How to score well in TOEFL Writing

    Sayantani Barman Sayantani Barman
    Study Abroad Expert

    Test of English as Foreign Language or TOEFL is taken by those who aspire to study in any reputed university of the United States of America (USA) or Canada. This is an exam that tests the language proficiency of the non native speaker of the English language. This exam marks you on the basis of your ability to read, speak, listen and write English language. The organization responsible for conducting the test is Educational Testing Services (ETS). The exam is conducted all year round. All candidates are free to choose dates and test centres suitable to them. Candidates who are interested in appearing for the exam can find all that they need to know about TOEFL Writing section in the following paragraphs.

    What are the various sections of TOEFL exam? What is the pattern of the test?

    TOEFL exam tests your proficiency in the English language in four areas. These four areas are: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. Each of these areas are separate sections in the exam. Read on to find out the details of the exam pattern:

    SectionTotal no. of questionsTotal time allottedTasks
    Reading30 to 4054 to 72 minsYou will be provided with 3 or 4 passages to read and comprehend. You will be asked questions based on these passages.
    Listening28 to 3841 to 57 minsYou will be provided with material to listen to- classroom discussions, lectures, group discussions or conversations. You will be asked to answer questions based on them.
    Speaking4 tasks17 minsYou will be given a topic from everyday life or current affairs. You will have to speak on the topic. It will be based on your reading and listening tasks.
    Writing2 tasks50 minsYou will be asked to write essays on common topics. You will have to support your statements through valid arguments in writing. It will be based on your reading and listening tasks.

    TOEFL Writing

    How to ace TOEFL Writing and come out with flying colours? What are the best tips to score well in the all important Writing section of the exam? What is the syllabus? How should you prepare yourself? What are the steps you should follow to do your best in this section? All the answers to your questions will be answered in the following section.

    General Overview

    You will get a total time of 50 minutes to answer this section. You will have to complete 2 tasks here. This is the last section of the exam and a very crucial one. These two tasks will involve writing two essays- Integrated writing and Independent writing.

    • Integrated Writing

    You will get 20 mins for this task, which will include reading, listening and writing. This is how the time is to be divided:

    Reading time: 3 mins
    Listening time: 2 mins
    Writing time: 15 mins

    • Independent Writing

    Total time: 30 mins

    After you finish the 2 separate tasks, your paper goes for correction. Multiple graders will go through your paper. Generally, there are four graders allotted to each paper. They will rate each of your essays on a scale of 0 to 5. This is called your task rating or score report. The sum total of the task rating of the two essays will be calculated on a scale of 0 to 30. This will count as your total score for the Writing section. Along with the grades, you will also receive general feedback and comments on each writing task. This will then be added to your score in the other sections. Your total score for TOEFL is marked on a scale of 0 to 120. Therefore, as you can see, the Writing section is of absolute importance as it carries a maximum 30 points, that is, 25% of the total marks of the exam.

    TOEFL Integrated Writing: the first task

    What can you expect in the first task of TOEFL Writing section- Integrated writing? This is a section which involves your reading and listening skills along with your writing ability. You will be given a short passage, a paragraph based on which you will be asked to elaborate your thoughts. Next, you will also be asked to listen carefully to excerpts from a lecture or a conversation. The topics for both the reading and listening excerpt will be the same. Both will engage with the same topic. It is permissible to take notes of important points during listening or reading. You may be allowed to read the passage again if the need arises. However, please make note of the fact that you will not be permitted to listen to the audio clip twice. You will be asked to answer questions based on the content of what you read or listened to.

     The length of the essay should be 150 to 220 words, and you will have to complete it within a maximum time of 15 mins. You will be provided with only 3 mins to read the short excerpt. The passage will be between 200 to 220 words. The audio will be of 2 mins duration. In the essay that you write in this task, you will be required to refer to both the audio source and reading passage provided to you. Your personal opinions on the topic are not required for this essay. Your grades will be based on your writing skills and vocabulary. Along with this, your ability to comprehend and incorporate the ideas presented in the reading passage and the audio clip provided to you will also be a criterion for marks.

    TOEFL Independent Writing: the second task

    In this section, you will be given a topic to write on. The total time allotted to you for this task will be 30 mins. You will have to plan your response and write the essay within this allotted time. The suggested length of this essay is 300 words. You will be marked on the basis of your language skills, your organization of thought and your usage of the English vocabulary. In this task, you will be given an issue or topic to write on. You will have to elaborate your position on it and justify the stand you take. You may give examples and use famous quotes to support your argument. You will have to draw a valid conclusion in the end. The topics will be from your everyday life and current issues. This section does not involve any reading passages or audio excerpts. You may have a variety of questions in this task. You may be given a statement and asked if you agree with the statement or not. An issue of public interest may be given to you and you will be asked to share your opinion on it. You may also be given a situation and you will have to register your response to that situation.

    How to score well in TOEFL Writing section?

    We know that writing the essays for either task of the Writing section is not a cake walk. Do not forget that this section carries 25% weightage and you need to do well here. Here are some tips to improve your writing skills that will ensure your good score in the TOEFL writing section. Few preparation tips for TOEFL writing are as follows: 

    • Your essay should be relevant to the question. Read the question carefully.
    • Stay within the word limit. Do not write extra long essays in the hope of getting more marks. You will definitely be penalized with negative marks if you write too much irrelevant material.
    • Regularly practice writing essays on various topics for both tasks, and try to stay within the time and word limit.
    • TOEFL allows you to take notes. Make the best use of this. Make a rough structure, note down the bullet points before you write the actual essay.

    What do you need in a perfect TOEFL essay?

    There are three things that you should keep in mind while writing your essays – structure, grammar and vocabulary. These are three major criteria which determine your score. Read more to find out how to ace each of these areas.

    • Structure: your essay should comprise of 4 to 5 paragraphs. the 1st paragraph should be an introductory one. It should be used to delineate the main thesis of the essay. This is where you should state your principal argument. The next 2 or 3 paragraphs should be supporting the main argument that you stated in the beginning. Finally, in the end, you should write a concluding paragraph to summarise your points.
    • Grammar: correct grammar is a major key to scoring well in the Writing section. Please understand that you do not necessarily need to use complicated grammatical structures in your sentences to score marks. What is important is that you write correct grammar.
    • Vocabulary: a good vocabulary can go a long way in improving your grades. Do not use words incorrectly. You can prepare for this section by making a list of words, going through the dictionary, learning synonyms and antonyms.



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