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TOEFL writing practice test - improve your TOEFL score

TOEFL Writing Practice: Improve Your Writing Skills with Free TOEFL Writing Sample Essays & Lessons

In this guide you can start a free TOEFL writing practice test with sample essays and learn some basic and advanced independent & integrated writing lessons to help improve your writing skills and successfully prepare you for your TOEFL writing test. This page contains everything you need to know and the essential skills for a high writing score.

First off, if you're looking to take a free TOEFL writing practice test or are just curious what taking an official TOEFL writing test is like, then click the START TOEFL writing SAMPLE TEST button below.

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Next up is a list of all our TOEFL writing questions where you can study each question at your own pace. To start a free TOEFL writing test question, click the Mock Test 1 link.

TOEFL writing practice questions - independent writing Task

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TOEFL writing practice questions - integrated writing Task

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TOEFL Writing Introduction

The writing section is the fourth section of the TOEFL iBT test and takes about 50 minutes to complete. It consists of two separate tasks: an Integrated Writing task and an Independent Writing task. The Independent task requires you to write an opinionated essay based on your own knowledge and experience, whereas the Integrated task requires you to write a response synthesizing a lecture and a reading passage. Below, we examine the two TOEFL Writing tasks in detail.

Writing Task Details
Integrated Writing Task You are given 3 minutes to read an academic passage. After reading the passage, you then listen to a lecture on the same topic. You then write an essay summarizing the lecture and the reading passage and showing the relationship between them. You should not express your own opinion of the issues and you should not bring in any information form outside the passage and the lecture.

Reading: 3 minutes
Writing: 20 minutes
Independent Writing Task You read a prompt (a topic) and express your opinions in your response. Your response is based entirely on your own knowledge and experience.

Writing: 30 minutes

TOEFL Integrated Writing Task

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. You’ll have a total of 20 minutes to write your response. Your response should be around 150-225 words. During this time, you may reread the passage; however, you may not listen to the lecture again.

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.

It doesn’t matter which scenario you encounter. Your response must summarize the key points discussed in the lecture and explain how these points relate to the reading.

In this task, taking good notes is critical.

When taking notes for the reading passage, make sure to write down the position or opinion of the author and the main supporting reasons for that position or opinion. In most cases, there will be three main supporting ideas. Note that the reading passage are always presented in a point-by-point fashion. That is, the article begins with a main statement, followed by three paragraphs, each of which gives a main point supporting the main statement.

For the lecture, it’s the same basic idea as the reading passage. The lecture follows the same pattern, with the main points matching up with the main points in the reading passage. In other words, the main points directly support or refute the points made in the article, usually in the same order. You must be aware of this in order to take appropriate notes. One more thing! The lecture might include information that is not related to the reading. Remember this! You don’t need to write irrelevant information down in your notes!

In addition to taking good notes, you’ll need to write at least 5 paragraphs that synthesize the main points of the reading passage and lecture. You should also paraphrase when you write your response. DO NOT copy the exact words from the reading passage or lecture. Your score will suffer, if you do.

Here is the breakdown of your essay structure:

  1. Introduction
  2. Body A
  3. Body B
  4. Body C
  5. Conclusion

The introductory paragraph should contain the following:

  • The main topic of both the reading passage and the lecture
  • A paraphrase of the question describing the number of points made that were used to cast doubt on the reading passage.

Each body paragraph should cover one main point from the listening and explain in detail how it relates to the main points in the reading passage.

Finally, the conclusion paragraph should summarize the introductory paragraph...and yes...you guessed it...you should paraphrase. Do not use the same wording you used in the introduction paragraph.

Now, let’s examine the two scenarios ("Contradiction" and "Supporting with Examples") in more detail. In the following section, we will provide you with TOEFL writing sample questions, sample writing responses, and useful writing templates for each of them.

TOEFL Integrated Writing Task: Scenario 1 - Contradiction

This scenario is the most common scenario. In this scenario, the lecture will contradict or cast doubt on the key points in the reading passage. Here is a TOEFL Integrated Writing Task sample question:

Reading Passage:
Sea otters are a small mammal that lives in the waters along North America's west coast from California to Alaska. A few years ago some of the sea otter populations off the Alaskan coast started to decline rapidly, which raised several concerns because of their important role in the coastal ecosystem. Experts began investigating and came up with two possible explanations. One explanation was environmental pollution and the second was attacks by predators. It seems clear that it was, in fact, environmental pollution that was the cause.

One reason pollution was more likely was because of the known pollution sources along the Alaskan coast such as oil rigs. Also water samples taken in the area showed increased levels of chemicals that could decrease the otters' immune systems and indirectly result in their deaths.

Another thing that pointed to pollution as the culprit was the decline of other sea mammals such as seals in the same areas. This indicated that whatever was affecting the otters was also affecting the other sea mammals. Environmental pollution usually affects an entire ecosystem instead of just one species. Only predators that occurred in a large area, such as orcas (a large predatory whale), could cause the same effect, but they usually hunt larger prey.

Finally, scientists believed the pollution hypothesis would also explain the uneven pattern of otter decline. In some Alaskan locations the otter population declined greatly while other populations remained stable. Some experts suggested this could be explained by the fact that ocean currents, or other environmental factors, might have created uneven concentrations of pollutants along the coast.

Question:
Summarize the points made in the lecture and explain how the speaker casts doubt on specific points made in the reading passage.

Lecture:

As you can see, the main points of the lecture contradict the main points in the reading passage. The passage states that pollution was the cause of the declining population of sea otters, while the lecture states that the predation is the most likely cause of the decrease in sea otter populations. Here is the sample essay:

Sample Essay
The reading and the lecture are both about theories of the rapid decline in sea otter populations. Whereas the author of the reading states that pollution was the major cause of the decline in sea otter populations, the lecturer suggests that predation is the most likely factor contributing to the reduction in the number of the sea otters. The lecturer casts doubts on the main points made in the reading by providing three reasons.

First of all, according to the reading, the increased levels of pollutants taken from water samples provide evidence for the pollution theory. However, the lecturer disputes this point. He says that if the sea otters had been killed by pollutants in water, they would have been found on shores. Furthermore, he mentions that the absence of dead sea otters on shores indicates that sea otters were killed and eaten by predators.

Secondly, the reading states that aside from sea otters other small sea animals also decreased in population due to pollution. This finding indicates that the pollution is the reason why sea otters are in rapid decline. Nevertheless, the lecturer refutes this argument. He argues that because the whale population decreased, the orcas in the area had to eat otters instead of whales. As a result, the otter population diminished.

Finally, the reading claims that environmental factors, which lead to different levels of pollutant concentration, perfectly explain the uneven pattern of the diminishing sea otter populations. On the other hand, the lecturer believes that the uneven pattern of declining sea otter populations corresponds to the prevalence of orcas in different areas. He thinks that the otter population reduces in places with orcas and there was not a big decrease in otters in places where orcas could not access.

In conclusion, although the reading and the lecture are both about hypotheses of the diminishing sea otter populations, the three main points made in the reading are effectively challenged by the lecturer.

TOEFL Integrated Writing Template: Scenario 1 - Contradiction

Now, let's look at the writing template for scenario 1 - Contradiction.

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 Integrated Writing Task: Scenario 2 - Supporting with Examples

In this scenario, the main points of the lecture are examples that support the key points in the reading passage. Here is a TOEFL Integrated Writing Task sample question:

Reading Passage:
Despite the obvious advantages of technology, social media has generated highly negative consequences. To begin with, social media has created a false sense of connectivity and friendship. Additionally, social media has encouraged new forms of harassment through cyber-bullying. One last result of social media is a decrease in overall productivity. These negative attributes make social media a dangerous and controversial set of tools.

The first negative consequence of social media is a false sense of connectedness. People feel a sense of belonging when they can log onto the Internet and see the people they can talk to. Unfortunately, despite the number of people everyone can connect with, there are lower standards for what constitutes a friend. Relationships are casual online interactions rather than legitimate friendships.

Another consequence of social media is the creation of cyber-bullying. People in all age groups now find themselves the object of scorn and derision through message boards. In online interactions, people don’t fear saying things because they don’t have to do so in person. This unfortunate byproduct can have dreadful repercussions for both bullies and the bullied.

Finally, social media has become a distraction and decreased productivity. Students doing homework are likely to be pulled towards scouring social media to check on their friends. Rather than pursuing hobbies, people are more likely to spend time pursuing artificial relationships they established online. Social media has ultimately provided a source of addicting distraction that has turned the world into unproductive workers.

Thus when all factors are considered, the presence of social media has simply brought about too many negative repercussions for people. It has replaced genuine relationships with impersonal interactions. It has introduced a new and almost unpunishable form of bullying. Also, it has become a distraction, turning people into unproductive workers. The snowball effect of negative repercussions is astounding when examined in unison.

Question:
Summarize the points in the lecture, being sure to explain how they address the specific concerns for social media described in the reading passage.

Lecture:

Sample Essay:
The reading and the lecture are both about negative effects of social media. The reading states that three negative impacts of social media on the society are a false sense of connectedness, cyber-bullying, and decreased productivity. The lecture builds upon those same ideas to give a more comprehensive picture with three examples.

First of all, according to the reading, one negative consequence of social media is that it destroys relationships. Supporting this idea, the lecturer explains that people have begun to put more value on computer-based relationships rather than real life ones. He frames this idea as people losing touch with the real world, losing genuine relationships, and social skills.

Secondly, the reading states that another negative consequence of social media is cyber-bullying. This is when someone uses the internet to tease or harass someone, oftentimes anonymously. The lecturer goes on the explain that according to a CBS report, 42 percent of young people have experienced cyber-bullying. This high percentage indicates that social media has become a medium for cyber-bullying.

Finally, the reading claims that social media is a huge distraction for people. Instead of doing work or homework, people use social media to distract them from their obligations. In support of this idea, the lecturer brings up the point that the decrease in work productivity due to the overuse of social media has cost some businesses billions of dollars in lost revenue. For instance, one study done by Morse showed that British industries lost 2.2 billion dollars a year.

In conclusion, the reading and lecture both discuss adverse impacts of the prevalence of social media on the society. The three main points made in the reading are effectively supported by the lecturer.

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TOEFL Independent Writing Task

When you start the TOEFL independent writing task, you will be asked a question. Your job is to plan and write an essay in response to this question. It’ll help if you understand the different types of writing questions you may encounter. Let’s take a look at them now.

TOEFL Independent Writing Task Type: Agree or Disagree

The first independent question type on our list is “Agree or Disagree“. An "Agree or Disagree" question will give you a statement of opinion and ask you whether you agree or disagree with the statement. You will also have to provide specific reasons and examples to support your position. Here are examples:

  1. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? All students should be required to study art and music in secondary school. Use specific reasons to support your answer.
  2. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? High schools should allow students to study the courses that students want to study. Use specific reasons and examples to support your opinion.
  3. When people succeed, it is because of hard work. Luck has nothing to do with success.” Do you agree or disagree with the quotation above? Use specific reasons and examples to explain your position.
TOEFL Independent Writing Task Type: Support or Oppose

This type of question is very similar to the Agree or Disagree question. However, Instead of asking you to agree or disagree with the statement, the “Support or Oppose” question will ask you to support or oppose a situation. Here is an example:

  1. It has recently been announced that a new restaurant may be built in your neighborhood. Do you support or oppose this plan?
TOEFL Independent Writing Task Type: Preference

"Preference" questions give you a choice between two options and ask which option you prefer. You must provide specific reasons and examples to explain why you prefer the option you choose. Here are two examples:

  1. 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.
  2. Some people spend their entire lives in one place. Others move a number of times throughout their lives, looking for a better job, house, community, or even climate. Which do you prefer: staying in one place or moving in search of another place? Use reasons and specific examples to support your opinion.
TOEFL Independent Writing Task Type: If / Imaginary

"If / Imaginary" questions give you a hypothetical – or imagined – situation and ask what you would do or what you would choose. Rather than choosing between two things or two opinions, you are typically not limited in your choice. That is, you can choose anything that fits the situation. Here are three examples:

  1. Imagine that you are preparing for a trip. You plan to be away from your home for a year. In addition to clothing and personal care items, you can take one additional thing. What would you take and why? Use specific reasons and details to support your choice.
  2. If you were asked to send one thing representing your country to an international exhibition, what would you choose? Why? Use specific reasons and details to explain your choice.
  3. If you could invent something new, what product would you develop? Use specific details to explain why this invention is needed.
TOEFL Independent Writing Task Type: Description or Explanation

A "Description or Explanation" question will ask you to describe a certain type of person – especially the good qualities of a person – or explain something in the world. You might have to choose something to explain, or you might be given something specific to explain. You might have to explain why something is beneficial, important, or significant, or you might have to explain the reasons for or effects of something. Here are three examples:

  1. How do movies and television influence people's behavior.? Give reasons and examples to support your answer.
  2. 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.
  3. Neighbors are the people who live near us. In your opinion, what are the qualities of a good neighbor? Use specific details and examples in your answer.
TOEFL Independent Writing Task Type: Compare and Contrast

This is our last question type on our list and is a little tricky. The “Compare and Contrast" Question can be fool you, so you need to pay attention to what it’s really asking. Generally speaking, you will see 2 variations of this type of question.

First, the question might give you two subjects and could ask you to compare and contrast them. That is, to show the similarities and differences between them. However, the question might ask you to compare the advantages and disadvantages of only one subject, so read the question carefully.

Both variations could also ask you to state your personal opinion or your personal preference.

Here are examples of the first variation:

  1. 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?
  2. Some people trust their first impressions about a person’s character because they believe these judgments are generally correct. Other people do not judge a person’s character quickly because they believe first impressions are often wrong. Compare these two attitudes. Which attitude do you agree with? Support your choice with specific examples.
  3. Some people believe that the best way of learning about life is by listening to the advice of family and friends. Other people believe that the best way of learning about life is through personal experience. Compare the advantages of these two different ways of learning about life. Which do you think is preferable? Use specific examples to support your preference.

Here are examples of the second variation:

  1. Some young children spend a great amount of their time practicing sports. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this. Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.
  2. A company has announced that it wishes to build a large factory near your community. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this new influence on your community. Do you support or oppose the factory? Explain your position.

So! Can you see the difference between them? When you write a comparison and contrast essay, you need to be aware of what the question is asking. Is it asking for the comparison of two different things or is it asking you to describe advantage and disadvantage of one thing? Okay! Let’s look at the essay structure of both variations.

Compare aspects of two subjects. Compare the advantage and disadvantage of one subject.
Introductory paragraph Gives an overview of comparison and your personal opinion if the question asks you. Gives an overview of advantage and disadvantage and your personal opinion if the question asks you.
Body paragraph A Compare and contrast both two subject in one aspect. Discuss the advantage of the subject.
Body paragraph B Compare and contrast both two subject in another aspect. Discuss the disadvantage of the subject.
Conclusion paragraph Give a summary of comparisons between two opinions and restate your personal opinion if the question asks you. Summarize the advantage and disadvantage, and include a reinstatement of your personal opinion if the question asks you.

As you can see, the major difference is how you write your two body paragraphs.

When the question is asking you to compare aspects of two subjects, each body paragraph compares and contrasts two subjects in one aspect.

When the question is asking you to compare pros and cons of one subject, your first body paragraph discusses the advantage and your second body paragraph discusses the disadvantages.

TOEFL Independent Essay Structure

Now that you know about different writing question types you'll encounter on your TOEFL independent writing test, it's time to learn how to write a high-scoring TOEFL Independent essay. We'll look at how you can score high in each scoring criteria. An easier criteria to score high in is how you organize and structure an essay. Let's look at a basic high scoring TOEFL essay structure.

Introduction The introductory paragraph contains the general background information about the essay topic and a thesis statement. A thesis statement includes your main opinion on the essay topic and a preview of your key points which you will be developing in the body paragraphs. We’ll cover how to write an introductory paragraph in another lesson.
Body A
Body B
Body C
Each body paragraph is used to explain one key point you introduced in the introduction paragraph. Generally speaking, a high scoring essay has 3 body paragraphs, but if you find yourself running out of time, you can just write 2. After you complete your body paragraphs, it’ll be time to write your conclusion. We’ll cover how to write a body paragraph in another lesson.
Introduction The conclusion paragraph summarize each of your key points. It contains a restatement of the thesis statement you wrote in your introduction and a brief summary of your main ideas. We’ll cover how to write a conclusion paragraph in another lesson.

This 5 paragraph structure approach can be used for 5 out of the 6 essay question types. The “Compare and Contrast” question type is the only essay question that will require a different structure.

How to Write a High-scoring TOEFL Independent Writing Essay

Now, let's learn how to write a good introductory, body, and conclusion paragraph for the TOEFL Independent Writing Task.

How to write a high-scoring introductory paragraph - Part 1
How to write a high-scoring introductory paragraph - Part 2
How to write a high-scoring body paragraph
How to write a high-scoring conclusion paragraph

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How is the TOEFL Writing Section Scored?

When you complete your TOEFL test, your writing must be evaluated. This is done by a combination of human readers and a computer program called e-rater®. Each of your essays is given a score from 0 to 5. Your combined essay scores are converted to a section score of 0 to 30.

There are four basic criteria on which your essay is evaluated. These four criteria are:

  1. How well you address the topic.
  2. How well you develop and support your ideas.
  3. How well you organize the essay and connect your ideas.
  4. How well you use the English language, including grammar, vocabulary, and writing conventions.

"Writing conventions" are the special rules of writing in English, including spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.

As for the TOEFL Integrated Writing Task, here are four basic criteria on which your essay is evaluated. These four criteria are:

  1. How well you select important information from the lecture.
  2. How well you relate the lecture points to the reading points.
  3. How well you organize the essay and provide details
  4. How well you use the English language, including grammar, vocabulary, and writing conventions.

How to Prepare for the TOEFL Writing Test

It takes time to develop good writing skills. Chances are a good English writer already has years of experience writing English and using English in their daily life. If you are not a good English writer, do not get frustrated.

The good news is that you only need to be able to write well on TOEFL independent and integrated tasks. Here are a few things we suggest you do in order to complete the TOEFL Writing section in the most effective manner.

  1. To write well, first you need to read good essays so your brain has a database of good English structures and vocabulary you can use when writing. That being said, we recommend that you read and learn from our sample essays as much as possible. When learning these sample essays, do not just memorize them, but study how a paragraph is formed with different sentence structures, what words are used, and what main ideas are included. Ask yourself “Can I write similar sentence structures?” and “Can I form a sentence with these vocabulary words?”. The more you study, the more your writing skills will improve. The next time you write about a similar topic, you will be able to utilize them in your writing and add your own ideas.
  2. If you are not a good writer, spend at least an hour a day practicing independent writing and integrated writing tasks.
  3. Spend some time brainstorming ideas for all independent writing essays.
  4. Complete our writing lessons to ensure you know what characteristics a high-scoring TOEFL essay should have. In short, the following are key factors in scoring well on the TOEFL Writing section
  5. Understand the different types of prompts that appear in the independent writing section.
  6. Write a clear opinion or position on an issue.
  7. Write a good introduction and a good conclusion paragraph.
  8. Write 3 main body paragraphs. Each body paragraph should consist of a main idea and specific examples with details that support the main idea.
  9. Make good use of transition words to connect your ideas.
  10. Use a variety of words, both common and academic, correctly and appropriately.
  11. Use a variety of sentence structures correctly and appropriately.
  12. Master paraphrasing, synthesising, citing, and note-taking skills.
  13. Utilize all of our writing lessons
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