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:
- TOEFL Sample Questions and Responses – Official ETS website They’re the official iBT guys and gals.
- TOEFL Essay Sample Page - Good questions and essays by score.
- Sample Questions and Essays from Testmagic.com More good sample questions and essays.
- Free Sample TOEFL Essays Read these essays to see what works.
Happy TOEFL essay writing everyone!