TOEFL Writing Tips


With 7 AWESOME TIPS for how to succeed on test day!

This guide will provide you with everything you need to know to master the TOEFL Writing Section. We will give an overview of the Writing Section, an explanation of each of the question types, and 7 great tips for you to be successful on the TOEFL exam test day.


The Writing Section is the fourth and final section of the TOEFL exam. Like the other sections (Reading, Listening and Speaking), it is worth 30 points (out of 120), or 25%, of your overall TOEFL score, and is administered through your computer at a testing center. Two to four ETS graders will mark your writing from 0-4, which is then converted to the 30 point scale.

Also like the other sections of the exam, the Writing Section is 50 minutes long. During that time, you will have two tasks: 1. The Integrated Writing, and 2. The Independent Writing. You will have 20 minutes to complete the Integrated Writing Task first, and then 30 minutes to complete the Independent Writing Task.
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There are only two questions on the Writing Section of the TOEFL. These are known as the Integrated Writing Task and the Independent Writing Task.


For the TOEFL Integrated Writing, you will have to read a passage and listen to a speaker before writing your essay. The first part is the reading passage which is approximately 250-300 words. You will have 3 minutes to read this passage. Next, you will listen to a lecture about the topic from passage you just read. This audio clip is typically 2-3 minutes long. Then you will have 20 minutes to write about the topic using information from both the reading and listening passages. The TOEFL suggests an Integrated Writing that is 150-225 words, but we recommend writing 250-300 words.

Your Integrated Writing essay should not be about your opinion of the topic. Rather, is should cover the main points of the author in the reading passage, and the lecturer’s response to the author’s main points. Therefore, it is very important to take notes on the reading passage and, especially, listening passage. While the reading passage will reappear for you to refer to while you are writing, you only get to hear the lecture once.

Your grade on the Integrated Writing is based not only on grammar, spelling and structure, but also on how well you understood the main points and counterpoints of the author and lecturer. Therefore, it is important to know which argument comes from which source, and include some of the supporting reasons for their positions on the topic in your essay. Also, don’t just copy word-for-word the points in the reading, as this does not show your writing skills. It is better to paraphrase and rewrite the author’s main points in your essay.

TIPS on the Integrated Writing:
● Don’t write about your opinion of the topic
● Take good notes, especially on the lecture
● Know which argument comes from which source
● Include supporting reasons in your essay
● Don’t copy from the reading passage

2. Independent Writing Task

For the TOEFL Independent Writing, you will be given a question relating to topic which asks for your opinion. You will have 30 minutes to plan and write about your opinion on the topic, including providing reasons for your opinion. The TOEFL suggests an Independent Writing that is 300-325 words, but we recommend writing 350-400 words.

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Unlike the Integrated Writing, your Independent Writing essay should be all about your opinion of the topic. Often these questions are designed for you to pick a side of a controversial argument, state your preference between two or three conflicting options, or explain why you agree or disagree with a given statement. It is important to only choose one of the options or sides of the argument to write about. Don’t try to write about both sides.

Your grade on the Independent Writing is based not only on spelling and grammar, but also on how strongly you express opinions, provide supporting reasons for those opinions and structure your essay. This means that even if you don’t have a strong opinion on the topic, or if you could go either way on the topic, choose a side and stick to it. In this case, it is better to pretend to be passionate about your position in order to score high. So, make sure your position is clear in the very first sentence or two of your essay, but don’t copy the question word-for-word.

TIPS on the Independent Writing:
● Only write about one option/side of an argument
● If you are not passionate about the topic, pretend to be in your essay
● Provide supporting reasons for your opinions
● Make sure your opinion is clear in the first two sentences
● Don’t copy word-for-word from the question


Follow these 7 great tips to be successful on the TOEFL Writing Section!

1. Take TOEFL Writing Section Practice Tests
When preparing for the TOEFL, it is important to practice, practice, practice for the Writing Section. The Integrated and Independent Writings couldn’t be more different, so it is crucial that you know exactly what is expected of you on test day. The best way to prepare for these tasks is to just jump in write practice essays and use Benchmark Writing Correction.

2. Review Your Practice Test Essays
Not only should you write practice essays, but you should also review your essays afterwards to see where you went wrong. Revising and reflecting on how you did is the best way to improve. Need someone to look at your practice writing? We have a team of TOEFL-trained teachers waiting to grade you sample Integrated and Independent Writing tasks. Not only will they correct your mistakes, but also you get detailed comments and an estimated score. Click here for more information.

3. Simulate the Exam
Remember on the exam you only have 20 minutes to do the Integrated Writing (150-300 words) and 30 minutes to do the Independent Writing (300-400 words). The best way to be prepared on test day is to write your practice essays under the same time restraints. That way, when you are taking the real TOEFL you won’t run out of time!

Also, the room will be crowded and loud on test day. When doing your practice essays, find a coffee shop or other noisy place to better simulate how it will be when you take the real TOEFL. This way, on test day, you will be less distracted by those around you and able to focus on your two writing tasks.

4. Take Good Notes
It is very important, particularly on the Integrated Writing, to take good notes before you start writing. While 20 or 30 minutes doesn’t seem like much time, a large portion of your grade comes from the way you are able to articulate yourself in your essays. Therefore, it is critical that you make sure understand the topic and main points by taking notes first.

5. Outline Your Essay
You should also outline your answers to the tasks, especially the Independent Writing, before you start. Both tasks have a particular structure that you are expected to follow in your essay. By outlining your essay first, you can make sure that you know exactly what you are going to write before you start to write it.

6. Don’t Forget the Question
One great pitfall that students have on the Writing Section is that they go off topic. Don’t forget the question you are asked. The best way to remember is to continue to refer to the question from time to time while you are writing. This will help you stay focused on what exactly you are being asked and keep you from losing your way in your answer.

7. Editing and Proofreading
A simple way to help increase your score is to edit and proofread your essays at the end. Many students want to just be done once they finish, but this would be a mistake. Points that would be taken off for silly spelling or grammatical errors could be saved by spending a little extra time looking back through your essay. We recommend saving the last minute or two of your time for proofreading and editing your work.

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