The TOEFL® iBT Writing Section

The TOEFL  Writing Section of the TOEFL® iBT tests your ability to write essays in English. During the test, you will write two essays. The independent essay usually asks for your opinion about a familiar topic. The independent topics are very general and do not require any specialized knowledge of the subject to answer them.

You have 30 minutes to complete the independent writing task.

The integrated essay asks for your response to an academic reading passage, a lecture, or both. You may take notes as you read and listen. You may use your notes to write the essays. If a lecture is included, it will be spoken, but the directions and the questions will be written.

You have 20-30 minutes to complete the integrated writing task.

A clock on the screen will show you how much time you have to complete each essay.

Checklist for Independent Writing

The essay answers the topic question.
The point of view or position is clear.
The essay is direct and well-organized.
The sentences are logically connected to each other.
Details and examples support the main idea.
The writer expresses complete thoughts.
The meaning is easy for the reader to understand.
A wide range of vocabulary is used.
Various types of sentences are included.
There are only minor errors in grammar and idioms.
The general topic essay is within a range of 300-350 words.

Checklist for Integrated Writing

The essay answers the topic question.
There are only minor inaccuracies in the content.
The essay is direct and well-organized for the topic.
The sentences are logically connected to each other.
Details and examples support the main idea.
The writer expresses complete thoughts.
The meaning is easy for the reader to comprehend.
A wide range of vocabulary is used.
The writer paraphrases, using his or her own words.
The writer credits the author with wording when necessary.
There are only minor errors in grammar and idioms.
The academic topic essay is within a range of 200-250 words.

Three Steps for Writing Short Essays

There are three steps that most good writers follow in organizing their writing. You should use these steps when you write a short essay. First, tell your reader what you are going to write. Second, write it. Third, tell your reader what you wrote.

To look at these steps another way, your essay should have three parts:

  1. A good beginning
  2. Several good comments
  3. A good ending

A Good Beginning:

  • is short.Two or three sentences is enough to tell your reader how you plan to approach the topic.
  • is direct.In the case of a comparison, state both sides of the argument in your first sentence. In a short composition, you don’t have enough time for indirect approaches.
  • is an outline.The second sentence usually outlines the organization. It gives the reader a general idea of your plan.

Good Comments:

  • include several points.A short essay may have between two and five points. Usually, the writer selects three. In the case of a comparison, three reasons is a standard argument.
  • are all related.All of the comments should relate to the general statement in the first sentence.
  • are logical.The points should be based on evidence. In the case of a comparison, the evidence should come from sources that can be cited, such as a television program that you have seen, an article that you have read in a magazine, a book that you have read, or a lecture that you have heard.
  • are not judgments.Opinions should be identified by phrases such as, “In my view …," “In my opinion …," or “It seems to me that …" Furthermore, opinions should be based on evidence. Opinions that are not based on evidence are judgments. Judgments usually use words like goodor badright or wrong.

A Good Ending:

  • is a summary.The last sentence is similar to the first sentence. In a short essay, a good ending does not add new information. It does not introduce a new idea.
  • is not an apology.A good ending does not apologize for not having said enough, for not having had enough time, or for not using good English.

Become familiar with the writing topics. All of the topics from the official TOEFL® Writing Section are listed in the TOEFL® Information Bulletin for Computer-Based Testing, available free from Educational Testing Service. Read through the questions and think about how you would respond to each of the topics. Since most of them require you to state an opinion, it is helpful to form a general opinion on each topic.

Write on the topic you are assigned. If you write on a topic other than the one you have been assigned, your test will not be scored.

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