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TOEFL Writing Section Breakdown

The TOEFL writing section includes an integrated task and an independent task, which work together to test your ability to communicate through writing in an academic environment. This is the last section of the test, and it will take about an hour to complete.

The integrated writing task will require you to read a passage, listen to a lecture, and then write an essay that uses information from both of these sources. The independent task will be on a topic similar to the topics in speaking task #2—that is, it will ask you to use personal experience to explain an opinion that you have.

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The writing section is scored by two trained graders. Each will give your essays a score on a scale of 1-5. If they give you very different scores, a third grader will review the essay to decide your final score. A high-scoring essay will be well-organized, will give clear arguments and examples to support those arguments, and will include all of the important information from the given sources (on the integrated task, of course). To get a high score, you need to have a clear main point, and everything in your essay should contribute in some way to that point. As in the speaking section, a few minor language errors are not a major problem—this section is about communicating fully, so if your errors don’t interfere with communication and are not very many, then you probably don’t have much to worry about.


The scope of your essays

Many people try to include too much in their essays. Although it’s tempting to explore gray areas and expand on the (admittedly, pretty boring) prompt, most essays are only 200 – 400 words, and there’s just not time for that kind of development. Later, I’ll write in more detail about how you can structure your essays, but for now, it’s just important to know that the best use of your time and space is to choose one position and to focus on it the whole time. For more on how to make sure you stay on topic, check out our Magoosh TOEFL writing lesson videos!


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10 Responses to TOEFL Writing Section Breakdown

  1. Jaz January 28, 2015 at 10:54 pm #

    could you please share the link where i can post essays?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas January 29, 2015 at 7:03 pm #

      I’m sorry, but we’re not accepting essays for evaluation any longer. I hope you can find some help, though, and happy studying!

      • saaketh July 25, 2015 at 11:08 pm #

        Can I use phrases like
        “This weakens the speaker’s claim”
        “In fact, many”
        “As a matter of fact”

        Or should I completely keep anything that sounds like I’m agreeing out of it and just neutrally state what the speakers thinks about the passage?

        • Lucas Fink
          Lucas Fink July 28, 2015 at 4:23 pm #

          Those phrases are completely fine, as long as the focus of your essay and individual sentences are on summarizing, not giving your opinion.

  2. EnglishEnglishman February 17, 2015 at 11:32 pm #

    I have questions regarding the scoring: if I get 4 from one essay and 4 from the other essay, how much is it going to be in 30-points scale?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas February 19, 2015 at 11:19 am #

      Good question. You can find the answer near the end of ETS’s free TOEFL Test Prep Planner. Two 4s would result in a 25, according to that document, but it’s only an estimate. The actual number might vary from test to test (that depends on ETS’s score-scaling algorithm). So to be safe, I would say that two scores of 4 out of 5 would be 24-26 in the scaled score.

  3. Ajay May 26, 2015 at 8:26 pm #

    Can I edit the text after in writing section

    • David Recine
      David Recine June 2, 2015 at 6:49 pm #

      Hello Ajay,

      If you still have time left after writing your essay and you haven’t submitted it yet, you can go back, proofread, and make corrections. Once your time is up or you’ve submitted your essay, however, you can’t go back and make changes.


  4. Elmira September 7, 2016 at 3:22 am #

    Hello Lucas,

    I have always wondered if both integrated and independent writing tasks are of the same value in determining the final score, or task 2 has the major influence.
    I mean is the final score the 50-50 average of the two tasks?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 13, 2016 at 11:46 am #

      Both tasks are equally weighted, yes.

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