TOEFL Independent Writing Practice: Correcting Disorganized Answers

In my last two posts about the Independent Writing task (Organizing Your Ideas & Fixing a Disorganized Essay in 4 Easy Steps), I described four steps for revising a disorganized essay: make an outline of what you wrote, make notes on problems in the outline, write a new and improved outline, and rewrite your essay based on the new outline. Then, I demonstrated the four-step process by using it on one of my own pieces of writing.

Now it’s your turn to practice this skill. Practice activities below!

Activity 1: Look at the following sample TOEFL sample answer to a real TOEFL Independent Writing question from ETS. This writing question asks about the advantages and disadvantages of living with parents in early adulthood. To see the full text of the question, go to the writing section of Test 1 in the Official Guide to the TOEFL. But you can also do this activity based just on the brief description of the question I gave above.

One you’ve looked at the sample answer, then:

A) Make an outline of the ideas in the answer.

B) Add your own thoughts to the outline. Ask yourself questions such as: Which ideas should be removed from the essay? Which ideas need more supporting details? Should the order of the ideas be changed? Etc…

C) Make a new outline that is better organized.

D) Re-write the essay, following the new outline you made.

TOEFL Independent Writing Question: As mentioned, look at test 1 of the TOEFL OG to see the full text of this question. In a brief, this question asks if it’s better for children to continue living with their parents after high school, or of it’s better for kids to move out as soon as they reach adulthood.


Many parents want their children to leave the house quickly, but some want them to stay. In the same way, some young adults want to be independent right away. Others want to keep living with their families after high school. Sometimes they drop out of high school early. It’s better for young adults to finish high school and go on to college.

I think there is a good argument for being independent from parents quickly. It’s part of American culture, the culture of the same country that makes the TOEFL. And parents can have some peace and quiet. On the other hand, if young adults keep living with their parents after high school, but have a job, they can save money. Young adults will feel more free and be able to do more of what they want at home if they quickly become independent at age 17 or 18 or so.

I think it’s best to keep living with your family for a while, even as a young adult. I know that young adults can have more fun in their own apartments. The parties can be great. But if they stay home for longer, they can work and save money. These savings can help them move away eventually, maybe go to college or start their own family.

Activity 2: Answer the following two TOEFL Independent Writing questions. Give yourself only 30 minutes to answer each question (the same time limit as the test). After you’ve finished writing both answers, change them with the same 4-step process you used in Activity 1. Outline what you wrote for both essays. How can you improve those outlines? Once you make newer, better outlines, use them to rewrite both answers.

            Independent Writing Question 1:

Opinion: It is better have an low-stress job than a job with lots of responsibility. Do you hold this opinion, or disagree with it? In your essay, include supporting details.

            Independent Writing Question 2:

Your family and friends are encouraging you to buy a new car. What are some benefits and downsides of purchasing a brand new vehicle? Explain your thoughts using examples.


Activity 3: Look at Magoosh’s sample list list of TOEFL Independent Writing Questions. Choose 3 questions and write answers to them. Again, restrict yourself to the 30-minute time limit. Once you’ve written the answers the first time, revise them using the four-step process from Activity 1.

Activity 4: Now choose three more questions from the list. Once more, give yourself 30 minutes to answer each question. However, this time, double check each paragraph after you write it. What ideas might not fit into the paragraph? Which mistakes can you spot and correct while you write? After writing your last paragraph, look at the whole essay. What additional changes should you make to the organization of your writing? If you still have time left in your 30 minute limit, make those changes too!

These activities should help you become very familiar with your own writing style, so that you can catch your own organizational mistakes quickly, revising as you write. This is a very valuable skill for TOEFL independent writing.

And in general, analyzing TOEFL sample essays is a good way to build your own skills. For more TOEFL sample essays, including model ones that you should emulate and flawed ones like this one, check out Magoosh’s complete guide to TOEFL Writing samples. Then, once you’ve studied those model essays carefully, practice some new essays of your own, using Magoosh’s free collection of TOEFL Writing prompts.


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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!

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