TOEFL Tuesday: Writing Practice Exercise

First, we’re going to be using a list of practice questions in another blog post this week, so check out that blog post. Look through it for a minute or so to understand what I’m talking about, then come back to read or watch the video. 🙂

You can find the list here.



In that blog post, there are 15 questions, and each one could be the topic of a 30 minute essay—that’s how long you’ll spend writing your independent essay on the actual TOEFL. So if you used all of those practice questions to write a full, TOEFL-like essay, you’d spend seven and a half hours! That’s a lot of practice for just the independent essay. It’s better not to use all the questions in the same way. Instead, split them into three groups.

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1. Diagnose with an essay (or three)

The first time you practice with this list, do a diagnostic exercise. Write just one essay to learn about your weaknesses. If you’re unsure after that first essay, write another, and maybe even a third.

By that time, you should have a good idea of how you could improve your essay-writing process. Is it the timing? Do you need to improve your use of transition words? Did writing the introduction cause trouble? What about the conclusion?


2. Do focused practice

For example, if you had trouble brainstorming your diagnostic essays, you would then brainstorm for the next ten questions all in one sitting. You could do this in just ten minutes! Set a timer for yourself for each question that you will use for focused practice. If you want to write introductions for all ten essays, that might take five minutes per essay, or around an hour.

After doing this focused practice, you can also return to specific questions from these ten and write the full essay for extra practice. But if not, move on to step three:


3. Put it back together

After you’ve done that focused practice, you should definitely return to writing full essays. You want to incorporate the skill you practiced into the complete TOEFL writing experience. Give yourself 30 minutes per essay, and use the remaining questions to write full responses.

Even when practicing in this way, you could easily spend four or more hours. That a lot of time to spend on only the independent writing task, so don’t do it all at one time! I recommend doing one step per day. Diagnose one day, do focused practice the next, and then put it back together with full essays on the third.

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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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2 Responses to TOEFL Tuesday: Writing Practice Exercise

  1. Nikita August 5, 2016 at 7:46 am #

    It’s a great post. Thank you very much. I was thinking of doing focused practice for the 100+ topics in the official guide(as practicing writing all of them wouldn’t be possible) along with writing 1 full essay every other day. Is this strategy fine to practice the essay writing as a whole and to work on weaker sections(brainstorming and introduction)?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 6, 2016 at 10:59 am #

      It definitely sounds like you have an excellent plan and are on the right track!

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