TOEFL Writing


The TOEFL writing section includes 2 separate tasks – an integrated task, which requires you to respond to a lecture or passage, and an independent task, which asks you to use personal experience to explain your opinions on a topic. Read on for helpful tips and strategies, practice topics and essays, and more! 🙂 And if you want to practice writing TOEFL essays online, you can get the full experience by studying with Magoosh TOEFL.
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TOEFL Writing

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27 Responses to TOEFL Writing

  1. Scaff September 2, 2016 at 4:59 am #

    I have to resit my TOEFL tomorrow and am at a loss as to how to tackle the exam to get the score I require. In my previous exam I scored 27 for writing, where I needed a score of 30 (my other scores were all 30). My problem is that I don’t know where I went wrong. I write as a core part of my profession. I write for basic level, for engineers, for CEOs, for public releases, for internal communications.

    I thought I’d really hit the mark with my essays. Both had a good number of points, joined into a flowing narrative, with specific examples. I used a good selection of idioms, as well as sprinkling in some less-used punctuation to demonstrate my level. I added some playful alliteration to help pace things for the reader and keep it interesting. On the independent essay I altered sentence length to help drive urgency in my message, when required. All to no avail.

    I applied for a rescore, nothing changed.

    So now I’m at a loss. I look at the TOEFL Level 5 Benchmark Examinee Response (the one about using “group systems”) and am doubly bewildered. It’s appalling. I can tell just by glancing that it’s written by someone with Spanish or Portuguese as a native tongue. It’s littered with spelling mistakes. How can that possibly be the benchmark for a score of 5 when one of my essays scored 4? The second example is even worse, and my essay was worse than that?

    Please, offer me your wisdom. I just don’t understand where I went wrong.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 5, 2016 at 9:55 am #

      Hi Scaff,

      That DOES sound frustrating. Your writing really DOES seem quite good (based on the comments you’ve left on the blog). In this situation– where the test-taker is an excellent writer but is still falling short of 30– the problem is often related to following the assignment description for each task and satisfying the specific requirements of the official TOEFL Writing Rubrics.

      If you’ve already read the rubrics and feel you’ve satisfied the rubric requirements, I’d recommend consulting with an expert TOEFL tutor. There may be something specific in your writing that is causing you to lose points, and a tutor should be able to spot that.

      The TOEFL also offers a free official online course through EdX that is sponsored and staffed by ETS TOEFL experts. This course has a lot of self-study elements, but you can also talk to instructors and network with classmates. So this course could also help you get some insights into why you’re falling short of a 30. The next start date for the TOEFL Test Preparation course is September 7, so if you need to retake the exam, this would be a good form of retake prep.

      You may also benefit from showing your writing to other community members on one of the Internet’s TOEFL message boards. See Rachel’s post on the best TOEFL forums if you’d like to explore that option.

      • Scaff September 6, 2016 at 11:37 pm #

        Many thanks for the pointers. I’m prepared to admit that the essays may not have been rigid enough in their construction, and that this may be where I lost points. That said, I feel that a “paint by numbers” approach results in a less readable product, but I guess they have a sheet against which they must grade. Viewing much of the advice on various sites it seems one must really tick the boxes rather than creating an interesting an engaging piece of writing. They should rename the section to “Writing of a formulaic essay that demonstrates your ability to memorise templates”.

        There is real urgency behind my need for this qualification which means that as much as I appreciate the advice, I shall not be using it. I’m prepared to fly to another country to take my PTE-A; it will be cheaper and more likely to lead to success. Besides, I don’t think I can bear to listen to another TOEFL representative telling me “sorry y’all, your score hasn’t been changed. You have a nice day y’hear?”

  2. Lalima Arora November 29, 2016 at 4:58 am #

    Dear Magoosh,
    Please help me with this basic question

    In writing section there is read, listen and write activity. So my question is do i need to read the passage loud for recording purpose or i can read it in my mind?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 29, 2016 at 9:53 am #

      Great question, Lalima,

      Don’t worry, there’s no “read-aloud” component in TOEFL Writing, or on any other part of the TOEFL. You can read silently throughout.

  3. Alireza December 18, 2016 at 9:06 am #

    Dear Magoosh,
    To get prepared for TOEFL, do you recommend to study academic writing books, such as “Longman academic series”, “Oxford effective writing series” or anything similar?

    Or you prefer TOEFL resources?!


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 18, 2016 at 3:21 pm #

      Hi Tanx,

      I am not personally familiar with those resources, but after some research I can give my thoughts. The writing tasks on the TOEFL are designed to test whether or not you can express yourself clearly and correctly through writing in English. This isn’t necessarily academic writing like what you will see on the GRE, for example. The Oxford effective writing series looks like it might be helpful because it focuses on clear communication in a variety of circumstances, but the Longman series may not be helpful because it is focused on academic writing. Honestly, however, I don’t think these books will give you anything more benefit than the free writing resources that you can get online.

      I recommend that you check out our TOEFL Writing Templates, this blog with some writing resources, and this blog with tips on how to improve your writing score. I think that you will find some high-quality writing support without having to spend a dime 🙂

      • Alireza December 19, 2016 at 9:12 am #

        Many thanks to your reply 🙂
        That was helpful

  4. zahra May 31, 2017 at 11:49 pm #

    i need help in the writing section, i got 15 out of 30.I misunderstood the independent essay question, and started writing about a different subject, and when i realized my mistake it was too late. So now my problem is that i do not know what my real score would be if i wrote about the right subject

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 3, 2017 at 4:51 am #

      Hi Zahra,

      Unfortunately, there is no easy to know what your score would have been. Your best bet is to retake the TOEFL and follow the instructions faithfully. This should see an immediate increase in your score. 🙂

  5. Pharaon February 8, 2018 at 7:26 am #


    I am looking for someone professional to assess my writing and give me feedback.
    Can I post an essay I wrote recently for TOEFL here and have it assessed?

    If not, then could you please suggest a website, forum, blog or service that assist in Writing assessment. I have been stuck with this issue since my last exam more than a year ago. I got 101 in total on iBT 28 25 28 and 20 in writing Hhh. you can see from the score the magnitude of the problem the same goes for gre I got only 3.5.

    So any help is appreciated.


    • David Recine
      David Recine February 9, 2018 at 7:21 am #

      Hi Pharaon,

      Magoosh TOEFL isn’t reviewing student essays right now. But we can recommend some places to get good TOEFL essay feedback from actual human beings. You can potentially get free essay review on the web’s various TOEFL forums. See Rachel’s article “The Best TOEFL Forums” if you want to know more. As for tutoring, an online tutor can often be useful. For that, consult my past blog posts, “Places to Find TOEFL Tutoring Online, Part 1” and “Places to Find TOEFL Tutoring Online, Part 2.”

      And if you’re already stateside, there may be other offline options for free our cheap TOEFL tutoring. See the Magoosh TOEFL Blog post “Where to Get Free Tutoring in the U.S.

      • Pharaon February 11, 2018 at 2:04 am #

        Thank you very much David

  6. John September 7, 2018 at 12:35 pm #

    I am baffled. Should I use reported speech in my independent essay or not. I have read countless of essays online and from the books by the Princeton Review and none of them use reported speech. I am taking the Toefl in about 12 hours. HELP!!!!!

    • David Recine
      David Recine September 7, 2018 at 1:58 pm #

      Reported speech is fairly optional in the TOEFL Writing independent essay. But it can come in handy when discussing opposing opinions that different people may have. (For example, using phrases like “some people think that…”, or “I believe that….”)

  7. Mathukumalli Kavya November 22, 2018 at 9:50 am #

    Is there any software that I can find to take the practice test for writing and get my score so that would help me assess myself and understand where I stand

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 25, 2018 at 6:41 pm #

      Hi there,

      We aren’t aware of any software that would provide you with this sort of feedback. However, we provide some ideas for getting your essays scored in this blog post. I hope that helps!

  8. ŞENAY UZUN ÇETİN May 7, 2019 at 3:15 am #

    Take the “Listening” section of Practice Test 1 from the CD that comes with the Official Guide. Use the self-scoring chart in the back of the book (page 301) to see where you stand. Review your wrong answers carefully so that you understand why you made every mistake.

    Sorry. I could not find this book in the website. Where is it? Can you help me?

    • David Recine
      David Recine May 9, 2019 at 2:23 pm #

      It sounds like you’re talking about the Official Guide to the TOEFL. That can’t be purchased through the Magoosh website, since it comes form the makers of the real TOEFL exam. But you can purchase the OG through a link on the official ETS TOEFL preparation page or from an online bookseller such as In either case, the book is available as a downloadable file/software pack or as a print book with a physical CD. 🙂

  9. Fahi September 12, 2019 at 12:57 pm #

    Do you offer writing assessment, too? If yes, can you send me a link to how I can send my writing to be graded?


  10. Antonia October 16, 2019 at 9:20 am #

    Hey guys,

    for the integrated writing part: Do I have 3 minutes for reading the passage AND listening to the lecture together or do I have 3 minutes reading the passage first and THEN listen to the lecture after reading? It confused me, while practicing this section.

    Thank you, for your help!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 7, 2020 at 2:13 pm #

      Hi Antonia,

      You’ll have three minutes to read the passage and then you will listen to the audio. You can read more about this task here.

  11. aria November 5, 2019 at 8:09 am #

    Hello. Thank you for your helpful site. I recently took Toefl. My second writing task was a three choice question (there is a similar question in the speaking) which asked which one do you like? A, B or C? My question is that should I address all three choices or I should just focus on one choice and ignore other choices? Regards.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 7, 2020 at 2:32 pm #

      Hi Aria,

      Without seeing the question itself, it’s difficult to know for sure.In TOEFL independent writing, the stance you take doesn’t matter as much as quality of your writing. So, as long as you choose a position and write well about it, you should be OK 🙂

  12. Wafa November 13, 2019 at 1:07 am #

    Hello dear Respective Teacher,

    I have only a month to take the TOEFL test and thus, I think I need to take a month self-study or tutored class. I usually have problems on concentrating during listening (only on lectures) to take notes and discover the main and supporting points to answer the questions. Also, I face to difficulties while doing the reading section.

    Looking forward to hearing from you and prompt reply is much appreciated.

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