Essay writing is the last section of the TOEFL iBT. During the 50-minute section, test takers are required to complete two tasks: integrated and independent tasks.

What Is an Integrated Task?

For the integrated task, test takers need to write essay responses related to reading and listening tasks.

After reading an academic passage and then listening to a lecture on the same topic, you will have to respond to some questions. Your response will be an essay. Needless to say, the essay will use information from the academic passage and lecture. It should be 150–225 words long.

What is An Independent Task?

The second writing task, independent writing, requires test takers to express their personal opinion on a certain issue. They are given 30 minutes to write a 300 word  essay.

How Much Is the Writing Score Range?

The score range for the writing section is as follows:

24-30 – Good

17-23 – Fair

1-16 – Limited

Who Checks the Written Essays?

A computer rater and a human rater check each test taker’s written essays. The ETS—the primary organisation responsible for creating and administering TOEFL iBT—appoints qualified, trained human graders.

The raters grade essays based on a score scale of 1 to 5. In case someone gets a different score, a third grader will check the essay to determine their final score.

What Do Raters Look For in Essays?

Raters look for various things in a candidate’s essays. In a nutshell, they check essay content, essay structure, grammatical usage, vocabulary, and punctuation.

A good essay is carefully thought out and well-organised. Comprising three main parts, i.e. intro, body and conclusion, a high scoring TOEFL essay has proper structure and flow.

When working on the integrated task, you should focus on clear reasoning and arguments. Use examples to support your case. And, the most important thing is to include information from the reading and listening sources.


Of course, it is impossible to remember everything from the reading passage and audio recording. Therefore, your best bet is to focus on important information. Your goal should be to communicate your thoughts and arguments clearly and coherently, without worrying about not including everything.

Similarly, you should write an intelligent essay for the independent task. Read the question carefully before starting the essay. You may be asked to agree or disagree with a certain statement or express your stand on a certain issue.

Use reasons and examples to support your essay. Although the essay word count is 300 words, do not get carried away. Essay planning and structuring is key to better writing. Keep in mind, length essays will not get you a higher score.

What is The Purpose of The Writing Section?

The TOEFL iBT writing section is designed to evaluate a non-native English speaker’s ability to communicate their opinions in writing. Your essay will determine your grasp of the English language and your chances of thriving in an academic environment in an English-speaking country.

Common Essay Writing Mistakes

Many students find TOEFL writing extremely challenging. Even if they have good English writing skills, they might not get a high score due to limited time.

Here are the most common mistakes you need to avoid:

Using Big, Fancy Words

Many students use big words and complicated phrases that make no sense. Using fancy words will not give you additional points.

It is important that you express yourself clearly. To minimise the chance of using incorrect words, phrases and grammar, stick to simple, sensible language.

LanguageUsing Abbreviations, Slang or Informal Language

The TOEFL iBT writing section assesses an individual’s academic writing skills. You will write an academic essay.

Do not use slang language or  abbreviations. The examiner might deduct your score. Use proper, formal writing for both essays.

Copying Text

Some test takers copy text from the reading passage during the integrated task. Avoid making this mistake. Read the passage carefully and then brainstorm your essay ideas.

Limited Sentence Structure

Due to limited sentence structures, many test takers repeat the same sentences repeatedly. For example, they start each essay paragraph with ‘I think.’

Pay close attention to the structure of your essay. Use grammatical constructions to  include a variety of sentences into your writing.

Writing Too Much

The TOEFL essay is not about word count. Contrary to popular opinion, writing long essays will not give you a high score.

Keeping in mind your prep time, stick to 3 or  4 paragraphs. Do not exceed 300 words when doing the independent task.

A short essay with fewer mistakes will not be as problematic as a long essay with several errors. Also, shorter essays require less time to proofread.

Not Proofreading

Many test takers do not have the time to proofread their work. Proofreading will help you identify spelling and grammar mistakes.

Plan your work in such a way that you have enough time to go over your essay in the end.

Tips and Tricks for Improving TOEFL iBT Writing Skills

Keep reading: Read books and news articles online. Look out for new words, find out their meaning and add them to your wordlist. This is a simple way to build your vocabulary.

Every time you read, examine the author’s writing style and sentence structure.

Manage Your TimeManage you time: Keep track of time on the day of the test. Do not get distracted.

Pay attention to every question, plan your essays and make sure you have time to proofread your work.

Last, but not least, practice essay writing as much as you can before the test.

Refer to TOEFL practice tests online to get an idea about the type of essays you will have to attempt.

If you want to master the art of TOEFL iBT essay writing, uMasterExam can help. As a one-stop TOEFL preparation guide, uMasterExam offers a vast array of study materials, including the best courses, books and practice tests for iBT preparation. Need a tutor to help you with essay writing? uMasterExam features a list of qualified, experienced TOEFL tutors who provide tutoring to students around the world.

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