TOEFL Essay Writing: 5 Smart Strategies to Ace Your Essay
- August 31, 2017
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You may be a gifted writer with the ability to pen wonderful stories, but when writing under pressure, you might not be able to produce your best work.
Indeed, that is one of the great difficulties of appearing for a TOEFL exam as it challenges you to showcase your skills in a time-bound environment. In fact, when it comes to a writing exam, winning the race against time is a problem shared equally by native and non-native English speakers.
Luckily, there are a number of excellent resources online that can help you prepare and perform exceptionally well, no matter how intimidating it all may seem in the beginning.
What to Expect from the TOEFL Writing Section
The writing section constitutes the final segment of your TOEFL exam. This means that you will be given 50 minutes to successfully complete two writing tasks:
- Integrated Writing Task
- Independent Writing Task
You have 20 minutes to complete the Integrated Writing Task, which challenges you to demonstrate your listening, reading and writing skills.
For the Independent Writing Task, however, you have a total of 30 minutes to write a well-argued essay in response to a specific question.
Integrated Writing Task
In this task, you are given 3 minutes to read a short passage, followed by a short audio clip (of around 2 minutes) based on the same topic. In the next 20 minutes, you are expected to write a coherent, impersonal response that refers to both source materials.
When articulating or planning your response, you will have the option to go back to the passage, but will not be able to re-hear the audio. Remember: listening forms a crucial component of comprehension.
Remain focused and try to identify how the audio relates to the passage.
The recommended word-limit for the Integrated Writing Task is 150 to 225 words, with quality always taking precedence over quantity.
- Pay attention to subtle and noticeable differences between the content as it is presented in the passage as well as audio.
- Avoid reproducing the text from both sources. Demonstrate your comprehension skills by rewriting in your own words.
- Do not fuse your response with personal opinions; that is reserved for the next task.
- Take notes while listening.
- Make frequent references to the two sources to showcase your understanding.
Independent Writing Task
The Independent Writing Task is designed specifically to test your writing skills. Here, you are given an essay question that usually pertains to a specific issue or topic. With 30 minutes to plan and write your response, you are expected to present a well-reasoned argument that reflects your ability to articulate and organise simple as well as complex ideas.
In the event that you do not care much for the topic at hand or simply lack a personal opinion, simply choose a side that you feel is easier to support.
The recommended word length here is 300 words, which means you should develop and express your argument succinctly, instead of writing abstract and inconclusive statements.
- When it comes to the TOEFL essay, clarity is everything. Make your opinion abundantly clear in the first few lines.
- Present a strong and convincing argument by supporting your opinion with well-articulated reasons. Share specific examples to gain a competitive edge.
- Do not veer off the trail by writing about what you know as opposed to what is asked. Stay on topic and be as direct as possible.
- Showcase your knowledge of current events in order to make your case, but do not share irrelevant examples just for the sake of it.
- Aim for a short but impressive essay over a long but mediocre one.
TOEFL Essay Writing Strategies
Similar to the Integrated Writing Task, your score on the Independent Writing Task depends on your ability to produce quality over quantity. You may accomplish this task by facilitating language appropriately and ensuring that there be little to no lexical or grammatical errors.
In other words, your essay must display unity, coherence and progression all the way through.
Here are 5 smart strategies to help you prepare.
1. Practice timed writing on a computer.
This may seem like common sense, but you may be surprised to discover that many applicants underestimate the power of a timer when preparing for their TOEFL writing test.
In addition, TOEFL exams take place on a computer. So, if you are accustomed to your pen and notebook, practicing essay writing on your computer may be necessary to help you manage time.
With the goal being to write at least 300 words for your Independent Task, you must prepare by completing timed practice essays.
Writing on different topics will not only give you a good idea of questions to expect, but also help you allot sufficient time for planning, brainstorming, writing and reviewing.
2. Identify TOEFL prompts.
One sure-fire way of making your essay stand out is identifying important keywords that often show up in TOEFL essay questions.
The Educational Testing Services (ETS) post sample topics on their website to prepare you for what is to come.
Familiarise yourself with the questions and focus on words like “oppose” or “prefer” that will inevitably dictate your narrative. Doing this will save you an enormous amount of time on the day of your TOEFL writing exam since you will recognise the prompt and know exactly how to respond.
3. Brainstorm ideas.
30 minutes may seem like enough time to write 300 words. In reality, however, you are not just writing, but creating a compelling argument that is well-constructed and meaningful. A big part of this process is coming up with a creative idea to do so, and this is precisely where brainstorming comes in.
As you practice writing essays at home, pay close attention to the time you allot to planning. It may make all the difference in the world.
4. Form a thesis statement.
By now, you know how important it is to form a clear and concise argument in your essay. A great way to do this is to begin your essay with a strong thesis statement.
Since your topic will most likely be different from the ones you have prepared for, it is important to maintain focus and build your essay around your introductory paragraph.
5. Check for grammar and spelling.
If you happen to have a few minutes left by the end of your essay—as you ideally should—utilise them by editing your work.
As a non-native speaker, you are likely to make innocent grammatical errors that you may overlook as you write in a hurry. Save the last 2-3 minutes to simply review your essay and polish your work. Finally, look for typographical errors and fix punctuation where necessary.
At the end of the day, practice makes perfect. So, be sure to make time for practice essays and keep track of your progress.
Remember, you can save yourself a lot of time and money by getting a great TOEFL score on your very first attempt.
For more advice on TOEFL exam preparation, take advantage of the limitless resources available online. We are proud to share some of the most extensive online materials for TOEFL preparation, including practice tests, textbooks, top TOEFL tutors and more!
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