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3 Steps to Improving your TOEFL Essay

26 Aug

The essay component, otherwise known as the Independent Writing component of the TOEFL test is a major contributor to your overall score and is often cited by my students as a difficult part to improve on.  Of the 50 minutes for the Writing Section of the TOEFL iBT test, 30 minutes are giving for writing a 4-5 paragraph, 300-350 word essay.  You write your essay in response to a given writing topic. 

Three steps to Improving your TOEFL Essay:

Focus on the first step and then move on to the second, and finally the third.  In other words, the steps are sequential and one should be mastered before focusing on the next. 

Step 1 – Concentrate on Content and Form.  Is the structure of your essay correct?  Is there a clear introduction, thesis statement and conclusion? Do your ‘body’ paragraphs each have one clear point and supporting details?  Is your essay accurately answering the question given and reflecting the writing sample provided (ie: is it logical)? Have you given examples where necessary?  Are your topic statements clear and is your writing concise?  Do your paragraphs flow from one to the other? Here’s an Essay Sequence Planner and Flow Chart to consider.

Step 2 – Focus on Accuracy.   Clean up the grammar, spelling and punctuation that all work to polish an essay and make it more pleasing for the evaluator to read.  Have you used a variety of sentence structures? Consider peer-editing with another student or friend.  Often editing another person’s work helps you learn more about your own areas of weakness.

Step 3 – Work on your Speed.  Now you want to try to get your polished essay done as quickly as you can.  If you spend 30 minutes, four times a week, that’s 4 essays a week you’d be writing.  Of course, while speed is the final step in polishing your essay-writing skills if you lack clean form, content and accuracy, then your essay is not going to score well.

If you’re looking for free online sample questions and essays, here’s a few places to start:

Happy TOEFL essay writing everyone!

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Get writing! Why it’s important for ELL’s to write daily

18 Oct

This Thursday, October 20th is National Day on Writing (in the USA) and it’s a great way to promote literacy, writing as a hobby and as a profession.  I am a firm believer that all teachers should be encouraging their students to write, but this is especially true for language learners.

Check out the blog: Common Grounds

My advice ‘to write’ comes not only from my experience as an ESL Teacher, but as a learner of the Korean language.  I tell my students to imagine that they have a separate muscle in their body that is strictly for learning a new language.  They need to work it out! Otherwise, it will become flabby from misuse and underdeveloped from lack of attention.  On my own personal road to learning Korean,  I try to take a little bit of time regularly to relax and write down some thoughts in my journal in Korean, without full regard for grammar and spelling.  If I’m consistent in my discipline to keep writing in Korean, I can quickly see improvements in even my verbal use of the language.

There are so many resources available on the internet to teach you how to write properly, correctly, effectively, and so on.  But the most important thing you can do as an English Language Learner (ELL) is this:

1) Write.

2) Then, write some more.

How Writing Can Improve on your Language Learning:

Writing in English helps you to overcome fears and build confidence.  It pushes you to expand your vocabulary to find the exact word you’re looking for.  It helps you to realize that language is not always “translatable,” and that your first language and the English language come from different cultural contexts.   Writing also helps you discover your language weaknesses or soft spots (what you need to work on).  And writing helps you to improve your overall use of the language.

So, if you want to improve your English, or encourage your students’ to improve theirs – I suggest getting cozy with a cup of coffee, a fresh notebook and a pen that makes your words sing… and start writing!

 

 

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