Many TOEFL experts agree that test takers should write more than what the TOEFL exam recommends. However, they also agree that you shouldn’t write too much more. So, this begs the question: How long should my essays be?
The short answer:
Integrated Writing Task: 250-300 words
Independent Writing Task: 350-400 words
This is our recommendation for how many words, but now, let’s breakdown how much to write on each of the two tasks from the TOEFL Writing Section.
1. Integrated Writing Task
You will have 20 minutes to write your Integrated essay. Before you start writing, you will have to read a passage and then listen to a lecture. The reading passage is approximately 250-300 words, and you get 3 minutes to read it. In the reading passage, the author will make 3 main points about the given topic with supporting details. Next, you will listen to a lecture about the same topic from passage you just read. This audio clip is typically 2-3 minutes long. The lecturer will give 3 opposing or counterpoints to those made by the author. He or she will also state their supporting details for these counterpoints. You have to write about what the lecturer says about the topic using information from both the reading and listening passages.
In order to know how much to write on the Integrated Writing task, you need to know how best to structure your essay. The best structure is to plan to write four paragraphs: an introduction, and 3 body paragraphs.
In the introduction, you should only write three or four sentences. In the first, state what the topic is from the reading and listening passages. Then, write what the author’s position is on the topic from the reading passage. Next, explain what the lecturer’s position is on the topic, often it contradicts the author’s. And finally, state that both the author and lecturer have 3 main points supporting their positions.
The next three body paragraphs all follow the same structure and should be three or four sentences each. In the first body paragraph, write one sentence about the author’s first main point. Then write two to three sentences about the lecturer’s first main counterpoint, and (this is important) provide supporting details for the lecturer’s counterpoint. Do the same in the second body paragraph with the second main point and counterpoint, and in the third body paragraph with the third main point and counterpoint.
Technically on the Integrated writing section you don’t need a conclusion paragraph, but if you have time, after proofreading your essay, you can add a sentence or two summarizing the opposing positions of the author and lecturer.
By doing this, your Integrated Writing Task should be between 250 and 300 words.
2. Independent Writing Task
You will have 30 minutes to complete the second and final task on the TOEFL Writing Section, the Independent Writing. This task is much more open-ended, as you will be given a question relating to a topic which asks for your opinion. The questions on the Independent Writing are usually one of the following types: 1) pick a side of a controversial argument, 2) state your preference between two or three conflicting options, or 3) explain why you agree or disagree with a given statement. You should only choose one side or option from the question to write about, and then fully explain two reasons for your opinion with a personal experience or story.
In order to know how much to write on the Independent Writing task, you need to know how best to structure your essay. The best structure is to plan to write four paragraphs: an introduction, two body paragraphs and a conclusion.
The introduction paragraph should be short, only two to four sentences. In these sentences, you should very clearly and passionately state your opinion on the question (don’t copy the language from the question word for word), and your two supporting reasons.
In the first body paragraph, you will write about your first supporting reason for your opinion. Then you should write 3 or 4 sentences telling a personal experience or anecdote to further explain your supporting reason. The last sentence of your body paragraph should be a conclusion sentence that links your personal experience to your first supporting reason and overall opinion.
The second body paragraph follows the same structure as the first body paragraph about your second supporting reason.
In the conclusion paragraph, write one or two sentences summarizing your opinion on the topic from the question and your two supporting reasons.
By doing this, your Independent Writing Task should be between 350 and 400 words.
And that’s it! That’s your breakdown of how much to write on the TOEFL Writing Section. Good luck!