Kate Hardin

TOEFL Listening and Writing Practice

In this post, we’ll combine listening and writing practice by playing around with a podcast about essay composition. The following activity will help you hone the organizational skills you will need to get into the higher score range on your TOEFL essays. Be sure to check out the Best TOEFL Listening Practice for more listening practice.

Brainstorm for 3 minutes on the topic “Is the Internet good or bad for students?” Decide what your opinion is, and think of at least 4-5 reasons that you think that. Write them down and save them for later. Then listen to “TOEFL Podcast #16: Writing an Essay I” from www.eslpod.com. As you listen, take notes.

When the podcast is over, use your notes to fill in the supporting details from the podcast for the following three headings:

1. Reading to Improve Writing
2.  Writing an Essay
3. Next Week’s Topic.

Also, use your notes to reconstruct the introduction. Be sure to include sub-headings or another kind of hierarchy, as some details are more or less important than others (if you don’t know what I mean, scroll down to the bottom of this post and take a look at how my outline puts more important ideas further to the left, and less important ideas further to the right).

You have now learned some basic strategies for writing the introduction and body of an essay. These strategies can work for any short, non-fiction text, whether it is written or spoken. Take a look at your outline. What conclusions can you draw about the organization of this “essay”? What is effective about this organization? What do you think could be improved?

At this point, you have a complete outline of the podcast, advice from a professional about writing essays, and some ideas of your own about how an essay should be constructed. Finally, you can compare your outline to mine, posted below. They may be slightly different, and this isn’t good or bad; it just means that we understood or organized the information slightly differently. If you have any questions or concerns about the outline, leave me a comment!

What strengths and weaknesses did you notice in the organization and presentation of information in this podcast?

After you’ve compared your outline to mine and made a note of any discrepancies, set aside your outline and brainstorming sheet—you’ll need it again in TOEFL Writing Practice Part II.

Practice for your TOEFL exam with Magoosh.


1. Improving your writing

A. Read a lot

I. Research shows that people who read a lot are better writers.

II. Read lots of essays.

III. Search online for sample TOEFL essays.

B. Your essay needs to follow certain norms.

I. The point is clarity, not creativity.

II. Essays should have clear organization and follow a certain format.

2. Writing an Essay

 A. There are three main parts: introduction, body, and conclusion

I. Introduction: Let the reader know what your essay is about.

a. Restate the question.

b. Introduce a problem and tell the reader your opinion. You can (but don’t have to) include the number of main ideas at this point.

c. Don’t have more than 2 or 3 main ideas.

d. The introduction should be between 3 and 5 sentences.

II. Body: Devote one paragraph to each main idea.

a. Start the body with a very direct, simple sentence. State the main idea in the first sentence.
b. Organization is more important than good grammar and vocabulary.

3. Next week, we will talk about conclusions and more writing tips.



  • 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