Understanding the Structure of the TOEFL Writing Section
Before learning and applying various TOEFL tips and strategies, you should first of all understand the format of each section. The TOEFL exam is composed of four distinct sections that test your English across the key communication skills: Reading; Listening; Speaking; and, of course, Writing. We will be focusing on the Writing section in this articles, but if you wish to get some useful tips and information about the other sections, feel free to check out our following articles:
The Writing section is where you are asked to demonstrate your ability to write in English. The section lasts 50 minutes and is divided into two sections.
Task 1: Integrated
Requiring you to read an extract and listen to an excerpt from a lecture. You will be given an essay question related to these materials and expected to write a response of approximately 150-250 words. You’re advised to spend around 20 minutes of the allotted time on this task.
Task 2: Independent
This means you will be given an open question and asked to write an essay response of approximately 300 words based on your own knowledge and experience. You’re advised to spend the remaining 30 minutes on this task.
Both parts of the Writing section require you to write a short essay. Notice that the second task is more challenging than the first, because there are no provided materials to use in your answer. For this reason, you should spend more time working on the second task.
Why Is It Important to Practice for the TOEFL Writing Section?
The Writing section is often the most challenging for test takers. It requires comprehension of written and spoken materials, clear communication of ideas, and a strong mastery of grammar.
It is important to understand that writing sections include two writing tasks: The first one combines elements of Reading and Listening where you will be asked to listen to a lecture/conversation, then write a short text. While the second task is an opinion essay where you will be asked to write down your thoughts about a general question.
The best possible preparation for the Writing section is to practice it. The topics and questions will be different every time, so you must familiarize yourself with the style of the tasks, perfecting your approach to each one. The more you practice the Writing section, the more Task 1 and 2 responses will become second nature to you.
TOEFL Writing: Examples of Topics and Types of Question
The TOEFL tests your English skills in the context of academic-level subjects, but that still leaves a lot of possibilities for the subject matter. Whatever topic you’re presented with, remember that you’re not expected to be an expert or have specific in-depth knowledge to hand. The questions are designed to be general, affording you the possibility to orientate your answer in a comfortable direction.
Here’s a list of the some of the most frequent topics:
Technology and the internet in society
School and university
Culture and society
Now let’s take a look at the kinds of question types you could expect to encounter in the TOEFL Writing section.
Task 1 question types
For the integrated writing task, you will be asked to summarize the information and opinions outlined in the preparatory material. Here are the two key question prompts you can expect to be faced with:
Summarize the main points or opinion of the lecture
Highlight how the lecture interacts with the text
Task 2 question types
For the independent writing task, there are five main question types to be prepared for:
Agree or disagree with a statement
Explain your preference for one notion over another
Respond to a hypothetical situation
Describe and explain something
Compare and contrast two ideas
Top 10 Writing Tips to Ace the Writing Part of the Exam
We’ve broken down our advice for acing the Writing section into 10 top TOEFL Writing tips. Read them and let them guide you through your preparations:
Tip#1: Take good notes
Takes notes as you read and listen to the preparatory material for Task 1: this will serve as a plan for your response. Note down the main ideas as you go and flag the similarities and differences between the two sources.
Tip#2: Learn how to paraphrase
Task 1 is about summarizing someone else’s ideas without regurgitating the exact same words. Paraphrasing is an essential skill for this task: learn how to extract the most important ideas and rephrase them in your own words.
Tip#3: Read each question carefully
In both tasks 1 and 2, make sure to read the question fully – it may include two parts, or a statement to interact with. Underline the prompt words, such as “summarize”, “agree or disagree”, “explain”.
Tip#4: Answer the whole question
Task 1 will ask you to summarize the ideas in the recording in connection with the ideas in the extract: make sure to refer to both while focusing on the listening material.
Similarly, Task 2 may ask you to do a number of things, such as answer a question, respond to a statement and support your answer with specific details. Nothing in the question should be ignored.
Tip#5: Plan your response before you write
Planning your responses is essential. You can plan your response to Task 1 as you read and listen to the preparatory materials. For Task 2, make sure to plan your response in detail, including structure and examples.
Tip#6: Use structure
A good Writing answer will be structured. Each response should include introductory and concluding paragraphs, with several short body paragraphs with a main point and supporting detail. Paragraphs should be appropriately linked together.
Tip#7: Use relevant supporting material
Task 2 responses require you to support your answer with your own examples. Make sure to choose relevant examples to the topic, linking them back to the question.
Tip#8: Revise key vocabulary in advance
Although you can’t know which topics or questions you’ll be asked, you can prepare certain vocabulary in advance. Make a list of terms for giving your responses structure, for expressing opinions, and for giving justifications.
Tip#9: Check your grammar and spelling
Your grammar and spelling will be taken into account for your grade. Communicating clearly is the most important thing, so if you’re in doubt about a structure or word, go with what you know.
Tip#10: Check your handwriting
You will write your TOEFL answers by hand and your examiner must be able to read your writing. Practice writing legibly and rewrite any words that might cause a problem.
TOEFL Writing Tips and Tricks for the Best Results
Half the battle of any exam is going into it with a strategy for success! Even if your English grammar and vocabulary is a little shaky, knowing what to expect in the exam and how you’re going to approach it will take you a long way.
Here are our top TOEFL Writing tips for formulating your strategy:
1. Study the two essay types
The Writing section always follows the same format: first, the integrated writing task; second, the independent writing task. It’s important to be equally prepared for the two parts.
Task 1 of the Writing section will always ask you to summarize and highlight information from a text and a recording. Take time to practice these skills by doing just that with any English-language materials you have to find.
Task 2 is broader, but you can prepare vocabulary and writing structures to respond to the key question types outlined above.
2. Use practice papers
One of the best ways to be prepared is to make sure that exam day isn’t the first time you’re sitting a TOEFL writing test. Take advantage of the resources available online to practice answering Writing questions.
If you don’t have the time to complete a full practice paper each time, simply plan your answers to the tasks to get into the habit of approaching TOEFL-style questions.
3. Time yourself
One of the keys to success in the TOEFL is managing your time well. The Writing section requires a clear division between task 1 and task 2, and it’s important to make sure you don’t end up spending too much time on one task that you’re left rushing for the other. Establish your timing before you sit the exam: how much time will you allot to planning, writing, and checking?
Strengthen Your Writing Skills Online With GlobalExam
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Getting a good score in the TOEFL comes down to careful preparation. We recommend your TOEFL Writing strategy into three parts:
Familiarize yourself with the Writing section (exam format, question types, prompt words)
Polish your English grammar and vocabulary through grammar exercises
Practice your TOEFL Writing strategy with practice exercises
GlobalExam can take you through every step of your preparation, right through to exam day. Join our platform for detailed grammar exercises,TOEFL-specific sample exercises, TOEFL mock test and full practice papers.
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