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TOEFL Writing Task Examples

Although there is a wealth of TOEFL writing material on the Internet, a lot of it is of dubious quality. The best resource for independent essay questions is the Official Guide, which includes fifteen pages of sample topics from past exams. For those of you who don’t have the Official Guide there are a few more topics below that will get you started on practicing essays.

It’s very difficult to find good integrated writing tasks since the necessary reading and listening is unique to the TOEFL. Your best option is to use all the official resources available to you (see below), then to either buy a good TOEFL resource or invent your own topics.


Independent essay topics

  • Do you agree or disagree with the following statement?
    Modern life is easier than life in the past.
    Use specific details and examples to support your answer.


  • Which would you choose: a high-paying job that you didn’t enjoy, or a lower-paying job that you did enjoy? Explain your reasoning, using specific reasons and examples.


  • Some students prefer to study many different subjects at once, while others prefer to focus on one topic at a time. Would you rather take a semester of classes in different subjects, or a semester of classes in the same subject? Explain your choice, using specific reasons and examples.


  • Would you rather live in a large city or in the countryside? Explain your choice, giving specific reasons and examples.


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Integrated essay topics

In addition to the Official Guide, ETS offers QuickPrep, an free online study resource with a few very shortened practice tests. Four tests are available in all, although they don’t all contain an integrated writing assignment. You can find Quickprep here.

Once you’ve used those resources, you should have be able to incorporate the reading passage into your essay. All the other skills you’ll need—including structuring your essay, note-taking, grammar, and advanced vocabulary—can be practiced without a reading sample. Online lecture series, including KhanAcademy, iTunesU, and TED, all have endless supplies of great lectures that you can write about. You’ll want to practice writing on a wide variety of topics, as the subjects addressed in integrated tasks vary widely.

However, you may find that you can create your own integrated topics based on information in your field. Find a lecture on a topic that you know something about. When you find one, start searching for an online article that deals with the same topic, and write an essay that compares and contrasts the two resources. This isn’t a perfect study method, but it’s good for mastering the language of combining multiple sources and comparing.

If you’ve used all the integrated tasks you have and can afford to buy, then go ahead and write an integrated essay or two in your field to cement these skills, then spend the rest of your time writing essays based on single sources—just listening.


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12 Responses to TOEFL Writing Task Examples

  1. Brijesh November 5, 2014 at 4:22 am #

    Do we get a transcript of the lecture in order to consult while writing the essay, I am using Cambridge prep and i see an option that shows audio script. Do we get the same in actual exam too

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas November 7, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

      Unfortunately, no—you can only hear the lecture. No audio on the TOEFL has transcripts except for instructions. The Cambridge transcripts are there for students who need extra help when building listening skills, but they shouldn’t be used for a test-like experience.

  2. Vish October 16, 2015 at 6:27 am #

    Is it imperative to pick a side or can we take a more balanced approach while writing about “agree or disagree” essays?

    • David Recine
      David Recine October 16, 2015 at 4:40 pm #

      It’s possible to take a balanced approach on TOEFL Independent Writing Topics, but that may not be the *best* approach. Your time in TOEFL Writing is limited, and just picking one side to defend is faster and easier. Additionally, you won’t get any extra points for taking a balanced approach— TOEFL scorers don’t expect or ask for a balanced approach from test takers. So the balanced approach won’t help your score, and it could hurt your score if it slows you down or makes it harder to organize your essay.

      That being said, sometimes a balanced approach is the easiest approach to take, especially if your honest opinion is a balanced one that doesn’t completely side with one argument or the other. While defending just one side is simpler, sometimes expressing your real opinion can feel more natural and thus be easier. So I’d say take the balanced approach if it really does make the writing task easier. Otherwise, pick a side.

  3. RahulMk June 24, 2016 at 1:49 am #


    Can we leave an entire line blank between two paragraphs in the writing task?

    Starting the next paragraph sometimes makes it look like the content is continuous. Can I then, press ‘Enter’ twice to make it look a bit neater?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 24, 2016 at 11:15 am #

      Hi Rahul,

      You can definitely put two lines. I personally do this on any standardized test or basic text box because it is not clear whether other formatting (like using tab to indent or putting extra spaces) is maintained by the program. I hope that helps. 🙂

  4. Akash August 4, 2016 at 2:46 am #


    Can we give idioms or dictum or quotes from famous personalities while writing independent questions( in writing ques no.2) as well as can we do the same in speaking personal preferences questions also?

    -Basically for opening lines or in conclusions.


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 6, 2016 at 11:20 am #

      You can use idioms, quotes, and personal experiences in Independent Writing, in a way that is similar to Independent Speaking. ”

      Be careful though! Some idioms are very informal— so informal that they work in speech, but aren’t acceptable in academic writing. Make sure you use more formal, writing-appropriate idioms. And take care not to let quotations dominate your writing. You want the essay to be primarily your own words and not the words of others. And of course, make sure your personal experiences are relevant to the essay and fit into the essay well.

  5. Sara October 14, 2016 at 3:25 am #

    In the first task of writing is it okay to use the same words or sentences used by the professor in our writing? Or do i have to paraphrase and use synonyms or rewrite them in my own words?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 15, 2016 at 11:20 am #

      Hi Sara,

      Good question! 🙂 It is a common strategy to use some of the words from a prompt or source to build your response, especially academically, so this would be very good! Paraphrasing in most cases is best, but if you want to invoke some of the same words, this would be fine.

  6. Faiz December 15, 2016 at 9:19 am #

    For the integrated writing task, are we allowed to look at the reading passage while writing the essay, or will we only be able to see it once and have to take notes in the limited time while reading it?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 16, 2016 at 7:57 am #

      You’ll be able to view the passage while you write. Quite helpful, eh? 🙂

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