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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.
Writing Tools

Photo by Pete O’Shea



8 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

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