Experts agree, the Writing Section can be the most challenging part of the TOEFL exam. It is the final section and consists of two 30-minute writing tasks: The Integrated Writing and The Independent Writing. In order to master this section of the TOEFL, we have for you 5 great writing strategies that have been proven to increase students’ scores.
1. Plan and Prepare
Before you start writing either essay, you should plan what you are going write about. This preparation stage looks different for each essay, but this is a necessary step to improving your TOEFL Writing Section score.
On the Integrated Writing, you will be given a short reading passage and then a 2 to 3-minute-long listening passage. You are asked to write about the main points, with supporting details, of a lecturer from an audio clip. The lecturer is always responding to the same topic as the reading passage and is almost always contradicting the author’s 3 main points. Because of the time constraints, and the fact you only hear the audio clip once, it is very important to take good notes on the reading passage and, especially, the listening passage. That’s way, once you start writing your essay, your notes will be your guide and make it easier to include all the main points and supporting reasons from the passages.
On the Independent Writing, you will be given a question to which you have to give your opinion on in your essay. Students often make the mistake of immediately starting to write their response without structuring their independent essay first. It is best, a guaranteed to improve your score, if you spend the first 2 or 3 minutes of your time outlining your answer. Gathering your thoughts and following your outline while writing will give you a more organized and focused answer to the Independent Writing task.
2. Be Original
It is very important in both Writing tasks to be original. On the Integrated Writing, the reading passage will reappear after you listen to the audio clip, and you will be able to refer back to it while you are writing your essay. Therefore, it is very important that you do not copy word-for-word from the reading passage. Make sure you paraphrase the points that the author makes in your essay without plagiarizing. Think about it, the testers are not there to find out how well you can copy!
This strategy is also true for the Independent Writing where you will be given a specific question that you have to give your position on in your essay. So, in your response, do not copy the language of the question verbatim. Instead, be original, and find a way to rephrase the question in your answer.
3. Remember the Question
This tip is very important for both writing tasks because students often stray away from the question they are asked. For the Integrated Writing, remember, the question asks you to summarize the points made in the lecture. A common pitfall for students is that they write too much about the author’s main points from the reading. The author’s main points should be mentioned, but most of your time should be spent talking about listening passage. The lecturer’s counterpoints, with his or her supporting reasons, should be the majority of your answer essay.
On the Independent Writing, a big mistake that students tend to make here is that they go off topic. The best way to stay focused on the question is to first outline your answer. Then state your opinion on the prompt question in the first two sentences of your essay. Next, state two reasons for your opinion with supporting details, such as a personal story. Finally, end each paragraph with a conclusion sentence that ties each of your reasons to your overall opinion. This will help keep your essay concise and to the point.
4. Play it Safe
On both of the Writing tasks, you should use grammar structures and vocabulary you are familiar and confident with. So, if you are not sure how to spell a certain word, don’t use it. Think of a synonym that you can spell correctly. If you are unsure about the grammar structure in your sentence, don’t use it. Think of a simpler way to say what you want with fewer clauses.
Too many students think that they should use big complex sentence patterns on the TOEFL, but it is easy to lose points this way. If you know how to use it, use it. If not, the TOEFL is not the place to try it out. Remember there is no spell or grammar check, so it is better to play it safe with words and constructs you know are correct. Don’t write any phrases or sentences that leave you are questioning. It is better to get less points for simpler sentence patterns, than to lose points for incorrect complex sentence patterns. Playing it safe with your grammar and vocabulary is actually the best way to improve your Writing Section score.
5. End with Editing
A good writer always goes back and reads their writing after they finish. On both the Integrated and Independent Writing task, you should do the same. You can avoid having unnecessary points taken from your score if you just save some extra time at the end to go back and read your essay. You would be surprised how many spelling errors or punctuation mistakes you will catch by doing this. So, a sure way to improve your score is to save a minute or two at the end to proofread and edit your essays after your finish.