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TOEFL Writing Practice


Standardized tests are difficult enough in a person’s native language, but taking them in a foreign language can be much more challenging. The TOEFL® (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is a test given to non-native speakers of English who want to show their ability to speak, write, and comprehend English. Many people who want to attend colleges in the United States take the TOEFL. Whatever their reason for taking the test, people studying for the writing section of the TOEFL should concentrate on developing good essay writing skills.

Forms of the Test

The TOEFL test is given in several forms:

  1. The TOEFL iBT™ (the Internet-based test)
  2. The TOEFL CBT (computer-based test)
  3. The TOEFL® PBT (paper-based test)

The iBT is given most often since most testing sites around the world have access to the Internet. The CBT is still given at many sites. The PBT is given only at sites where the Internet is not available. All three tests have a writing section, but only the iBT has two writing assignments.

The iBT Writing Test

The iBT writing test is divided into two parts. The first part is called integrated writing because it involves more than just writing. Because many TOEFL test takers will be entering academic settings, the test requires students to read a short passage (2 minutes), take notes on a short lecture (3 minutes), and then write a summary and response to both the lecture and the reading passage (20 minutes). The recommended length of the essay is 150-225 words. These reading, listening, and writing skills are used in college classrooms every day, so it’s important for colleges to be able to get an accurate assessment of a student’s ability to perform in the classroom before accepting a student. This writing section of the test is not included on the CBT or the PBT.

The second part of the writing section of the iBT is the independent writing section. Test takers are given 30 minutes to respond to a topic. They may be asked to agree or disagree with a particular topic, to explain a preference, to give a description, to explain what they might do in a given situation, or to compare and contrast one idea or option with another and give a preference. The essay should be four to five paragraphs long (recommendation: at least 300 words). The essay must be typed, so test-takers should be familiar with a computer keyboard.

Sample Topics

Here are a few examples of the types of essay topics for the independent writing section of the iBT:

  1. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Parents are the best teachers. Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.
  2. If you could change one important thing about your hometown, what would you change? Use reasons and specific examples to support your answer.
  3. Many people visit museums when they travel to new places. Why do you think people visit museums? Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.
  4. Some people believe that university students should be required to attend classes. Others believe that going to classes should be optional for students. Which point of view do you agree with? Use specific reasons and details to explain your answer.
  5. Some people prefer to live in a small town. Others prefer to live in a big city. Which place would you prefer to live in? Use specific reasons and details to support your answer.
  6. This independent essay is very similar to the essay assignment for the PBT as well as for the CBT. Sample essay topics by


Score Requirements

Different educational institutions require different forms of the test and have different score requirements. Test-takers should check with the institutions of their choice to find out these requirements.

Time4Writing can Help

Time4Writing can help non-native speakers of English develop their writing skills as they prepare for the TOEFL. Those struggling with grammar, usage, or mechanics can enroll in the
High School & College Prep Writing Mechanics class. A number of other Time4Writing interactive writing and mechanics courses are available, including essay writing courses. English learners can take the time to build their English vocabulary with hundreds of free vocabulary games. Then they can test their skill at English slang and idioms. Homophones (words that sound the same) can be tricky, but some homophone games can help. With practice and persistence, and with the right knowledge and tools, non-native speakers of English can be better prepared for the TOEFL and for future study in English.

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