How to Improve TOEFL Writing

This post is part of our TOEFL “How To” Series. You can find the other posts here:


The TOEFL Writing Section covers the two basic types of academic writing: summarizing sourcematerial, and writing from one’s own point of view.

Academic writing can be rigorous and time consuming for any student. This may be why the Writing Section contains the fewest tasks of any section. There is just one integrated task and just one independent task. If you want to approach these two challenging tasks with more skill and greater confidence, this post is for you.

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General Skills

  • To be a good writer, know the process of writing. Learn how to pre-write. Know how to brainstorm, organize your ideas, plan the structure of your essay, and so on. After your prewriting, be prepared to write and proofread your rough draft. To create acceptable final work, you’ll need to be able to find and correct any mistakes in punctuation, spelling, or grammar.
  • You can also improve your writing by making the content of your writing interesting, accurate, and useful. To keep your writing interesting, use a variety of language. Avoid repeating the same words or phrases over and over by knowing your synonyms. Keep your written content accurate; make sure that you read and listen to sources carefully and critically. When you understand a source well, you’ll be able to paraphrase it accurately in your own writing. Make your writing useful by expressing your main ideas clearly. Also, support your main ideas with good details and evidence.


Test-specific skills

  • Be prepared to use sources correctly on the integrated writing task. Be ready to quickly understand and summarize things that you read and hear. Be able to make connections between a similar writings and lectures, noting common information and differences. Be ready to take notes accurately but quickly. Create good summaries and paraphrases of what you read and hear.
  • Master your skills for the independent task by learning to complete short essays in the time allowed by the TOEFL. Learn how to brainstorm, organize and outline your ideas within a few minutes. If your finished TOEFL Independent Writing essay still seems flawed, be able to make some quick final revisions.


Practice Activities:

  • Read, read, read. The best film directors also watch a lot of movies. Great artists look at a lot of art. To be a truly excellent writer, read the writing of others. Read sample TOEFL responses. Read sample essays by high school and university Read first year university textbooks. Read articles from popular educational websites. Read anything you can.
  • There are many ways to personally develop your writing. Keeping a journal, doing web-based writing practice exercises, and privately doing prewriting, drafts, and revisions are all great. There are also many free public websites that allow you to practice writing for an audience.
  • Take notes on things you hear, things you read, and your own thoughts. Summarizing the words of others and writing down your own ideas on a topic will prepare you to take notes efficiently and effectively on the TOEFL Writing Section itself.


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  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he's helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master's Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he's presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!