TOEFL Writing Topics: Examples of TOEFL Independent Writing Topics

Open book lying in grass and flowers representing TOEFL independent writing topics - image by Magoosh

While the TOEFL is generally a very different type of test from the GRE, the GMAT, and the SAT, there are a few similarities, and the nature of the TOEFL Writing topics (specifically TOEFL Independent Writing topics) is one of them. As with most standardized tests, the TOEFL asks you to write an essay.

Well, it asks for two essays. For a quick summary of the two Writing tasks (Independent Writing and Integrated Writing) and how they fit into the Writing section as a whole, see Kate’s breakdown of the TOEFL Writing section. And for TOEFL Integrated Writing topics, jump down to this part of the post.


Table of Contents


TOEFL Writing Topics: Task 2 Subject Matter

Let’s look at the TOEFL Writing topics that you might see for that second TOEFL essay, the “independent task.” (Also note that the TOEFL Independent Writing task is particularly similar to the GRE issue AWA task, something to bear in mind if you are prepping for the TOEFL and GRE at the same time.)

On the one hand, there are a LOT of different TOEFL Writing topics. You might be asked to write an essay about any of the following:
technology, education, media, family, small towns vs. big cities, the benefits of constructing something such as a large factory or new movie theater, the qualities of a good neighbor, life for university students, the way people should work, social media, the impact of human activity on the environment, education (the education of young children, high school students, young adults, etc.), different kinds of people you’d want to work with, important characteristics of a co-worker, cell phones, the traits of the best teachers, the attitudes of young people, traveling to new places, use of free time, etc., etc…

You get the idea. There are many different topics for the test-taker to think about and give a personal opinion on.

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The Basic Structure of an Integrated Writing Prompt

But on the other hand, there are only a few different types of Independent Writing tasks. And even with those different types, the tasks are very similar: give your main points, use reasons to support them, include specific points and specific examples in your reasoning, etc…. Since these tasks involve expressing your point of view, sharing your personal experiences is also a common practice across the different types of the Independent TOEFL Writing task. Essentially, you express your opinion in a thesis statement, add related main ideas to each paragraph, and support your thesis and main ideas in a variety of ways.

ETS does provide a list of TOEFL independent essay questions in the 4th edition of the TOEFL Official Guide, and it’s a good idea to look over those sample questions. But there’s an excess of information there—we want to know some more useful generalities! So let’s divide those subjects into types. (Click here to jump ahead to the first of those three types!)

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A Note on Practicing TOEFL Writing Topics

If you practice writing the essay before test day (a good idea!), then you can use an essay prompt from the ETS list mentioned above. This is a great option.

For more customized practice, sign up for Magoosh’s 7-day free trial, select “Practice –> Custom Practice –> Writing Section”, and then try one of our premium TOEFL Writing prompts. You can also choose to only practice the independent task if that’s what you want to focus on. The trial lasts 7 days and you don’t need a credit card to sign up.

Here’s what that looks like:screen shot of custom practice software for Magoosh TOEFL writing topics

Let’s talk about the TOEFL “independent task” Writing topic types I mentioned above!

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TOEFL Writing Topic Type 1: Choose a Side

This is by far the most common Independent Writing question type. These TOEFL prompts ask you to choose A or B then explain your decision. There is no “wrong” decision here. You can side with the first or second point, as long as your argument is well-supported and you give an effective response. There are a couple of different approaches to writing this type of essay, but the simplest form is the “five-paragraph essay.” Usually, this is only four paragraphs, because you don’t have that much time—the test only gives you 30 minutes to complete your Independent essay.

So if you choose A, you might write an essay that looks like this:

  • Introductory paragraph
    • A is better
  • Body 1
    • Reason 1 and examples of why A is better
    • Short contrast with B
  • Body 2
    • Reason 2 and examples of why A is better
    • Short contrast with B
  • Concluding paragraph
    • Why this is significant in the real world

Of course, there are other ways to write an essay, but it’s a good idea to use a relatively simple structure for clarity; this tends to be the best, easiest path to a high score. This is more true for the TOEFL than it is for essays on other tests, like the GRE, because the TOEFL is really a test of communication and how well you can write in the English language.

Here are some examples of the “choose a side” Writing topics:

“Some would say it is more important to have an enjoyable job than to have a job with a high salary. Do you feel this is true or not true? Explain your thoughts using examples.”

“Opinion: It is better to have a 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.”

“Apartment buildings are the preferred living space for many people. But many individuals prefer living in a house. Which do you prefer? Explain your thoughts using examples.”

“It could be argued that technology makes our lives easier and simpler. But there are certainly people who feel life has become more complicated due to modern inventions. Which opinion do you agree with? In your essay, include supporting details.”

“This week, your government announced plans to invest significant amounts of money in the exploration of outer space. Write an essay explaining why you are either for this new plan or against it. Explain your thoughts using examples.”

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement?
Modern life is easier than life in the past.
Use specific details and examples to support your answer.

Would you rather live in a large city or the countryside? Explain your choice, giving specific reasons and examples.

You might also get a slightly more complicated version of the “choose a side” prompt that asks you to compare sides, like these:

“Many workers change jobs a few times in their career. However, a number of workers instead do the same type of work throughout their career. Of these two career paths, which is a better option? In your essay, include supporting details.”

Which of these two is preferable for you: a high-paying job that you didn’t enjoy, or a lower-paying job that you did enjoy? Explain your reasoning, using specific reasons and examples.

Some students prefer to study many different subjects at once, while others prefer to focus on one topic at a time. Would you rather take a semester of classes in different subjects or a semester of classes in the same subject? Explain your choice, using specific reasons and examples.

In that case, you could still use the structure I showed above, but you would emphasize the contrasts with “B” and write a bit more about them.

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Writing Topic Type 2: View Both Sides

This is very similar to the “choose a side” type of essay subject, but it’s a little bit more complicated because you have to think from two different standpoints. Thankfully, it’s also not as common.

Here are a couple of examples:

“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.”

“What are some good things and bad things about remaining in your hometown as an adult? In your essay, include supporting details.”

There are a couple of different ways you might structure an essay like, but the simplest one may be the best.

  • Intro
    • General statements about issue
  • Body 1
    • Advantages and examples
  • Body 2
    • Disadvantages and examples
  • Conclusion
    • Why this is significant in the real world

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Writing Topic Type 3: Describe or Explain

In a way, this is the most difficult type of Independent essay question because it doesn’t give you an A or B situation. Instead, you have to think of your own subject from a very big pool of possibilities.

If you could choose any place to live in the world, where would you live? Explain your thoughts using examples.”

“How was your grandparents’ life different than yours? In your essay, include supporting details.”

What is your favorite movie and why? In your essay, include supporting details.”

“What is your favorite place to visit near your home? Explain your thoughts using examples.”

Because these Writing topics don’t give you a yes-no or A-B choice, it’s easy to get stuck in the planning phase. (By the way, planning is incredibly important for writing any standardized test essay; don’t skip it!)

The structure doesn’t have to be very different, though. Here’s a rough idea of how you might organize a descriptive essay:

  • Intro
    • Your choice/subject
  • Body 1
    • Reason 1 and examples
  • Body 2
    • Reason 2 and examples
  • Body 3
    • Reason 3 and examples
  • Conclusion
    • Why this is significant in the real world

Notice I added one more body paragraph. Because there’s no “other side” to deal with, you have more time to explain the one topic you chose. So why not use that time for another paragraph!

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This Is Only Half of TOEFL Writing (the Other Half is the Integrated Task)

Remember that the Independent essay is only half of the TOEFL Writing section. There’s also the integrated task. Although the TOEFL Integrated Writing Task is not the main focus of this post, let’s go through some basics of the first half of the TOEFL Writing section.

First off, know that TOEFL Writing Task 1 has a reading passage and a listening passage. The listening passage features part of a lecture. The speaker in the lecture will disagree with or challenge the claims in the reading. As you navigate the reading and listening for this first task, you don’t need to pay much attention to the written portion. The focus of your essay will be summarizing what the speaker said, so the reading is merely background information.

The context of the reading and speaking in TOEFL Integrated Writing tends to be based on the United States. So, for example, if you see a passage related to business or economics, any amount of money described would probably be in American dollars, and examples would involve American consumers or American companies. Still, other non-American contexts may come up. You could encounter a topic about an important influence on a European art movement, or deal with a science topic; science topics in this task are typically international or culturally neutral.

Want more help with TOEFL Integrated Writing? Magoosh has you covered! See our complete guide to the TOEFL Integrated Writing task, which includes a free TOEFL Integrated Writing practice task from Magoosh. And you can find a second free Magoosh TOEFL Integrated Writing practice task in our complete guide to TOEFL Writing samples.

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Ready For Some Practice?

If you’re ready to try out writing the Independent task for yourself, try a customized practice session in Magoosh TOEFL’s free trial or take a look at our full-length TOEFL Writing mock test, which will also introduce you to the integrated task:

Sample essays are another great resource for practice. You can review sample TOEFL essays for both Independent Writing and Integrated Writing in the aforementioned Magoosh’s complete guide to TOEFL Writing samples and in our TOEFL Writing Templates. And partial or complete sample essays can also be found in the following posts:

Task 2 Sample Essays

Task 1 Sample Essays

Last but certainly not least, I’ve written a quick summary of the best ways to practice TOEFL Writing. You can use that as a guide to tie all of your TOEFL Writing topic practice together!

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62 Responses to TOEFL Writing Topics: Examples of TOEFL Independent Writing Topics

  1. Nawal April 11, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

    Do you have a template for writing task 2 in TOEFL?


  2. saloni April 25, 2014 at 7:50 am #

    can u just tell me can i complete my prepration for toefel exam in one month by daily practicing 5 to 6 essays as per your suggestion?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas April 25, 2014 at 11:26 am #

      Hi there. I wouldn’t recommend writing 5 or 6 essays daily, no—I’m not sure where that idea came from, but that’s too many essays and not enough review! You need to spend time looking at good essays, good structures, and useful phrases, and revise your own essays to be better. Writing many essays helps, but you have to analyze them. And preparing for the TOEFL is more than just writing essays. There’s also reading, listening, and speaking. 🙂

  3. deepali May 1, 2014 at 9:43 am #

    Does the essay in toefl exam come from the list given by ETS (containing 185 topics). Is it a good idea to prepare for the topics given beforehand????

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas May 2, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

      Hi Deepali,

      While it’s possible that the essay topic will come from that list, you may also get a topic from outside the list. It’s a good idea to read through it, but you definitely should not prepare for every topic on that list. That would take too long even if it was a complete list of possible topics—it would be over 90 hours of essay writing, just for one of the two essays! It’s more important to learn the general themes and write your practice essays using that list.

  4. Prashant June 27, 2014 at 7:00 am #

    Thanks for this useful info. This will surely help me to organize my essay properly.

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas June 27, 2014 at 8:33 am #

      You’re welcome!

  5. vandy June 30, 2014 at 8:51 am #

    I have question regarding TOEFL ESSAY writing . I have given TOEFL test several tome to meet criteria for Pharmacy. Only problem is with my writing , i need 24 score, while i always get 22. I tried so hard and still trying. Please suggest me how i can improve my sscore.

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas June 30, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

      That’s tough, Vandy! You’re so close! Well, there’s no single way to improve your writing score: there are a few different things that might help you, personally. Without knowing you much better than I can through blog comments, it would be hard for me to say. But you can definitely identify your own weak areas and what you need to work on! Here are a couple of posts that explain generally how you can practice for the test.

      I really recommend reading a lot, too. The more you read, the better you can imitate native speakers in your writing. And pay careful attention to grammar when you read! The writing part of the TOEFL is time to let your grammar skills show. 🙂

  6. renu July 23, 2014 at 9:52 am #

    Can u plz help me, how i can score in my reading section??? actually its too difficult for me and i dont know how to improve this. if you have any tips regarding READING SECTION plz help me out.

  7. Rakshya August 31, 2014 at 12:24 am #

    My toefl exam is after 2 weeks and i have not yet started to prepare for it.Would you please help me?How can i get a better score in such a less time?I need a great score. 🙁 And,now i am really in dilemma.Please,help me out!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas September 2, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

      Hi Rakshya,

      Don’t panic! But it’s time to get to work. 🙂 First, buy a copy of the official guide. You will want that practice material. 🙂 Take a full test so you can find out your weaknesses. Then, spend the next two weeks trying to improve those weak areas (for example, speaking more fluently) by reading the relevant blog posts here at Magoosh. Keep practicing and keep reading more about how to best answer questions, and you’ll do your best on test day.

  8. deden n September 28, 2014 at 4:07 am #

    I never took the TOEFL experience before.. Well, I eager to learn english many more, so give me advice to take study hard day by day, actually my english is not bad, but sometimes i always feeling not confident to say with someone, can you show me some friends to share with me, and tell me how to speak better than now?

  9. Alessia October 25, 2014 at 2:34 am #

    Hi there. So I have a question regarding the whole choosing sides thing. Do I have to choose between options A or B or could I agree with both sides? My exam is tomorrow so it would be awesome if I could get a quick reply. Thanks!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas October 28, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

      I’m sorry we weren’t able to get back to you sooner! I hope your test went well. 🙂 In case you’re still wondering, though, it’s best to choose a side: the prompt asks you do make a decision, and your essay will be much clearer if you choose a single side. Trying to argue both sides often makes an essay hard to follow, and that hurts your score. It’s possible to write a good essay that considers both sides, but we don’t recommend it for the TOEFL.

  10. David November 19, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

    Hello Lucas,
    Can you provide some sample essays that would get a 5 on writing?
    Thanks !

  11. Diana January 20, 2015 at 4:47 pm #

    Hello, my questions are about the independent task. It is possible to only have 4 paragraph essay with more then 350 words and still score very high?
    thanks in advance!!! very helpful site!!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas January 20, 2015 at 7:25 pm #

      It’s absolutely possible to score very high with only four full paragraphs in the essay! Your grade isn’t based on the number of paragraphs, but on how completely you answer the question and how well you communicate your line of reasoning. I actually advise most students to write 4-paragraph essays so that they can fully explain two reasons in the body of the essay, rather than rushing to explain three reasons and switching topics too quickly/unnaturally.

  12. Giovanna Del Nero March 10, 2015 at 8:10 pm #

    Hello, Lucas.

    Do you think it is possible reaching the maximum score with an independent essay of four paragraphs?

    I am really having difficulties with time management and I would like to know if I have to focus on practicing to write less words AND correctly rather than just writing a longer essay.

    Thank you,


  13. David Recine March 15, 2015 at 3:41 pm #

    Hello Giovanna,

    Very good question! According to the writing guide on the official TOEFL website ( ), an independent essay usually needs at least 300 words to be “effective.” This means that essays of less than 300 words are less likely the maximum score. (But it’s not impossible!)

    Word count is not the same as amount of paragraphs, of course. It’s possible for someone to write a five paragraph essay that only has about 250 words, a three paragraph essay that has 400 words, and so on.

    In some cases, an essay with as little as three or even two paragraphs can receive good marks. Remember though, paragraphs help you organize your ideas and connect them to each other. More connections (rather than fewer connections) can help you create a better organized essay. TOEFL scorers like to see that.

    To make sure you earn full points (or something close to it), carefully read the official TOEFL Independent Writing Task Rubric ( You’ll notice that the rubric itself doesn’t grade test takers on word count or number of paragraphs. But as you practice writing based on the rubric, you’ll find that a certain word count or certain number of paragraphs allows you to reach level 5 on the rubric. Some of this depends on your own writing style.

  14. Gaurav July 30, 2015 at 7:40 am #

    My practice essays are about 315-330 words. What can I so increase the length without diluting the content of my essay?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas Fink August 3, 2015 at 1:40 pm #

      Length isn’t really a goal—it’s more important that you clearly explain all of the main ideas, using specific details and clear connections between thoughts. If you do that well, it’s possible that 315 words is enough. 🙂 Don’t focus on length; focus on explaining fully and clearly!

  15. Pakhi September 21, 2015 at 4:14 am #

    Hi Lucas,
    The link you provided on this blog for “a list of TOEFL independent essay questions” on ETS website is not working. Can you please provide the link here? I have Toefl in 2 weeks and need it asap. Thanks!

  16. Monika October 4, 2015 at 5:02 am #

    I am mostly confused ,because some of the books are saying that it is okay to have 4 bp and some recommend have 5 bd. Which one is more acceptable on the test ?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas Fink October 4, 2015 at 6:45 pm #

      I think by “BP” you mean body paragraphs—is that right? If it is, then nobody is correct or incorrect, really. The most important aspects of your essay are the number or shape of your paragraphs. We recommend 4 paragraphs for both essays: 1 intro and 3 body paragraphs for the integrated essay, and 1 intro, 2 body paragraphs, and one conclusion for the independent essay. But the independent essay could very easily be 5 paragraphs total, with 3 body paragraphs.

      But again, the numbers aren’t the important thing. What’s more important is that within those paragraphs, you clearly explain the main idea of that paragraph and then support the main idea with details or examples. Making a clear statement and explaining is the key for TOEFL writing. That also means using clear, conventional language. That means correct vocabulary, clear grammar, and logical transitions.

      It is possible to write too many or too few paragraphs, but only because of the EFFECT that those have—in a short paragraph, you don’t have enough room to fully explain your reasons. In a too-long paragraph, you run the risk of repeating yourself. Because TOEFL essays are short, it makes sense to use only a few paragraphs total, and focus instead on the content of those paragraphs. 🙂

  17. kelley December 3, 2015 at 9:30 pm #

    Lucas, I think you’re awesome!

    I teach Advanced English for a non-profit organization in Arkansas. One of the classes I teach is a TOEFL preparation class.

    I just thought you should know you’re awesome and appreciated.

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas Fink December 7, 2015 at 10:16 am #

      You sound pretty awesome yourself. 🙂 Thank you for the kind words, and I’m really glad to hear we’ve been helping!

  18. prak March 3, 2016 at 12:21 am #

    i need some sample integrated writing questions, where can i find it?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 1, 2016 at 9:44 pm #

      Sample Integrated Writing tasks are definitely harder to find compared to Integrated writing ones. There are some out there though.

      You’ll find two practice Integrated Writing questions in the TOEFL’s official Quick Prep practice sets, available online for free here. Unfortunately, the Integrated Writing task in Quick Prep Volume 1 has no audio— just a reading passage and a transcript of the related lecture.

      A few other sources of Integrated Writing practice are available through ETS for a fee. Volumes one and two of Official TOEFL iBT Practice Tests contain a total of 10 Integrated Writing practice questions, as part of the 10 complete practice tests found in these two volumes. And there are 4 practice tests/4 Integrated Writing questions with audio in the Official Guide for the TOEFL. The OG also has one additional practice Integrated Writing question that is transcript only, no audio, like the one in Quick Prep Volume 1. You can purchase these and a few other TOEFL resources with Integrated Writing practice though the official materials catalog for the exam.

      It’s also worth mentioning that we have one Integrated Writing practice task (with audio) here on the Magoosh TOEFL Blog. We even have a model answer for it. And of course, you can get many additional full Integrated Writing task questions with a Magoosh TOEFL subscription.

  19. Raed April 9, 2016 at 1:33 pm #

    How can write complete essay in 30 min! It is very difficult

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 11, 2016 at 8:06 am #

      It definitely is difficult, Raed. Writing is one of the biggest challenges for many test-takers, but the writing section can be beat. One key skill is prewriting. You’ll want to get very comfortable with organizing your ideas and making outlines, so that you can do it quickly. And you’ll want to do some revision to organizaiton even while you write. (I’ve posted some additional thoughts on that here.

      It also helps to strategize ways to minimize word count.Remember, ETS’s recommended length for Writing Task 1 (Integrated) is only 150 to 225 words. And their suggested length for Task 2 is 300 words. That’s really not that much. But the trick is learning to express your ideas within that word count, without having to revise and edit out extra stuff that you wrote.

      In a nutshell, you’ll master the tricky skill of writing an essay in just 30 minutes if you can do the following:

      1) Do all major prewriting in just the first few minutes.
      2) Fall within the recommended word count on the first try, with no revisions.
      3) Be able to edit for content as you write and shortly after you write.

  20. lexi May 21, 2016 at 12:11 am #

    Hi Lucas,

    I’ve been praticing TOEFL writing for a few weeks and had a native speaker review my essays for me. My reviewer’s pointed out a problem among my Independent essays which is that I don’t really choose a side sometimes on certain topics. For example, when I was asked to agree or disagree with the statement that “It is better to have broad knowledge of many academic subjects than to specialize in one specific subject”, I argued that diversification in knowledge and specialization in knowledge are simply different, sometimes overlapping, approaches to acquiring knowledge instead of being a rival to each other. My reviewer said he agrees with my essay, but he could only give me a C in regard to the criteria of the test since I didn’t really write in favor of a given side.

    So my question is that: would it really harm my TOEFL writing score if I don’t choose a side, even when the essays are well reasoned and well organized?

    Many thanks,


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 21, 2016 at 3:04 pm #

      That is an excellent question, Lexi. It is definitely possible to get a good score by writing an essay in this way. Not choosing a side won’t automatically hurt your TOEFL score.

      However, not choosing sides can still harm your TOEFL Writing score in another way. A more complicated opinion makes for a more complicated essay. And it’s harder to finish a more complicated essay– and do it truly well– in the time limit on the exam. Even if you can do a pretty good essay where you don’t take sides, a simpler essay where you do take sides can be written even more clearly and completely within the allotted time. Doing a simpler essay that focuses just on agreeing or disagreeing will leave you more time and energy to make good word choices, organize your ideas well, and check for mistakes at the end.

      Of course, this may mean that you’ll need to write an opinion that isn’t truly yours. But as long as you’re comfortable doing that, taking a side is the best path to the highest score possible in TOEFL Independent Writing.

  21. Sara Ferouz July 15, 2016 at 5:13 am #

    Aslam o alikum
    i just wanted to know how we can say specific sentences?
    what is specific sentences mean?
    and what is the different between specific and general sentences?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 19, 2016 at 8:58 pm #

      “Specific reasons and examples” (as they are described in TOEFL Writing topics) are pieces of evidence that reference unique ideas and evidence. Suppose, for example, that you answered this quesiton (seen in the post above): “It has recently been announced that a large shopping center may be built in your neighborhood. Do you support or oppose this plan? Why? Use specific reasons and details to support your answer”

      If you support the plan, you don’t want your evidence for why you support a shopping center to be too general. A very general support might be “I think this would be good for the neighborhood’s economy.” This is too general, because the statement doesn’t include the reasons why the shopping center would boost the economy. So if you make a general statement like this in your written response, you need to follow it up with more specific statements such as “The shopping center will require a lot of workers, and people in my neighborhood can get jobs and spend more money in the neighborhood.” This is a specific reason. You could follow that sentence up with “For example, the shopping center’s food court will probably have a lot of jobs that younger people can qualify for.” This is a specific example.

  22. Ted July 15, 2016 at 7:44 pm #

    Thank you very much for all those useful informations! I have one question according to choise of words. Is it better to choose simple words or very professional words? Such as organization VS company, harm VS Damage etc…

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 19, 2016 at 8:48 pm #

      On the TOEFL Writing section, more “formal” academic words can help boost your score. But what’s most important is vocabulary variety— little repetition of words, and word choices that are creative and appropriate to meaning and tone.

  23. Manpreet August 4, 2016 at 5:08 am #

    is it important to go through each and every part of grammar so as to excel in toefl writing.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 6, 2016 at 11:08 am #

      Yes and no. You should certainly have good general grammar skill, and a fluency with all the most important parts of English grammar. But the TOEFL only takes away points for grammar mistakes if the mistakes are frequent and interfere with the reader’s ability to understand your writing.

  24. ciela October 7, 2016 at 11:56 am #

    hello case i was faced with a topic im not familiar with or got nothing to say about,,how am i supposed to react???

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 7, 2016 at 4:16 pm #

      This is a common problem on TOEFL Independent tasks. Our blog has already touched on this problem a little with TOEFL Independent Speaking rather than TOEFL Independent Writing. In general, the trick to doing well when you get an unfamiliar TOEFL Independent topic is learning how to think fast and have enough to say.

      To build this skill, you need to practice going with the first idea that pops into your head when you’re presented with an unfamiliar subject. If you have no opinions or experiences of your own, you also need to get good at making stuff up— yes, it’s OK to lie on the TOEFL!

      Above all, you should practice with as many TOEFL Independent Writing topics as you can. You don’t necessarily need to write out a full essay for every Independent Writing questions you look at. But you should be able to brainstorm ideas and come up with an outline for any topic, even an unfamiliar one. A good resource for drilling yourself in this skill is this list of 155 TOEFL Independent Writing topics. Go through that list, and selectively look for topics where you feel like you have nothing to say. Then, through practice, learn to think quickly and say something.

  25. Flávio Henrique Scarel Santos May 12, 2017 at 10:12 pm #

    Hi! Would it be advisable to put titles in the essays? Since it s answering to a given question, I would feel it s needed, Tks a lot.

    • David Recine
      David Recine May 13, 2017 at 12:50 am #

      No, you definitely don’t need to add a title to your TOEFL essay. It’s not a requirement in the official TOEFL Writing rubrics. In addition, if your title is misspelled or confusing, that might actually hurt your score.

      So I would avoid adding a title, to make a long story short. 🙂

  26. Sola August 22, 2017 at 5:43 pm #

    My problem with independent writing that a lot of times my essays are very short because I am not too familiar with certain topics. For example – DO you think video games are beneficial or harmful to children. Explain your opinion/reasons. I personally have very minimal experience with video games, not too familiar with them. I never thought too much about this issue and as a result I do not have too much too say. How you would recommend to deal with a topic that is not very familiar to you, or if you do not have any particular opinion about? Thank you

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 23, 2017 at 5:32 pm #

      Hi Sola,

      When you say short, how long do you mean? The independent task really only needs to be ~300 words to be scored well. In any case, you can flesh out your points by adding examples or hypothetical situations to follow up your points. You can also imagine a counterpoint and refute it, giving your argument more length. 🙂

  27. Parisa September 3, 2017 at 8:32 pm #

    there are many templates explaining how to write independent writing in IBT but I find less examples or templates for first writing which related to passage and lecture , can you please provide some more information at this point as well?

    Thank you

  28. Wesselmie Pugsong March 19, 2018 at 9:03 am #

    Hi, is it possible that i can come up with a 3-5 polished paragraphs with in 20 minutes? Including the preparation and organization of thoughts? Because i am doubting myself, do you have any suggestions that i could do? Thanks!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 21, 2018 at 10:50 am #

      Hi Wesselmie,

      I know it sounds difficult, but it is absolutely possible to improve your writing and craft a strong essay in 20 minutes! The best thing you can do to improve is to write as much as possible. You should be writing in English every single day–this will allow you to build your writing skills and confidence so that the essay becomes easier 😀

      If you want to practice writing in English, it helps to have material to respond to. So why not get reading or listening practice at the same time?

      This blog post has some great resources to use for listening or reading practice that’s similar to TOEFL material.

      After listening to a presentation in English or reading an article from an English news site, summarize it in writing. Summarizing is an incredibly important skill for the TOEFL. Try to write as much as possible, and be very careful to use your own words. DO NOT COPY ANYTHING from the original text or presentation—instead, use synonyms and different sentence structures to convey the same information. Ideally, after reading or listening, you won’t go back to the material at all. Instead, you will only write what you remember (taking notes is a good idea!).

      And you can go beyond just summarizing! Write reaction paragraphs, too. Act like you are writing back to the author or speaker with your opinion on the topic, although you are not really talking to them.

      When you finish writing a response, save it for later. You should always come back to your writing a week later (or more), and edit it. Be very careful with the grammar when you edit, and add extra sentences that you need to make it clearer. Then, if you have the time, it can be a great help to write the same response (or essay) again a second time, with all of your edits in mind. 🙂

      And check our the entire writing section of our blog for more tips and ideas for how to improve!

  29. Shah Payal September 19, 2018 at 1:27 pm #

    Can you please help me with some useful tips on all the four sections of toefl.. Now it is just a weeks’ time for my examination and i am not understanding what to excatly focus on and put my efforts into.

    I am using magoosh for my prepartion, of vocabulary, speaking, listening to audios & watching videos..

    Thank you..

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 21, 2018 at 1:59 pm #

      HI Shah,

      I recommend that you check out our 2 week TOEFL Study Schedule. You may not have time to complete all of it, but it will give you a good idea of what you should focus on in your last week. I recommend that you take a practice test, analyze your answers and performance, and then do some targeted review to ensure that you have a basic understanding of the methods and strategy for each section of the test. Good luck!

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