The writing part of TOEFL can be the hardest as there are no constraints or multiple choices. The blank space and the timer. However, there is still a practical way to approach the writing.
The writing in TOEFL doesn’t necessarily translate to the real world so you have to follow some sort of strategy. The skills required for writing are also found in speaking and reading.
The structure of your essay should be the same as in the speaking and the one found in reading. In a nutshell: introduction, several body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The first sentence of each paragraph should be a repetition of the main idea. The remaining sentences should be examples and details but again not just standard examples you might write in other settings. Introduction: Express purpose, state thesis. Body: Provide details and examples important to purpose. Conclusion: This is the part in which you summarize your essay.
This is where your express purpose. Your introduction needs to achieve the following tasks:
- Introduce the topic of your discussion
- Present your thesis statement
If your task is to choose a side and express your opinion than your first step is to choose a side. You can’t choose some kind of middle ground or change your opinion midway through. Then you must state what you choose. For this you may want to consider one of these words: I believe, I feel that, In my opinion, In my view, I think that, I do not believe, I do not feel that, My position is, It is my belief that. Now you have to give a reason for your opinion. Again, here are some expressions to choose from: I believe this because, I feel this way because, The reason I think this is, This is because, Since.
The introduction is the first impression so you have to hit a home run here. In summary do the following:
- Decide what your purpose is: Know what you take is. Are you trying to convince or inform? Are you picking the one option over another?
- State the thesis: Always include a simple and direct statement os the topic.
- State why: This is your connection between the task and the topic.
- Don’t go into detail about your examples in your introduction
- Don’t repeat the task or assignment word for word
In every body-paragraph, you should repeat the purpose but word or approached differently. For example, if in your introduction you stated:
I do not believe that parents should select their children’s friends. Then you could state something like this in your body paragraph: One reason I believe that parents should let their children pock their friends is that…
The whole body paragraph is basically the example you use to explain or prove your point. So it is important to know how to write good examples.
Now for the very interesting examples, you have to provide. An example should answer these 2 questions:
- What the example is? Stating the example.
- Why the example is important? Explaining the example. Each example must be specific and it must be explained in sufficient detail.
There are 3 main types of examples: Supporting, Summarizing and Evaluating.
Supporting examples These are the most familiar and easiest ones to use. This shows the reader why you have a particular viewpoint. The goal is to convince your reader that your viewpoint is correct.
Summarizing examples This is used when the task is to explain or summarize someone else’s opinion. In this case, you aren’t trying to convince the reader of anything. Rather you are to report what you heard.
Evaluation examples You can use this type of example when you are judging how valid a person’s position is? Your purpose is to weaken that position.
Regardless of the type, the structure is always the same.
Template for examples: Sentence 1: Introduce the example and tie it back to your thesis. Sentence 2: State one reason why your example is important or relevant to your thesis. Sentence 3: Add detail to reason #1. Sentence 4: State another reason why your example is important or relevant to your thesis. Sentence 5: Add detail to reason #2. Sentence 6 (optional): Provide a summary of your reasons, and relate them back to your thesis. E.g.
(1) One book that is extremely important to me is The Suffrage of Elvira by V S. Naipaul. (2) One reason I enjoy this book so much is that l like its subject matter. (3) The book provides a humorous look at local politics, and I find politics a fascinating subject. (4) Naipaul is skilled at critically examining his topics, and think his depiction of politics is very interesting. (5) In this book, he presents a satire of the political process that is both witty and insightful. (6) Because of my interest in politics, The Suffrage of Elvirais an important book.
In summary, examples need to do the following:
- State the example
- Explain how the example supports your position or achieves your purpose.
- Don’t introduce an example without explaining how it relates to your purpose.
- Don’t forget to provide specific details for each of your examples.
- Don’t use more than one example per paragraph.
Here is an example of a high scoring full body paragraph:
One reason I believe that parents should let children pick their friends is that children need to develop independence (topic sentence). It is very important for a child to become independent, and the early part of a child’s life can affect the level of independence a child has (statement of example). For example, children who are not allowed to pick their friends may believe that their parents will always make important decisions for them (explanation of significance). This belief could make children dependent on their parents, which would have a negative effect on their development (explanation of significance).
In the concluding paragraph, you need to restate your purpose and summarize your arguments.
Here is an example conclusion paragraph:
In conclusion, there are many reasons why parents should not pick friends for their children. Children who are allowed to pick their own friends will be more independent and will get along better with friends they’ve selected.
In a nutshell, your summary should do the following:
- Restate: Tell the reader once more what your purpose is and why you believe it.
- Don’t introduce new examples or ideas.
- Don’t leave out the thesis.
The examples I used for this blog post were from the book: Cracking TOEFL iBT 2017 – Princeton Review. I highly recommend you check out the book if you are preparing for TOEFL as it will explain everything in much more detail.
If you fond this post useful, I highly recommend you check out my Toefl iBT Reading Guide!
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