As you may have heard, the TOEFL test has changed slightly since August 1, 2019. Unlike the other sections of the test, the structure of the Writing Section will not change. However, there is one difference on the Writing Section, and that is with regard to the Independent Task.
The Independent Task is the final task of the Writing Section and the TOEFL test. In the new version of the TOEFL, you will still have 30 minutes to plan and write your essay. Also, your answer will still be on your opinion of the topic, including providing reasons for your opinion. The only change on this task is in the wording of the question.
What has changed?
In short, the Independent Task question will be much longer now. TOEFL has provided more information by adding a few additional sentences before the question. This information is simply to add context; the actual question will still be the same. So, when you are preparing your Independent Task essay, just focus on the question at the end. Don’t be intimidated by the length of text before it. You can just skim this information, or even skip it all together.
Even though the question looks longer, the question types are still the same. There are three Independent Task question types: 1) Agree/Disagree, 2) Pick a Side, or 3) Pros/Cons. Agree/Disagree questions are by far the most common questions in the Independent Writing Task. For this question type, you will usually be given a statement and then will be asked if you agree or disagree with that statement. Pick a Side questions, also called the “preference” questions, ask what you would prefer or choose. Most often the choices, typically two or three, are provided, but sometimes they are not. Finally, the Pros/Cons questions are the rarer questions where you have to explain the advantages and disadvantages of a topic.
How do you answer questions in this section?
Even though the question may look different, how you answer the question has not changed. Your answer still depends on the question type. For the first two question types (‘Agree/Disagree’ and ‘Pick a Side’ questions), you need to strongly express your opinion for one choice or side. You should not try to write about both sides or choices. For the last question type (‘Pros/Cons’ questions), you should cover both sides of the topic put forth in the question equally. Make sure you use your time wisely and write too much about only one side.
No matter the question type, you should always support your opinion with one or two supporting reasons. You should have at least two supporting reasons for the first 2 question types, and at least one supporting reason for the pro and one for the con in the last question type. Each reason should be further supported by giving examples or providing personal experiences.
One more change….
There is one other change to the wording of the Independent Task question. After the context sentences and the question, there is now a warning sentence at the end of the question: “Do not use memorized examples.” Note, this warning does not apply to using templates. It is still okay to use templates in your essay. This is related to using examples. Remember you have to support your reasons for your opinions with personal examples. The test is now just warning you not to use a standardized, distributed example from TOEFL test prep companies. You should use real examples from your past to support your reasons.