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How to Get Prepared for the TOEFL Essay Writing

August 12, 2020

TOEFL Essay: Useful Tips And Tricks To Help You Pass The Task

The writing section of the TOEFL is usually the most challenging for students. You are going to have only 50 minutes to complete two different types of essays. To do that, you should get familiarized with the requirements for each type of writing assignment. Also, you have to learn how to avoid typical mistakes that may lead to a lower grade.

In this article, we will discuss the features of both types of TOEFL essays. You will understand the concept of assignment, the required structure, and how to create it step by step is. Using our writing guide, you will get prepared for writing a winning essay. Also, we will share tips and tricks that help you pass the TOEFL writing section. Let’s get it started!

What is the concept of the TOEFL writing section?

The final part of the TOEFL exam is the writing section. It takes 50 minutes and requires you to create two different types of essays. The first one is an integrated essay question, and the second is the independent one. The thing is that there are different requirements for each type of essay. Your task is to type each essay on the computer. Therefore, you have to make notes, create a good structure, and finally write the essay.

In the following sections, we will discuss each type of TOEFL essay. Also, we are going to explain how to work with different styles of both integrated and independent essay questions. Besides, you will see the examples of topics and question structures. Altogether, our writing guide is going to help you overcome the complexities of this section and gain the maximum score.

How to work with an integrated essay question?

Although it is a writing assignment, it also consists of listening and reading parts. To start with, you are going to have 3 minutes to read a piece of text. Then, you have to listen to an audio of a person who discusses the same topic. Your task is to write an answer that covers both of those sources. Keep in mind that you cannot express your point of view.

During writing, you can look at the text, but you cannot listen to the audio again. That is why we recommend you to make notes while listening to a speaker. When you hear audio, forget about the reading part and write down every useful piece of information. Once you are done with reading, you will have 20 minutes to write an answer. The recommended volume of response is 150-225 words. 

You can receive a maximum score of 5 is you fulfill these requirements:

  • Highlight the most important points from the audio;
  • summarize the information from the text and the audio;
  • create an attractive structure without large number of mistakes.

Argument Style

The first style of an integrated essay question is an argument style. The text suggests an argument about some issues. A speaker challenges that argument in the audio version. They do not agree with the point presented in the text. Your task is to summarize the point from both the reading and listening parts.

Explanation Style

This type of TOEFL essay slightly resembles a cause-and-effect essay. The text presents three different ideas about the cause or use of something. Again, the speaker challenges those suggestions. You should conclude the ideas and highlight a decent solution to a problem.

Problem and Solution Style

The excerpt suggests three issues relating to a topic. Then, a lecturer presents a solution to each issue. You need to evaluate each solution and explain its feasibility. Also, you should explain how each solution matches a particular issue.

How to work with an independent essay question?

This type is usually familiar to the majority of people. You are going to get a question on a particular topic. Your task is to answer the question expressing your point of view on that issue. As you may guess, you have to pick up a few arguments that support your opinion. After you read a question, you will have half an hour to create an essay. We recommend you to use a standard essay structure and limit your text at around 300 words.

Here is what you should do to get a maximum score of 5:

  • Your English is good enough to express the point of view;
  • you present relevant arguments that support your opinion;
  • you choose an appropriate structure and style.

Agree/disagree Style

The card you receive presents a statement about a particular topic or issue. You need to say whether you agree or disagree with the statement. Also, you have to support your words using arguments and examples. Make your arguments sound convincing, not elastic.

Multiple Choice Style

The card presents a problem, explaining it in a few questions. Then, the text asks you a question and suggests a different solution. You need to pick the one you like and explain why you chose that. Present relevant arguments and specific examples.

Paired Choice Style

The text offers two ways to solve the problem. You have to pick the group you relate to and choose the right way. Usually, those two solutions are completely opposite. Present your answer and support it with a few strong arguments.

Preference Style

This style resembles the previous one because you need to pick one out of two solutions to a problem. However, those ways are not always the opposite. Therefore, you do not have to support only one solution. Your task is to choose the one you prefer without denying another one. Still, you should present enough arguments and examples to make your words sound convincing.

A guide to writing an integrated TOEFL essay

The integrated TOEFL question is the first writing assignment. Keep in mind that you will have only 20 minutes to write a response. To start with, you will read the short text, and then you will listen to the audio. The speaker is going to support the text throughout the audio version. Note that the audio is played just once. Therefore, we recommend you to write down everything that shows the relationship between the text and the audio.

Let’s discuss the elements of an integrated essay. You should generate a strong introduction and create three main paragraphs. In the introduction, you have to state what unites the text and the lecture. While writing a body part, you need to present the arguments and examples. Show how the author’s thoughts match the speaker’s words.

Here are some useful tips for this part of the TOEFL writing section:

  • Focus on the lecturer’s words. Summarize them, think about how they match the reading part. Around 60% of your essay should be devoted to the discussion of the lecture;
  • do not copy-past the reading part. You will have the text in front of you, so it hard not to abuse that. However, you need to paraphrase the ideas from the text without repeating them;
  • read essay samples that gained the maximum score. It is important to learn examples of an integrated essay. Find a few templates and analyze them;
  • do not neglect proofreading. You would better write a shorter essay but save a moment to proofread it. It will help you notice some stupid mistakes you can make while fast writing.

A guide to writing an independent TOEFL essay

The second part of the TOEFL writing section is an independent essay question. You will have 30 minutes to read a question, create an appropriate paper structure, and organize your essay. Keep in mind that this type supposes you express your opinion about a particular issue. Therefore, you have to create a statement, pick up a few arguments, and develop an engaging essay structure.

Although you have 30 minutes to complete this task, keep in mind that a question on the card can quite comprehensive. Sometimes you need at least 3-5 minutes to understand the assignment. If you receive a multiple-choice task or a preference one, make sure to carefully read the question. Do not use memorized examples because it may lead to plagiarism in your paper. Nevertheless, you are welcome to use examples from personal experience.

Your independent essay should consist of an introduction, a few body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Start your paper with a hook, place the main argument, and support it with a relevant example. Explain how your arguments relate to an issue. 

Make sure to read these tips:

  • Do not repeat the question. Start with a unique statement that rephrases the question;
  • develop a strong thesis statement. It will be the central part of your independent essay;
  • do not copy-paste from the card. Moreover, try to use a different formulation to avoid plagiarism.

Typical mistakes students usually make while writing a TOEFL essay

It is important to learn typical students’ mistakes so that you know how to avoid them. Our specialists work as TOEFL raters. They are used to checking dozens of essays, so they are familiar with all the typical mistakes. The thing is that you cannot gain the highest score if you make more than a few mistakes. That is why we made up a list of popular mistakes in the TOEFL essay:

  • Do not mention your level of English. You do not have to be a native English speaker. Therefore, there is no need to apologize for your potential mistakes in advance. Vice versa, you should stay calm and confident to impress the rater. Even if you do not know how to express your thoughts, do not focus on that;
  • do not freak out. Everybody seeks to pass the TOEFL essay, but not everybody is ready for that. Avoid getting nervous because it hinders you from generating ideas. Focus on the task and forget about its importance;
  • remember that integrated and independent essay questions are different. When you work on the integrated TOEFL essay, you must not present your point of view. Your paper should analyze the relationship of the reading and the listening parts;
  • avoid using memorized examples. A lot of students are going to do that, so there is a possibility your example can match the example of somebody else. As you may guess, the rater can lower the grade because of plagiarism.

List of tips to help you pass a writing section of TOEFL

It is worth mentioning that you can improve your final score by following some rules. Checking loads of essays, we noticed that a part of students uses a few useful strategies. Also, we talked to people who gained a maximum grade of 5 and asked them to share some tips and tricks. It turned out that you can get prepared for writing a high-quality essay without paying a tutor or studying all hours. 

We created a list of recommendations you should keep in mind. They are going to help you get the highest score for each of the TOEFL essays.

1. Rehearse the exam

It is obvious, but not everybody follows this tip. The thing is that you should try to write an exam, organizing the same conditions. For example, you know that you will have 30 minutes to complete the independent essay question. Give yourself a time check: set the timer for 30 minutes and imagine you are writing a paper. Pick up a random question from the Internet and read it right after you set a timer. Your goal is to evaluate the ability to manage the time.

2. Do not write too much

If you doubt between writing one clear sentence or two vague ones, go for the first variant. You will not get the highest score if you write a particular number of sentences. Keep in mind that the rater is going to be tired while reading your essay. Therefore, you should not use complicated transitions and structure. If your essay is hard to understand, you will not gain the maximum grade. Focus on the quality of the text, not the volume of it.

3. Prepare a structure in advance

Learn the essay samples that helped students get a high score. Write a few templates that look engaging and let the text flow easily. Remember that you should follow the logical sequence of the text. Therefore, your task is to make it coherent and consistent.

4. Develop a strong opinion

Even if you do not have an opinion, come up with a strong one. If you write an argumentative essay, you have to develop a thesis statement and support it with a few arguments. Have a problem expressing your ideas and feelings? Relax and try to imagine you are arguing with a friend. Come up with convincing arguments that prove you are right.

5. Plan your response

Do not start writing immediately. You would better take some time to develop a coherent structure. Come up with an engaging thesis statement, try to pick a few solid arguments. Therefore, you will not care about that while writing. If you cannot decide what side to choose, evaluate your arguments for each side. You need to sound convincing to persuade the rater.

6. Support your thesis statement

Each question you write has to develop the ideas of the previous one. Also, every argument you present has to strengthen your thesis. Do not write something that is not relevant to your topic. Make sure to place only clear arguments that are easy to understand. 

7. Do not neglect editing and proofreading

We recommend you to read the final essay two times before you hand it in. While proofreading, imagine you see the paper for the first time. Do you understand the text? Is it easy to follow its main idea? Try to correct all the obvious mistakes. Delete the sentences that are superfluous as they do not add any sense.

Get the highest score for your TOEFL essay

The writing section of the TOEFL exam is quite challenging. You need to prepare for two different types of essays. Using our guide, you will raise the opportunity to get the highest score of 5. It seems difficult, but you can do it by dividing the problem into pieces. Learn our list of tips to avoid typical problems in writing a TOEFL essay.

Keep in mind that you should not count on somebody or something. You should realize that your results depend directly on you. Do not waste your time – start preparation today.

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