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Class Supplement,TOEFL Essay, Knowledge gained through reading or experience?


Writing Topic
Some people stress the importance of learning from books, while others feel that first-hand experience is far more important and valid than knowledge gained from books. Discuss the differences between the two sources of learning and compare the merits of knowledge obtained from experience and that gained from books. Which source do you feel is more important, and why?

☆ Let’s think
This writing topic has three parts. The first part introduces two sources of leaning: reading and experience. The second sentence gives you two assignments. You are required to 1) tell the difference between the two and 2) compare the good things about knowledge gained from them. The last sentence is a question about which is more important. Thus, as well as writing about the way you think is more important, you are supposed to deal with the other way, which means that you have to deal with both.

Most of us value both kinds of knowledge and prioritize either or both depending on what you want to know and the conditions you are in. If you want to know what it is like to be on Mars, you will consult books on Mars because you cannot go to the planet and see and feel the actual environment there. Also, you would not want to experiment with all the elements on the periodic table unless you want to be a chemist. Reading is enough and efficient to gain general knowledge about them, especially when some of them have very nasty properties. If you are interested in skiing, you might give it a try and see what it is like to go down the snow slope with long thin boards. The difficulty and excitement of the activity cannot be learned without actually doing it. The thrill of slippery slope and falling is knowledge you gain only through experience. Still when you are interested in a particular place, you do research about it beforehand and then visit there to see some part of it with your own eyes.

Now what about gaining knowledge about globalization? The subject has many aspects and people who read have a lot to talk about it. However, if they have never felt sorry for the countless numbers of people suffering from its results, it could hardly be said that they really know what globalization is. On the other hand, if you have made friends with someone whose father has lost his job because of free trade treaties, which is the driving force of globalization, you would sincerely feel that something is wrong with this on-going change and might feel the urge to do something. However, if you do not read, you would not see the whole picture of globalization and would never know what is causing its problems and how it can be fixed. Furthermore, if people who have seen only the good results of globalization never read about bad results of it, they might not question the goodness of globalization. From these cases, it seems that reading supplements experience which is the main source of our decisions.

☆ Hints for points
♦learning from books
Humankind has dominated the earth by sharing knowledge, and revolutions related to information-sharing always expanded our ranges of activities. Gaining knowledge by reading is taking advantage of the shared assets of information humans accumulated through thousands of years. The merits of knowledge gained by reading are …
1. it is of wide-range and less slanted (less personal).
2. it is knowledge about things that cannot be learned by actually experiencing them.
3. it is gained in rather short time compared to actually trying everything.

♦learning through experience
As saying goes, seeing is believing. Hands-on experience is the data obtained by your own senses and processed by yourself. In terms of reality, no other information can beat your own experience. The merits of the knowledge obtained through experience are …
1. it is convincing to you and stays in your memory easily and forever.
2. it motivates you to learn more or to take actions from the bottom of your heart.
3. it is often not written in books and cannot be copied by others.

☆ One paragraph essay
Let’s write a one-paragraph essay on this topic before writing a full essay. You could use it as the framework of your full essay.

Sample 1
【Introduction】 I think knowledge from experience is more important because it is connected to your heart.
【Merits of knowledge from books】 Knowledge from books is extensive and less partial.
【Merits of knowledge from experience】 Knowledge from experience is precious sense data of your own and it is deeply connected to your existence.
【Your decision on which is more important】I think knowledge from experience is more important because without it you cannot organize other kind of knowledge.
【Counterargument】Knowledge gained from experience lacks balance in terms of more accurate world view, but as long as you keep supplement it by reading or listening to others, you have less chances of becoming biased and making bad decisions.
【Conclusion】 Experience is more important than books for you to approach life actively.

Sample 2
【Introduction】 I think knowledge obtained through experience is more important because society values experience more than book learning.
【Merits of knowledge gained from books】 You can gain a large amount of information in comparatively short time from books.
【Merits of knowledge gained from experience】 However, in any field of discipline, students are required to try out what they have learned from books in practice.
【Your decision on which is more important】 I think knowledge from experience is more important because without it one will never gain practical knowledge.
【Counterargument】Some scientists and artists come up with great ideas with scant experience. However, they are exceptional people with extraordinary imagination that enables them to experience reality through reading, and their imagination has developed from their experience. No one can gain knowledge without contact with reality, experience.
【Conclusion】 Experience is what makes your knowledge from reading real.

Your one-paragraph essay

【Merits of knowledge gained from books】

【Merits of knowledge gained from experience】

【Your decision on which is more important】



☆ Essay for Ideas and Expressions
Barron’s Writing for the TOEFL iBT, p. 248
“Experience is the best teacher” is an old cliché, but I agree with it. We can learn a lot of important things from books, but the most important lessons in life come from our own experiences. Throughout the different stages of life, from primary school to university to adulthood, experience teaches us many skills we need for life.

As children in primary school, we learn facts and information from books, but that is not all we learn in school. On the playground we learn how to make friends. In our class work, we learn how it feels to succeed and what we do when we fail. We start to learn about the things we like to do and the things we don’t. We don’t learn these things from books, but from our experiences with our friends and class mates.

In our university classes, we learn a lot of information and skills we will need for our future careers, but we also learn a lot that is not in our textbooks. In our daily lives both in class and out of class, we learn to make decisions for ourselves. We learn to take on responsibilities. We learn to get along with our classmates, our roommates, and our workmates. Our successes and failures help us develop skills we will need in our adult lives. They are skills that no book can teach us.

Throughout our adulthood, experience remains a constant teacher. We may continue to read or take classes for professional development. However, our experiences at work. at home, and with our friends teach us more. The triumphs and disasters of our lives teach us how to improve our careers and also how to improve our relationships and how to be the person each one of us wants to be.

Books teach us a lot, but there is a limit to what they teach. They can give us information or show us another person’s experiences. These are valuable things, but the lessons we learn from our own experiences, from childhood throughout adulthood, are the most important ones we learn.


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