The TOEFL Writing Section is the fourth and final section of the exam. It is 50 minutes long and contains two tasks: The Integrated Writing Task and The Independent Writing Task. But, what does this mean? What are these two tasks? They are basically two essays that you have to type on your laptop. In this guide, you will get an overview of these two essays, information about what topics can appear on each essay, and suggestions on how to approach each essay.
INTEGRATED ESSAY OVERVIEW
Of the two tasks, the Integrated Writing comes first. In this task, 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 long. You will have 3 minutes to read this passage. Next, you will listen to a lecture related to the information from the passage you have just read. This audio clip is typically 2-3 minutes long. Then you will have 20 minutes to write about the 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.
Writing Time: 20 minutes
Recommended Length: 250-300 words
TOPICS TO EXPECT ON THE INTEGRATED ESSAY
Your Integrated essay will always be about what you read and listen to in the passages. You should cover the main points of the author in the reading passage, and the lecturer’s response to the author’s main points. You should also include details that support their points. Never write about your own opinion in the Integrated Task!
The topics of the reading and listening passages are typically related to an academic subject, such as science or history. The author will state his or her opinion about a subject, and then provide three main points that support it. The lecturer will state his or her opinion about the same subject with three counterpoints to the author’s points. The lecturer is almost always going to offer views which conflict with the author is some way. For example, the lecturer may cast doubt on, disprove or debunk the author’s points. For examples of Integrated Essay topics, click here.
Before you start writing, it is very important to take good notes. You should write down as much as you can, especially from the audio clip because you will only get to hear it once. The reading passage will reappear for you to refer to while you are writing, but it is also important not to copy the points in the reading word for word, as this does not show your writing skills. It is better to paraphrase and rewrite the author’s main points in your essay.
INDEPENDENT ESSAY OVERVIEW
The last task you will have to do in the TOEFL exam is write your independent essay. You will be given a question relating to a topic which asks for your opinion. You will have 30 minutes to plan and write your opinion on the topic, including providing reasons for your opinion. The TOEFL suggests an Independent Writing that is 300-325 words long, but we recommend writing 350-400 words.
Writing Time: 30 minutes
Recommended Length: 350-400 words
TOPICS TO EXPECT ON THE INDEPENDENT ESSAY
Unlike the Integrated Writing, your Independent Writing essay should be all about your opinion. Often these questions are designed for you to discuss a controversial topic, and can appear in three forms:
1. Agree or Disagree
This question form is by far the most common questions on the TOEFL Independent Tasks. For this question type, you will usually be given a statement and then will be asked if you agree or disagree with that statement. It is important to only choose one side. Don’t try to write about both sides.
For examples of “Agree or Disagree” Independent Essay topics, click here.
2. Pick a Side
Also often called the “preference” question, this prompt is asking what you would prefer or choose. Most often the choices, typically two or three, are provided, but sometimes they are not. It is important to only choose one option and stick with it.
For examples of “Pick a Side” Independent Essay topics, click here.
3. Advantages and Disadvantages
Finally, the rarer question type is where you have to write about both sides of a topic. This most often appears as a question asking you to explain the advantages and disadvantages of an issue. Unlike the other two forms, you should cover both sides for this question type.
For examples of “Advantages and Disadvantages” Independent Essay topics, click here.
HOW TO APPROACH THE INDEPENDENT ESSAY
For the first two question types, you need to strongly you express opinion. This means that even if you don’t have a strong opinion on the topic, or if you could go either way on the choices, choose a side and stick to it. It is better for your score to pretend to be passionate about your position. So, make sure your position is clear in the very first sentence (or two) of your essay. Then, provide at least two supporting reasons for your opinions with detailed personal experiences.
For the last question type, you will need to write about both sides equally. Make sure you use your time wisely and don’t dedicate too much of your essay writing about only one side.
Finally, regardless of the kind of question you are asked, it is always a good idea to spend a few minutes before you start writing outlining you answer.
SAMPLE TOEFL ESSAY TOPICS
The best advice is to practice writing TOEFL essays in advance. There are numerous sample writing topics out there for you to practice before test day. For more samples, click here.