Kate Hardin

How to Write a TOEFL Essay Introduction

Even experienced writers often struggle with writing introductions and conclusions. From a thematic standpoint, they seem superfluous: if you’re going to make your point in the body, why do you have to keep repeating yourself? But a good introduction does more than just state the thesis. Here is a list of strategies to keep in mind as you craft your introduction.


Set the tone

In the introduction, you establish your relationship with the reader and with the subject matter. Make it clear from the very beginning what kind of essay this is going to be: will you be light-hearted? or is this a purely academic matter? If you’re planning to make an emotional appeal, start with a vivid description to get the reader emotionally engaged. The introduction is critical in making (or, let’s say, “helping”) the reader see the issue in question your way.


Practice for your TOEFL exam with Magoosh.

Give some idea of the structure of the essay

Generally speaking, you should present examples in your introduction in the same order in which you plan to introduce them in the body. For the TOEFL and similar kinds of essays, this is a simple matter of listing all the examples in the introduction. If you can make them seem interesting or controversial in some way, you give your reader extra motivation to read on.


Start with an example

One great strategy to starting your essay with style is to begin with something the reader can relate to. As mentioned above, this may be a description that allows them to visualize an image. If that’s not the best tactic for your topic, try giving an example that will relate your argument to something the reader already knows and understands. this will also give you something to relate back to at the end, making the whole essay come together into a nice, neat package.


Start with a “duh” statement

When you have limited space to make your point, you’re not shooting for philosophical genius. So if it works, save some space by starting with a statement that makes you say “Duh—everyone knows that.” That’s kind of what I did in this post: I started with a statement that’s pretty obvious. From there, you (I hope) said “Well, yes. Why should I care?” and then you continued reading to answer that question. It’s not the most beautiful beginning in the world, but it does the trick.


Start with a controversy

This follows nicely from a lot of “duh” statements. After you’ve got your first sentence, comment on the multiplicity of positions on the issue. “While many people may agree that…, others find ….a more compelling perspective.” By doing this, you acknowledge the complexity of the issue, and hopefully you’ve enticed your reader to continue to find out the opinion to which you subscribe.

Looking for more help? Check out TOEFL Writing Practice, or sign up for Magoosh TOEFL to get access to our TOEFL writing lesson videos. 🙂


  • Kate Hardin

    Kate has 6 years of experience in teaching foreign language. She graduated from Sewanee in 2012, where she studied and taught German, and recently returned from a year spent teaching English in a northern Russian university. Follow Kate on Google+!

More from Magoosh