TOEFL Tuesday: Vocabulary for the Independent Essay

We’re returning to our TOEFL vocabulary this Tuesday, and we’re going to focus on a new type of word: vocabulary you can use in your essays. Of course, many of the other words we covered in past TOEFL Tuesday videos also could be used in essays, but the three I discuss below are all particularly helpful for the independent essay.

Before I get started with definitions and examples, though, all the example sentences in this week’s post are on the same topic. Here is the sample topic for the TOEFL independent essay that we’re going to use for our examples.

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? See specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

We should stop spending money on space exploration, in order to use the funds on other purposes.


This word is actually more common in its other meaning, a use you won’t see on the TOEFL. A “conviction” is a decision by a judge that somebody committed a crime. For example, if I stole money from a bank, and the police caught me, after going court a judge might convict me of the crime. And after that conviction I might go to jail.

In reality, I don’t have any convictions (I hope you’re not surprised by that!). At least, I don’t have any convictions of the legal type. The other type of conviction, more helpful for the TOEFL, is really just a belief. It is a very strong, belief, though. It is something you absolutely, definitely think to be true. Writing “It is my conviction that we should not spend more money on space travel” is a bit strange, because most people don’t have such strong opinions on that topic. Avoid that mistake.

But for opinions that are almost never going to change and that you have already thought a lot about, you can say “It is my conviction that…” or the more idiomatic “I’m of the conviction that…”


I’m of the conviction that government money should be spent carefully on only essentials.


This word is great because it carries a lot of meaning. When you say that something is “ostensibly” true, it means that other people say it’s true, but you don’t really believe it or are unsure. So this gives you the opportunity to introduce an idea that you disagree with, then state how and why you disagree. It also helps if you want to introduce a theory or idea that doesn’t match the facts.

After you use it, use the word “but” to return to your opinion—the information you say is actually true.


The money spent on space exploration will ostensibly pay us back with priceless discoveries, but there are few recent examples of that happening.



While “ostensibly” helps you to provide opinions or information that is opposite your belief but is false, “granted” helps you provide facts that contradict your beliefs but are true. Very generally, here is the structure.

A is true. Granted, some information suggests B is true, but A is more important because…

Notice that at the end, I again used that word “but” and returned to my argument for A. “Granted” is not a way to argue for the opposite side. It is simply a way to recognize that side, but you still have to contradict it.

In my example below, I recognize that we can save money in other parts of government spending—not just space exploration. But I also point out why that’s not important, and why space exploration should still be stopped.


Granted, we spend more on military efforts and education than we do on space exploration, but those expenses have clearer purposes than does space exploration, which has few clear benefits.

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  • Lucas Fink

    Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.

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