it can be used or seen again in the future: to produce a record of (something)
e.g. Be sure to record all your business expenditures.
handwriting (n) the way a person’s writing looks
e.g. Her handwriting is nearly impossible to read.
transcribe (v) to write down (something that is spoken)
e.g. The senator’s speech was transcribed.

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