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Essay Writing Tips for the TOEFL

The Test of Written English (TWE) is an essay test that gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your
skill at performing academic writing tasks similar to those required of students in North American
universities. This includes the ability to generate and organize ideas on paper, to support those ideas
with examples or evidence, and to compose in standard written English a response to an essay
question. Because the TWE is intended to measure composition skills rather than reading
comprehension skills, topics are brief and easy to read. They are not based on other reading material.
When you take the TWE test, you will be given one topic on which to write an essay. TWE topics
are designed to be fair and appropriate for international students and require no specialized
knowledge of any given subject matter.

Types of essay test questions:

In general, there are three types of essay test questions on the TOEFL :
Type 1 - Agree or disagree with a statement
This type of question will ask you to read a statement and decide whether you agree or disagree with
EXAMPLE: Do you agree or disagree with this statement?
Subjects such as art, music, and drama should be a part of every childs education.
Use specific reasons and examples to support your opinion.
Type 2- Defend an opinion
In this type of essay question you will be presented with two points of view of a particular topic and be
asked to choose one side to support.
EXAMPLE: Some people think that the family is the most important influence on young adults. Other
people think that friends are the most important influence. Which view do you agree with? Use
examples to support your position.
Type 3- Explain the importance of a development, invention, or phenomenon.
In this type of essay question you have to explain the reasons for or causes of something. You may
also have to describe its qualities.
EXAMPLE: What is the most important product or resource in your country? Why is it important? Use
specific reasons and details to support your answer.

Time Limit:
You have 30 minutes to write the essay, and this is a major problem for many test-takers; they simply
run out of time before the essay is completed and/or proofread. Use those 30 minutes wisely! A good
plan is to use your time like this:

Prewriting: 3-5 minutes. This includes reading the question and knowing what you are to do,
organizing your ideas, and writing a simple outline.
Writing the essay: 20 minutes. In each essay, there should be an introduction (4-6
sentences) with a thesis statement, a body (two to four paragraphs), and a conclusion (4-5

Editing: 5 minutes. Use the final 5 minutes to check your spelling, punctuation, grammar, and
word choice.

Parts of the Essay

The introduction should start on a general level with brief lead-in statements and gradually focus in on
the specific topic of the essay. Think of it as an inverted triangle, with general statements at the
beginning and more specific statements at the end. In the introduction, the reader should find the main
idea of the essay expressed in the thesis statement. The reader should be able to tell what specific
points about the main idea will be discussed and in what order they will be developed. The lead-in
statements could (1) make a striking assertion, (2) use a split anecdote (a story that is begun in the
introduction and is finished in the conclusion), (3) use an interesting detail, statistic, or quotation, or (4)
ask a provocative question. The introduction should make the reader want to continue reading.
i) Start with a general overview of topic and lead-in statements
ii) Finish with a thesis statement (which includes points of argument)

The body is the 'heart' of your essay. It will support the views you stated in your thesis statement. A
good TOEFL essay will have two or three (sometimes even four) well-written paragraphs in the body.
Each body paragraph should provide clear examples to support your thesis statement. Be sure to use
transition words and phrases such as on the one hand/other hand, however, although, in contrast,
first, in addition, finally, and so on.
Each body paragraph should begin with a topic sentence. This topic sentence should be a major point
of argument that supports the thesis statement. Primary support sentences are general statements
that support the topic sentence. The secondary support sentences, that support the primary support
sentences, provide specific details, quotes, statistics, or real-life examples. Each paragraph should
end with a concluding sentence that briefly summarizes the ideas presented in the paragraph. Here is
an outline:
Body Paragraph 1 (develops first point of argument)
Topic sentence
Primary Support
Secondary Support
Primary Support
Secondary Support
Primary Support
Secondary Support
Body Paragraph 2 (develops second point of argument)
Topic sentence
Primary Support
Secondary Support
Primary Support
Secondary Support
Primary Support
Secondary Support
Body Paragraph 3 (develops third point of argument)
Topic sentence
Primary Support
Secondary Support
Primary Support
Secondary Support
Primary Support
Secondary Support

The structure of the concluding paragraph can be thought of as a regular triangle with specific
statements at the beginning and more general statements at the end. Thus, the beginning should
include a summary statement that recaps the thesis, a sentence that restates the major points of
argument, and a wrap-up statement. The conclusion could also contain the end of a split anecdote that
would finish the story begun in the introduction. The wrap-up statement could contain insights of the
essay writer, encourage the reader to take action, emphasize the importance of one of the points of
argument, or create a solid sense of finality.
i) Start with specific statements (summary/paraphrase of thesis statement)
ii) Conclude with more general wrap-up statement(s)

Additional comments:
Read the essay question carefully, and do exactly what the question asks you to do. Don't go off-topic
(i.e.: write about something not related to the question)! If you practice a lot and follow the above
advice carefully, you'll have a much better chance of writing a good essay.
Good luck!