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TOEFL Independent Writing: Turning your Outline Into an Essay

Previously, we’ve looked at the two steps for prewriting a TOEFL Independent Writing essay: brainstorming your ideas, and putting them into an outline. In this post, we’ll take the outline that I made and turn it into a full essay.

But before we do that, let’s review the prewriting that I’ve done so far. First, I took this TOEFL Independent Writing question:

  • Some people prefer to leave their house and see movies in the theater. Others would rather stay at home and watch movies on their TV screen or on a computer. Which one do you prefer? Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

Then I brainstormed. Which is to say, I quickly thought of some ideas for my answer and wrote those ideas down, making this list:

      watch at home


      theater = too expensive


      more choices @ home


      home = easier w/small children


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      theater = stress


    theater = sometimes good — popular movie releases

After that, I got rid of one of the brainstorm ideas that didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of my notes. My new brainstorm notes looked like this:

      watch at home


      theater = too expensive


      more choices @ home


      home = easier w/small children


    theater = stress

And from there, I created an outline — a list of my main ideas and my supporting details, in the same order they’ll appear in when I write the essay:

Paragraph 1: Introduction, prefer watch movies @ home
P2: more choices at home — all available movies, recent and past (theater — only newest ones)
P3: home watching = best if you have kids — hard to get kids into car, to movies, kids more comfortable @ home
P4: home movies = cheaper, theater many expenses (gas, snacks, movie tickets)
P5: conclusion: choices, family friendliness, budget >> home watching = best

Next, I simplified my outline into a plan for four paragraphs rather than five. (Four paragraphs is a more appropriate length for a TOEFL Integrated Writing response.) Here is the revised outline:

Paragraph 1:  Introduction, prefer watch movies @ home, for choices, convenience, save money
P2: more choices @ home, home = more kid friendly environment, save money @ home
P3: Movie: inconveniences (smaller selection, kids not comfortable), expenses (gas, snacks, movie tickets),
P4: Conclusion: choices, family-friendly, save $ >>> home watching = best

Finally, we can turn the outline into a model response.

TOEFL Independent Writing: model answer (written from an outline)

In my opinion, it is better to watch movies at home, compared to watching them in the theater. I feel this way because watching movies at home gives you more viewing choices. In addition, staying home to watch movies is easier if you have children, and costs less money.

You have more choices of what to watch at home because you can watch movies that are on TV or the Internet. This means you can watch thousands of different films, both old releases and new. It’s also a lot easier to get the kids together for a home movie because they don’t have to leave the house to watch the movie with you. Not only that, but watching movies is simply cheaper. Tons of movies are available for free on the web and on broadcast TV, and you can eat and drink affordable refreshments from your own kitchen while you watch. All of this makes watching movies at home a great choice.

In contrast, if you go to the movies, you face a lot of inconveniences. The selection of movies is tiny. On any given day, your local theater might be showing only 10 different movies, or fewer. In addition, you need to get your kids dressed, get them into the car, drive them to the theater, sit them down, buy them snacks, and so on. Speaking of snacks, going to the theater has many financial costs. Cinema snacks are expensive, and you also need to pay for gas to drive to the theater, and buy tickets for the movie.

Compared to watching movies in the theater, watching movies at home is so much more enjoyable. You get to choose almost any movie you want and enjoy a relaxing time at home with your family, and you save money too. So for me, I prefer watching a movie at home over a trip to the cinema.


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