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toefl guide

The Top 3 TOEFL Writing Templates used by our Students

Ron Ross January 25th, 2019

The more you have to think about your TOEFL essay structure, the less time you'll have to actually write a top-scoring essay. Learning an effective TOEFL writing template is key to helping you get 26 or higher in the TOEFL writing section. If you're worried that the TOEFL grader will deduct marks for using an essay template, don't be! They're more concerned with your writing abilities, than the actual structure. In fact, using a TOEFL writing template will help with reading coherence and flow which are criteria you are marked on.

Do I Need a TOEFL Writing Template?

Yes! But before going over our writing templates and how and why you use them, it's important you know about the different kinds of writing tasks in the TOEFL Writing section. After that, you’ll dive head first into our effective TOEFL writing templates and two top-scoring TOEFL sample essays. After reading this article, you'll be ready to start your TOEFL writing preparation.

Table Of Contents

The 2 Types of Writing Tasks: Independent & Integrated

In the Writing section, you’ll be given just under an hour (50 minutes) to complete two separate essays on different topics. Although you’ll be typing your writing test responses on the computer, you are also allowed to take notes. As for what you’ll be asked to do in the writing tasks, there are two separate types you’ll be dealing with. If you’re familiar with the Speaking section of the TOEFL, you may notice that these two tasks are similar in nature to the independent and integrated speaking tasks. So, let’s break down how best to approach each writing task individually.

The Integrated Writing Task: A Shorter Response Essay

Get your eyes and ears ready. This writing task will require you to combine both your skills in reading and listening with your writing. First, you’ll be presented with a reading passage on an academic subject, with 3 minutes to skim through. If you aren’t able to process everything in the reading, don’t panic. You’ll be allowed to check it again later. Next up comes a listening passage on the same topic as the reading. Try to take a few notes, because you’ll only have one chance to listen to this short lecture. The 20 minutes to write your essay begins after you’ve finished listening. 20 minutes is not a lot of time, so having a TOEFL writing template reading will help you save precious time. Also, you should have taking notes, so you don't have to re-read the entire reading passage. doing that will waste time. Once you’ve targeted the key ideas from the sources, you’ll respond by organizing them into your own concise explanation, about 150-225 words in length. In fact, the best response on a scale from 0-5 will focus on summarizing the points of the material in your own words. Rather than act like a parrot and just repeat words, you should attempt to be original in your phrasing. Here is an example:

Directions: Give yourself 3 minutes to read the passage.

READING TIME: 3 minutes
Toward the end of his life, the Chevalier de Seingalt (1725−1798) wrote a long memoir recounting his life and adventures. The Chevalier was a somewhat controversial figure, but since he met many famous people, including kings and writers, his memoir has become a valuable historical source about European society in the eighteenth century. However, some critics have raised doubts about the accuracy of the memoir. They claim that the Chevalier distorted or invented many events in the memoir to make his life seem more exciting and glamorous than it really was.

For example, in his memoir the Chevalier claims that while living in Switzerland, he was very wealthy, and it is known that he spent a great deal of money there on parties and gambling. However, evidence has recently surfaced that the Chevalier borrowed considerable sums of money from a Swiss merchant. Critics thus argue that if the Chevalier had really been very rich, he would not have needed to borrow money.

Critics are also skeptical about the accuracy of the conversations that the Chevalier records in the memoir between himself and the famous writer Voltaire. No one doubts that the Chevalier and Voltaire met and conversed. However, critics complain that the memoir cannot possibly capture these conversations accurately, because it was written many years after the conversations occurred. Critics point out that it is impossible to remember exact phrases from extended conversations held many years earlier.

Critics have also questioned the memoir’s account of the Chevalier’s escape from a notorious prison in Venice, Italy. He claims to have escaped the Venetian prison by using a piece of metal to make a hole in the ceiling and climbing through the roof. Critics claim that while such a daring escape makes for enjoyable reading, it is more likely that the Chevalier’s jailers were bribed to free him. They point out that the Chevalier had a number of politically well-connected friends in Venice who could have offered a bribe.

Listen to part of a lecture on the same topic.


Directions: You have 20 minutes to plan and write your response. Your response will be judged on the basis of the quality of your writing and on how well your response presents the points in the lecture and their relationship to the reading passage. Typically, an effective response will be 150 to 225 words

Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to explain how they respond to the specific points made in the reading passage.

View the sample essay here

The Independent Writing Task: A Longer Personal Opinion Essay

It’s time to get in touch with your opinionated side. In the 30 minutes allotted for this essay, you’ll need to plan, revise, and finally share your own thoughts and ideas on a specific issue. Don’t forget to show off your examples, reasons, and experiences to back it all up. If you provide plenty of evidence, rationale and use a TOEFL writing template, you’ll have no trouble reaching the recommended 300 word length. Keep in mind, you do not need to express your actual opinion here. It only matters that you are clearly arguing for only one side of an issue, even if you don’t really feel that way. To score higher on the 0-5 scale, try varying your vocabulary and sentence structure to give your writing an engaging boost.

State your opinion, give evidence, then remain consistent, and you’ll be in the clear! Questions or writing prompts, for this task typically ask writers to pick a side on a given issue, then defend their choice. To help you get started, let’s take a closer look at some of the different types of independent writing questions that may appear.

Agree or Disagree: Do you agree or disagree with this statement? These types of writing prompts offer an opinion or stance, then ask you whether or not you support it. Get yourself on one side or the other, then start gathering your supporting reasons. Here is an example: Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Dancing plays an important role in a culture. Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

Support or Oppose: In the given situation, do you support or oppose this plan? Although this question appears similar to the “agree or disagree” type, it differs in that it asks you whether you would think doing something in the future is a good or bad idea. Again, you’ll align yourself on one side of the issue, and explain your choice. Here is an example: It has recently been announced that a new high school may be built in your community. Do you support or oppose this plan? Why? Use specific reasons and details in your answer.

Preference: Some people prefer A, others prefer B? Which do you prefer? The question will clearly present you with two possible options. Decide which one you’d like, giving details on why you prefer one over the other. Here is an example: Some people like to travel with a companion. Other people prefer to travel alone. Which do you prefer? Use specific reasons and examples to support your choice.

Imagine / If: Imagine if you were in this situation. What would you decide to do? You’ll be given an imaginary scenario, then asked how you would react accordingly. These questions may be slightly more open-ended, so you’ll want to stay focused on what specific action you are being asked about. Here is an example: If you could travel back in time to meet a famous person from history, what person would you like to meet? Use specific reasons and examples to support your choice.

Description / Explanation: How do you feel about this issue? Explain your opinion. This question type calls for another open-ended response, this time to a specific real-world issue. Though there may be many possible perspectives, be sure you are consistent in your response. Here is an example: Some people say that computers have made life easier and more convenient. Other people say that computers have made life more complex and stressful. What is your opinion? Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

Compare and contrast: Talk about the similarities and differences between A and B. These questions may combine with other question types, asking for an opinion or preference between the two things being compared. Read carefully, so you know exactly what you’ll need to discuss, whether it’s outlining the advantages or disadvantages of an issue, or expressing your agreement or disagreement with it. Here is an example: It has been said, "Not everything that is learned is contained in books." Compare and contrast knowledge gained from experience with knowledge gained from books. In your opinion, which source is more important? Why?

Fast Facts for Both Writing Tasks

This table below breaks down the basics of both writing tasks. Check here to get a quick comparison between the two required essays you’ll do in the 50 minutes of the Writing section.

Section Integrated Writing Task Independent Writing Task
Recommended Length 150-225 words 300+ words
Possible Score 0-5 0-5
Given Time 3 minutes to read a passage, 20 minutes to write a response 30 minutes to write a response
Writing Objective Summarize and compare main points from reading and listening materials State and defend an opinion by providing reasons and examples
Keep in Mind... You’ll only be given one opportunity to listen to the lecture, but you can check the reading passage again. Both materials will be presented before you begin writing. The 30 minutes you’re given should include time for understanding the question, planning your answer, and coming up with examples. Brainstorming may help you generate ideas quickly.

Why You Need a TOEFL Writing Template

Despite the fact that you’ll have nearly an hour to write your two essay responses in the TOEFL writing section, the time may feel extremely rushed if you’re unprepared. To avoid a situation of panic in the test room, or even worse, the dreaded writer’s block, you can use a TOEFL writing template to give you a running start on your essay. You’ll likely need every spare moment to plan, write, and revise, and a template will free up some of your time to catch that one mistake you missed, or add in another example that just popped into your head.

There are all kinds of questions that you could be potentially asked in either writing task, but familiarizing yourself with those alone will not be enough to produce strong results in writing. With templates, you’ll be able to not only recognize the type of response you’re going to give but also understand how to effectively present your thoughts and ideas as cohesively as possible. There are a few reasons why making use of writing templates will help you cover a wide variety of topics.

Clarity and Style

Good writing is a little different from speaking, in that your style and way of putting words together needs to be a little more formal, and a little more clear. It’s important for readers to be able to follow your line of thinking for them to fully understand your reasons. A template can help you express your voice in writing with proper style and clarity.

Variation and Turn of Phrase

No one likes reading the same word repeatedly, and most readers will get bored with a tired-out sentence structure line after line. However, sometimes when we try to get “creative” with our writing for the sake of making it stand out, it ends up going terribly wrong. If you’re hoping to vary your writing without going wildly outside the lines, templates will keep you on track.

TOEFL writing template

In this section, we'll show you a detailed TOEFL writing template for the independent writing section and two TOEFL Writing templates for the integrated writing section. We encourage you to follow these templates as you practice writing as it will help you save time and get a high score on the TOEFL writing section.

TOEFL Writing Template #1 - Independent Writing Task

For this task, you will read a short prompt and then write a response. As we mentioned ealier, there are 6 different types of prompts. Besides the "Compare and contrast" type, we recommend you use the basic five-paragraph structure, with an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion to write your response. Because every essay prompt is different, it is not possible to have a writing template that can be appled to all essay topics. However, we'll explan how and what you should write each paragraph in general. In addition, We will provide you with 5 different techniques for writing the introductory paragraph along with useful phrases.

Before we delve into how to write each paragraph in general, here is a quick summary of the basic five-paragraph structure:

Paragraph Structure breakdown
Introductory Paragraph 1. Provide background information about the essay topic.
2. Write a strong thesis statement
Body Paragraph A
Body Paragraph B
Body Paragraph C (Optional)
1. Include a transition word/phrase at the beginning
2. Write a topic sentence
3. Include supporting sentences
 
Conclusion Paragraph 1.A transition phrase (To sum up, in summary, in conclusion, to conclude, etc..)
2. Include a restatement of the thesis statement you wrote in your introduction
2. Provide a brief summary of your main ideas
 

The following sections will explain each paragraph in detail and provide you with a sample TOEFL essay.

Introduction

A high-scoring TOEFL introductory paragraph can be splitted into two parts. The first part is General background information about the essay topic. There are many different ways of writing the general background information about the topic. For example, you could write about a brief history of the topic or an explanation why this topic is conversocial or important. Alternatively, you can begin with other people’s opinions on this topic. There are actually 5 different techniques for writing an introductory paragraph:

  1. Begin with two sides of opinions on the essay topic
  2. Begin with the general public's opinions
  3. Introduce a fact that raises a question about the essay topic
  4. Introduce a debate on the essay topic
  5. Mention the advantage or disadvantage of a subject as a way to contrast your main opinion on the subject.

The video below shows you different high-scoring introductory paragraphs using these 5 techniques. Pay attention to the underlined phrases where the techniques are used. You can use those underlined phrases in your essay.

How to Write a High Scoring Introductory Paragraph - Part 2

 

The second part is what we call a thesis statement, which is the single most important sentence in your essay and you must include it in the introductory paragraph. A thesis statement is your main opinion on the essay topic, and it also includes a preview of your key points in which you will develop in your body paragraphs.

Here is a sample introductory paragraph:

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Children should be required to help with household tasks. Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

There are differing opinions on whether children should be required to do household tasks. Some people think that parents should do all the household tasks without their children's help, for they believe that children are still too young to do house work and can sometimes make things worse. Other people, however, argue that it is beneficial in many ways for children to take part in the household work. I, myself, agree with the latter. Children should be required to help with household tasks as it teaches children responsibility, discipline and contributes to a sense of unity.

Background Information: There are differing opinions on whether children should be required to do household tasks. Some people think that parents should do all the household tasks without their children's help, for they believe that children are still too young to do house work and can sometimes make things worse. Other people, however, argue that it is beneficial in many ways for children to take part in the household work.

Thesis Statement: Children should be required to help with household tasks as it teaches children responsibility, discipline and contributes to a sense of unity.

Body Paragraph

A good body paragraph usually includes

  1. A transition statement
  2. Topic sentence
  3. Supporting sentences

In the body paragraph, you will explain the reasons and ideas to support your essay’s thesis statement. A TOEFL essay normally has three body paragraphs. Each body paragraph gives the reader a detailed explanation about one main idea. This idea helps to show or convince the reader that your idea is true or correct. In addition, each paragraph must flow from one to the next. This is called coherence and is done using transitions. Transitioning between paragraphs can be done at the start of the new paragraph.

Using more complex transitions will help you get a perfect writing score, but it is not necessary to do well. For example, your body paragraphs can use simple transitions like
Body paragraph 1 - first of all, firstly, or to begin with
Body paragraph 2 - In addition to.., secondly, or furthermore
Body paragraph 3 - finally, thirdly, or lastly

After the transition comes the topic sentence. The topic sentence will summarize the body paragraph’s purpose. It’s meant to tell the reader what the main idea of the paragraph is about.

Finally, you need to write the supporting sentences. The supporting sentences are used to explain in detail the main idea. The supporting sentences need to fully explain the topic sentence using anything to help the reader understand. You can use things like reasons, examples, and even personal experiences. Since there should be more than one supporting sentence in each body paragraph, remember to use transitions to connect your ideas between supporting sentences.

Here is a sample body paragraph:

Nowadays, food has become easier to prepare. Has this change improved the way people live? Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

Firstly, people are losing sight of the importance that meals can have to families and friends, which is clearly not an improvement to life. Although meals take time to prepare and busy people may not have time, the preparation and eating of a meal as a family is a human tradition. Through cooking and eating meals people are able to share knowledge, stories, and experiences. Busy people are often seeking more time to spend with those people they care about, and what better way to spend time with people then in creating something together which is an integral part of life. If easy to prepare food allows people to not set aside important time spent with family and friends, then it has not improved people’s lives, but eliminated an important part of life.

A transition statement: Firstly

Topic sentence: People are losing sight of the importance that meals can have to families and friends, which is clearly not an improvement to life.

Supporting sentences: Although meals take time to prepare and busy people may not have time, the preparation and eating of a meal as a family is a human tradition. Through cooking and eating meals people are able to share knowledge, stories, and experiences. Busy people are often seeking more time to spend with those people they care about, and what better way to spend time with people then in creating something together which is an integral part of life. If easy to prepare food allows people to not set aside important time spent with family and friends, then it has not improved people’s lives, but eliminated an important part of life.

Conclusion

The last paragraph of your TOEFL essay is the conclusion. A conclusion does not have to be long. It can be just three or more sentences that gives the reader the sense that you are finished explaining your ideas. Without a conclusion, readers will feel like you just decided to stop writing, or that you ran out of time. A good conclusion should include the followings:

  1. A transition phrase (To sum up, in summary, in conclusion, to conclude, etc..)
  2. a restatement of the thesis statement you wrote in your introduction
  3. a brief summary of your main ideas

Here is a sample conclusion paragraph:

Describe a custom from your country that you would like people from other countries to adopt. Explain your choice, using specific reasons and examples.

In conclusion, the custom I would hope for more cultures to adopt is a sense of informality and friendliness. These two ideas in conjunction create a more socially relaxed and talkative populace. In business, it has created less formal attire and ways of addressing each other in order to have more open and creative conversations. Finally, this attitude attempts to include all people and ideas in society. Building a friendlier community is a benefit to all people.

A transition phrase: In conclusion

A restatement of the thesis statement: the custom I would hope for more cultures to adopt is a sense of informality and friendliness.

A brief summary of main ideas: These two ideas in conjunction create a more socially relaxed and talkative populace. In business, it has created less formal attire and ways of addressing each other in order to have more open and creative conversations. Finally, this attitude attempts to include all people and ideas in society. Building a friendlier community is a benefit to all people.

A High-scoring TOEFL Writing Sample for Independent Writing Task

Some people say that advertising encourages us to buy things that we really do not need. Others say that advertisements tell us about new products that may improve our lives. Which viewpoint do you agree with? Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer

Some people believe that advertisements lure us to purchase goods that are not of necessity. Others are of the view that advertising has a positive role to play in modern society, helping us choose between competing goods. In my opinion, I strongly believe that advertising encourages consumers to buy unwanted items for three compelling reasons.
Background Information: Some people believe that advertisements lure us to purchase goods that are not of necessity. Others are of the view that advertising has a positive role to play in modern society, helping us choose between competing goods.

Thesis Statement: In my opinion, I strongly believe that advertising encourages consumers to buy unwanted items for three compelling reasons

To begin with, advertising creates unrealistic expectations about products with exaggerated and misleading claims. For instance, advertisements for prescription drugs create unrealistic expectations about the effectiveness of the drugs and its side-effects. In these kinds of advertisements, the visual images only show healthy, happy people. It never truly shows the actual downside effects of the drugs. Similarly, beauty and health products may not live up to their promises, resulting in wasted consumer dollars. Disclaimers are often hidden in very small print on product packaging and in out-of-the way spots in ads.

A transition statement: To begin with
Topic sentence: Advertising creates unrealistic expectations about products with exaggerated and misleading claims.

Secondly, multinational corporations create meticulously crafted ads to entice consumers to purchase their products. For instance, fast food chain McDonald’s advertising artifacts try to lure children with toys and playrooms in order to sell kid’s meal. Moreover, vigorous advertising campaigns are promoted across a plethora of channels such as TV, billboards, online and so on to grab consumer attention to purchase goods that may be of no need to them. Consequently, people become more materialistic as advertising compounds their desire to own more items.

A transition statement: Secondly
Topic sentence: Multinational corporations create meticulously crafted ads to entice consumers to purchase their products.

Lastly, people cannot just choose to ignore advertising because advertisers use many underhand methods to get their message across. Posters have attention grabbing words, or provocative pictures. Furthermore, some advertisements today are even being hidden in what seem like pieces or art or public information. As a consequence, people don't realize they are being marketed to. By targeting people’s unconscious thoughts, adverts are a form of brainwashing that take away people's freedoms to make choices.

A transition statement: Lastly
Topic sentence: People cannot just choose to ignore advertising because advertisers use many underhand methods to get their message across.

In closing, I firmly believe that the sole purpose of advertisements are to persuade us to buy things that we normally wouldn’t. The products that are advertised often don’t live up to the standards we have set for them because of false advertising. In addition, ads created by big corporations are often exaggerated, making us buy goods that are not of necessity. Finally, because of many underhand methods advertisers use in ads, we are taken away our freedoms to make choices.

A transition phrase: In closing

A restatement of the thesis statement: I firmly believe that the sole purpose of advertisements are to persuade us to buy things that we normally wouldn’t.

A brief summary of main ideas: The products that are advertised often don’t live up to the standards we have set for them because of false advertising. In addition, ads created by big corporations are often exaggerated, making us buy goods that are not of necessity. Finally, because of many underhand methods advertisers use in ads, we are taken away our freedoms to make choices.

TOEFL Writing Templates for the Integrated Writing Task

As we said ealier, when you start the TOEFL Integrated writing task, you will be given 3 minutes to read an academic passage. After reading the passage, you will then listen to a lecture on the same topic. However, the reading passage may or may not have a different point of view from the lecture. There are a total of two different scenarios that you can encounter.

  1. Contradiction:
    The lecture contradicts or casts doubt on the key points in the reading passage.
  2. Supporting with Examples:
    The lecture supports the key points in the reading passage.

Below you will see writing templates for both scenarios.

TOEFL Writing Template #2: - Contradiction Question Type

The reading and the lecture are both about ______. Whereas the author of the reading states that _______, the lecturer suggests that ________. The lecturer casts doubt on the main points made in the reading by providing two/three reasons.

First of all, according to the reading, _____________ .However, the lecturer disputes this point. He/She says that _________. Furthermore, he/she mentions that ___________

Secondly, the reading states that _______. Nevertheless, the lecturer refutes this argument. He/She argues that __________. In addition, he/she points out ________.

Finally, the reading claims that _________. On the other hand, the lecturer believe that _____. He/She thinks that _______. Moreover, he/she feels that ________

In conclusion, although the reading and the lecture are both about _______, the two/three main points made in the reading are effectively challenged by the lecturer.

TOEFL Writing Template #3: - Supporting with Examples Question Type

The reading and the lecture are both about _____________. The reading states that ____________. The lecture builds upon those same ideas to give a more comprehensive picture with two/three examples.

First of all, according to the reading, _________. Supporting this idea, the lecturer explains that _________. Furthermore, he/she mentions that __________.

Secondly, the reading states that_______. The lecturer then goes on to explain that ________. In addition, he/she points out ________.

Finally, the reading claims that _______. In support of this idea, the lecturer brings up the point that ________. (Optional) Moreover, he/she feels that _________.

In conclusion, although the reading and the lecture both discuss __________, the two/three main points made in the reading are effectively supported by the lecturer.

A High-scoring TOEFL Writing Sample for the Integrated Writing Task

The reading and the lecture are both about the memoirs of the Chevalier de Seingalt. Whereas the author of the reading states that his memoir is an inaccurate document, the lecturer suggests that the memoir is a reliable record. The lecturer casts doubt on the main points made in the reading by providing three arguments.

First of all, according to the reading,  the Chevalier claims that he was wealthy while living in Switzerland, but since the Chevalier is known to have borrowed money there, he cannot have been very rich. However, the lecturer disputes this point. She suggests that the Chevalier’s wealth was in the form of property that had to be sold in order to generate cash. So he wasn’t poor. Furthermore, she mentions that the Chevalier just had to borrow money for a few days while he waited for his property to be sold. Secondly, the reading states that the conversations recorded in the memoir may not be very accurate. These conversations occurred many years before the memoir was written, so it would have been impossible for the Chevalier to remember them accurately. Nevertheless, the lecturer refutes this argument. She argues that Chevalier often recorded conversations in his journals each night after the conversations took place. The Chevalier wrote down everything he could remember from them. In addition, she points out that there were witnesses confirming that the Chevalier regularly consulted these notes when writing his memoir years later.

Finally, the reading claims that the Chevalier's depiction of his own escape from a famous prison in Venice cannot possibly be honest since the Chevalier could have asked politically well-connected friends to offer his jailers a bribe to free him. On the other hand, the lecture believes that other prisoners who had even more powerful political connections were never able to bribe their way to freedom, so the Chevalier probably couldn't either. Moreover, she points out that prison records indicate that soon after the Chevalier's escape, the ceiling of his room in the prison had to be repaired

In conclusion, although the reading and the lecture are both about the memoirs of the Chevalier de Seingalt, the two/three main points made in the reading are effectively challenged by the lecturer.

Conclusion

You’re well on your way to success. Now that you’re knowledgeable on what may be coming your way on both the required essays of the TOEFL writing section, as well as the different styles of responses you’ll be asked to write, it’s time to start preparing. Hit the ground running as you study by using a writing template, allowing you to get your thoughts organized. You’ll soon be writing polished, comprehensible essays with the help of templates, getting you the score you need to reach your next goal.

 
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