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The Topics You’ll Write About on the TOEFL

Announcement! As of August 1, 2019, the TOEFL Reading, Listening and Speaking sections will be shortened. The TOEFL will also make changes to its prep materials and scoring system. Because of this, some of the info in our blog posts may not yet reflect the new exam format. We cover all the changes here.

The writing section will include one opinion question and one integrated question on an academic lecture and a reading passage. Both of the topics will be designed to be appropriate for a variety of people. The independent task will require no cultural knowledge and will only assume experience that almost everyone has, with a tendency to choose topics appropriate to students. It will ask you to indicate a preference or choose which of two options you support.

The Official Guide includes a fifteen-page list of topics from old TOEFL tests, so if you can get your hands on a copy of that book, that’s the best way to ensure that you’re familiar with the topics you may write about in the independent section. In case you can’t, here are a few examples:

– Some would say it is more important to have an enjoyable job than to have a job with a high salary. Do you feel this is true or not true? Explain your thoughts using examples.

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– Your family and friends are encouraging you to buy a new car. What are some benefits and downsides of purchasing a brand new vehicle? Explain your thoughts using examples.

– What is your favorite place to visit near your home? Explain your thoughts using examples.

– Many workers change jobs a few times in their career. However, a number of workers instead do the same type of work throughout their career. Of these two career paths, which is a better option? In your essay, include supporting details.

The integrated task may be on a wide variety of topics, including business, fine arts, history, anthropology, and so on—as in the reading section, almost everything that could be taught in an entry-level course is fair game, although you won’t encounter the hard sciences, math, and so on, since these would be unnecessarily difficult to write about. Reading about a variety of topics in your free time will help prepare you to write about whatever topic the integrated task may throw at you.


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2 Responses to The Topics You’ll Write About on the TOEFL

  1. Flash November 25, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

    Hello Magoosh,

    First of all I like to thank you for all the valuable information you put in this wonderful blog, and secondly I like to tell you about a practice experience I had. On the Barron´s practice essays, on the independent task my topic was ¨Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. are one of the most important world leaders. Describe and important world leader and why he is important.¨ and I just blocked. I have no knowledge of world leaders because I don´t think the subject is student oriented.
    Anyways my test will be on November 29th and I really hope I get a good score. Wish me luck guys. Thank you again for the wonderful blog and hope you expand even further. 🙂

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas December 2, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

      I hope your test went well! You’re right about that Barron’s question—that doesn’t sound very much like a real TOEFL question. Nonetheless, it’s still possible to get a question on a topic that you don’t have much knowledge on or interest in. Here’s an example: should we continue sending astronauts to the moon, or spend the time and money working on other scientific developments? And if you have a question like that, you just have to use what you do know. The TOEFL is a test of language skills, not of knowledge, so it’s okay if you don’t have much information to use. Your own ideas are fine.

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