TOEFL Essay Writing Tips


The essay test is now a mandatory portion of the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). This sub-test counts for about one sixth of the total score. If the test taker is a strong writer, he can raise his overall score. If not, the earned score may fall. The TOEFL is administered as a computer-based or paper-based exam, with the Internet-based test available in most testing locations.


  • Begin by writing the best essay possible, with a focus on form and accuracy in grammar, spelling and mechanics. During the initial practice session, do not be concerned with time. Later, practice writing within time constraints, closing in on the 30-minute target. After completion of the practice essay, read the document out loud to a trusted, proficient English speaker to hear how natural the writing voice is.

Sentence Structure

  • Vary sentence structure to provide varied rhythm in the writing. Five-word sentences are fine when combined with longer sentences in the paragraphs. The writer should not compose all short or all long sentences, as the desired outcome is a natural flow such as that heard in regular speech.

Essay Structure

  • The basic structure of an essay is four to five paragraphs. Begin with the introductory paragraph, including a statement that summarizes the main idea and compels the reader to continue reading. This topic sentence, also referred to as the thesis statement, should clearly state the topic and point of view, while the remaining sentences will reflect the main supporting points of the essay. Develop the next two or three paragraphs, called the body, by providing clear examples and supporting information based on these main points. The last paragraph should clearly link to the introduction, creating a concise and interesting conclusion.

Word Choices

  • Don't worry about choosing long, complicated words. Simple word choices can clearly demonstrate meaning. Use strong verbs and make every word count, avoiding filler or flowery language. Do not literally translate from your native language, as the structure and images used to convey ideas most likely vary from English. Ensure that idioms are used correctly. To hone this skill, read American essays and newspaper articles, listen to music for word rhythm and idioms, and practice speaking and writing in English every chance that presents itself.


  • Be bold when addressing the topic, presenting a strong opinion. There are no right or wrong answers to the questions provided. The score is based on language proficiency, so speak from the heart and support with the mind. Focus on accurately conveying the message with an emphasis on language accuracy.


  • Because of the time constraints, have a plan to structure your time. Review the instructions, carefully read the topic; pre-write, including brainstorming; write the thesis statement; organize ideas and structure the essay; write the essay; proofread and revise; and edit, correcting grammar and spelling.

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