Being able to express yourself clearly in writing is essential if you want to attend an English-speaking university. Students of any subject must write essays. If your writing isn’t well-structured and fluent, your grades will suffer. The point of the TOEFL writing section is to ensure that you are equipped to flourish in an academic environment.

Writing in a language that isn’t your first is a challenge for everybody. The key is to understand the specific requirements of the TOEFL and then hone your writing skills so that you are equipped to do well. Here are some tips that can help you.

#1: Learn how to structure an essay

All of your answers in the written section of the TOEFL will be in the form of essays. A good essay breaks down into three essential parts:

  1. The introduction – a brief paragraph of two or three sentences that introduces the topic and presents a thesis that is a direct response to the question asked.
  2. The body – two paragraphs that support your thesis statement. Each paragraph should cover one main idea.
  3. The conclusion – a short paragraph of three sentences or so that summarizes your thesis and draws conclusions.

If you want to do well on the TOEFL, you must be able to organize your thoughts quickly and structure them in an essay. It may help to create an outline first and then write your essay using the outline as a guide.

#2: Get accustomed to picking sides on an issue

The TOEFL essays require students to choose a side on a particular issue, articulate a thesis, and then support the thesis with clear writing. One of the best ways to prepare for the exam is to learn how to evaluate a topic and pick the argument that will give you the best chance of writing a compelling essay.

What surprises students is that they do not have to agree with the thesis they are proposing. Once you know the topic, you can brainstorm a few ideas on each side of the issue and then pick the side that you feel has the more compelling arguments. You can find lists of typical TOEFL topics online and use them to practice.

#3: Focus on quality rather than quantity

Writing a long essay is not necessary, and if the quality of your writing suffers as a result of writing a long response, you are better off keeping your responses short.

The structure and clarity of your response will determine your score. As you prepare, your goal should be to get as comfortable as you can with the process of writing a clear and compelling essay that supports your central argument. Sometimes surprisingly short essays get higher scores than longer essays.

#4: Practice varying your sentence structure

Academic writing must be clear, but it cannot be overly simple. If you read any well-written essay, you’ll notice that the sentence structure varies. Some sentences are short and straightforward, while others are long and complex.

You don’t have to know every potential way to structure a sentence, but it’s a good idea to study sentences and have a few structures that you know well and can use easily.

#5: Learn how to edit your writing

Finally, if you have a few minutes after you finish writing an essay, use that time to read your essay and edit it as needed. It is not uncommon even for native English speakers to make mistakes as they write. Sometimes our thoughts get ahead of us and we use improper grammar or vocabulary. Some things to look for as you edit include:

  • Spelling errors, including improper use of homonyms
  • Punctuation errors
  • Subject/verb agreement
  • Repetitive words or phrases

Read slowly and carefully and correct as much as you can. Attention to detail can make a big difference in your final score.

In addition to these five tips, you should write in English every day. Try keeping a journal or diary and spend five minutes writing about your day before you go to bed. The more you use your English grammar and vocabulary, the better your writing skills will be.


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