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TOEFL Writing Section Breakdown

Announcement! As of August 1, 2019, the TOEFL Reading, Listening and Speaking sections will be shortened. The TOEFL will also make changes to its prep materials and scoring system. Because of this, some of the info in our blog posts may not yet reflect the new exam format. We cover all the changes here.

The TOEFL writing section includes an integrated task and an independent task, which work together to test your ability to communicate through writing in an academic environment. This is the last section of the test, and it will take about an hour to complete.

The integrated writing task will require you to read a passage, listen to a lecture, and then write an essay that uses information from both of these sources. The independent task will be on a topic similar to the topics in speaking task #2—that is, it will ask you to use personal experience to explain an opinion that you have.

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The writing section is scored by two trained graders. Each will give your essays a score on a scale of 1-5. If they give you very different scores, a third grader will review the essay to decide your final score. A high-scoring essay will be well-organized, will give clear arguments and examples to support those arguments, and will include all of the important information from the given sources (on the integrated task, of course). To get a high score, you need to have a clear main point, and everything in your essay should contribute in some way to that point. As in the speaking section, a few minor language errors are not a major problem—this section is about communicating fully, so if your errors don’t interfere with communication and are not very many, then you probably don’t have much to worry about.

The scope of your essays

Many people try to include too much in their essays. Although it’s tempting to explore gray areas and expand on the (admittedly, pretty boring) prompt, most essays are only 200 – 400 words, and there’s just not time for that kind of development. Later, I’ll write in more detail about how you can structure your essays, but for now, it’s just important to know that the best use of your time and space is to choose one position and to focus on it the whole time. For more on how to make sure you stay on topic, check out our Clemmonsdogpark TOEFL writing lesson videos!

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