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5 Simple Tips For Writing Your TOEFL® Essay

The TOEFL iBT® test is a great way to demonstrate your English language proficiency for university education. The test consists of 4 sections reading, listening, speaking and writing and is completed in about 3 hours.

The final writing section includes two essays one independent writing task, and one integrated writing task. The integrated writing is 20 minutes long and is based on a reading and listening passage recreating a common academic setting.

In this section, it is important to retain what you learned in the lecture and relay the ideas without copying words and phrases from what you have read.

The independent writing task is based on an essay prompt only, with a 30-minute time limit. This essay gives you a chance to express your own ideas on a topic and to be more creative in your writing.

There are many different ways to improve your English language skills but this article aims to give you some tips to help in your test preparations. 

1. Create an essay plan

sticky note plan

Having a plan for what you will write can help your writing to flow better and assist you when forming a discussion.

Noting down a short essay plan before you start writing will help you to use your time efficiently.

When you know what you are going to write next, you won’t have to pause in a panic between each paragraph to think.

There are a number of common essay plans that work very effectively. But what is most important is what works best for you and how your brain works. Having a plan is essential to ensure that the examiner knows where to look in your essay.

You may have written some great work but if your essay is disorganized it can make it very difficult for you to achieve the grades you deserve.

2. Know what the examiner wants

Look at the writing rubrics for the exam and have a goal for what grade you want to achieve.

The writing rubrics can give you clear notes of what is needed for a high grade on the exam. This can give you goals to work towards and skills to work towards, such as organization and clarity.

Example essays with estimated grades are available online and can give you a good idea of what to work towards when practicing for the writing section.

When you are aware of what the examiner is looking for it can help you to feel more confident in what you write.

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3. Give yourself a word limit

Stop sign

It is recommended that a good essay will contain a minimum of 300 words and generally no more than 500 words, but it is ultimately up to you to decide.

By giving yourself a word limit you will know when to stop writing to focus on reading through and correcting your essay. This will also force you to consider what is essential to your essay and giving you a higher grade rather than wasting space.

Quality not quantity certainly rings true when writing an essay in the TOEFL® test.

4. Stick to the prompt  

Under pressure in the exam, it can be easy to get carried away and start to stray away from the essay prompt.

After each paragraph quickly read over what you have written to see if it is relevant to your prompt. It will ultimately save time if you do this after each paragraph rather than at the end when you realize you have written on a completely different topic.

This will also help you to process how you will move into the next paragraph.

With not much time available, it is best to ensure you stay on track throughout. While this is more applicable to the independent writing task it can also be good to keep in mind during the integrated writing.

5. Write, write and write some more

Girl studying

Practice can improve your writing time as well as your writing skills. The more writing you do the more confidence you will feel when taking the exam.

Being great at writing doesn’t happen overnight and the best way to improve is through practice.

Taking 30 minutes to write a sample essay will help you significantly. By regularly returning to writing you will learn and retain your skills. This will also help train yourself into thinking of the essays as a familiar event making it less daunting when in the exam.

Also, it is important to ensure that when you practice that you time yourself. Sure you can write an amazing essay in an hour, but can you do it in 20 minutes?

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Last update: 15 Apr 2020

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