TOEFL Writing Topic Types

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TOEFL Writing Topic Type 1: Choose a SideThis is by far the most common type of independent writing question. These TOEFL prompts ask you to choose A or B then explain your decision. There are a couple of different approaches to writing this type of essay, but the simplest form is the five paragraph essay. Usually this is actually only four paragraphs, because you dont have that much timethe test only gives you 30 minutes to complete your independent essay.So if you choose A, you might write an essay that looks like this:IntroA is betterBody 1Reason 1 and examples of why A is betterShort contrast with BBody 2Reason 2 and examples of why A is betterShort contrast with BConclusionWhy this is significant in the real worldOf course, there are other ways to write an essay, but its a good idea to use a relatively simple structure for clarity. This is more true for the TOEFL than it is foressays on other tests, like the GRE, because the TOEFL is really a test of communication and how well you can write in English.Here are some examples of the choose a side writing topics:Do you agree or disagreewith the following statement? Parents are the best teachers. Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.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.Some peoplebelieve that the Earth is being harmed (damaged) by human activity.Othersfeel that human activity makes the Earth a better place to live. What is your opinion? Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.It has recently been announced that a large shopping center may be built in your neighborhood. Do yousupport or opposethis plan? Why? Use specific reasons and details to support your answerThere are a few common phrases which you will see in these essay topics, so theyre easy to spot those phrases areboldin the examples above.You might also get a slightly more complicated version of the choose a side prompt that asks you to compare sides, like this one:When people move to another country, some of them decide to follow the customs of the new country. Others prefer to keep their own customs.Comparethese two choices. Which one do you prefer? Support your answer with specific details.In that case, you could still use the structure I showed above, but you would emphasize the contrasts with B and write a bit more about them.Writing Topic Type 2: View Both SidesThis is actually very similar to the choose a side type of essay subject, but its a little bit more complicated because you have to think from two different standpoints. Thankfully, its also not as common.Here are a few examples:The government has announced that it plans to build a new university. Some people think that your community would be a good place to locate the university.Compare the advantages and disadvantagesof establishing a new university in your community. Use specific details in your discussion.Some young children spend a great amount of their time practicing sports. Discussthe advantages and disadvantagesof this. Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.There are a couple of different ways you might structure an essay like, but the simplest one may be the best.IntroGeneral statements about issueBody 1Advantages and examplesBody 2Disadvantages and examplesConclusionWhy this is significant in the real worldWriting Topic Type 3: Describe or ExplainIn a way, this is the most difficult type of independent essay question because it doesnt give you an A or B situation. Instead, you have to think of your own subject from a very big pool of possibilities.What discovery in the last 100 years has been most beneficial for people in your country? Use specific reasons and examples to support your choice.The 21st century has begun. What changes do you think this new century will bring? Use examples and details in your answer.What change would make your hometown more appealing to people your age? Use specific reasons and examples to support your opinion.If you could study a subject that you have never had the opportunity to study, what would you choose? Explain your choice, using specific reasons and details.If you could invent something new, what product would you develop? Use specific details to explain why this invention is needed.Because these writing topics dont give you a yesno or AB choice, its easy to get stuck in the planning phase. (By the way,planning is incredibly importantfor writing any standardized test essay; dont skip it!)The structure doesnt have to be very different, though. Heres a rough idea of how you might organize a descriptive essay:IntroYour choice/subjectBody 1Reason 1 and examplesBody 2Reason 2 and examplesBody 3Reason 3 and examplesConclusionWhy this is significant in the real worldNotice I added one more body paragraph. Because theres no other side to deal with, you have more time to explain the one topic you chose. So why not use that time for another paragraph!This Is Only Half of TOEFL WritingRemember that the independent essay is only half of the TOEFL writing section. Theres alsothe integrated task. Well look at the topics of integrated tasks in another post!More from MagooshTOEFL Writing Task ExamplesPacing for TOEFL WritingUsing Examples in the TOEFL EssaysCommon Writing DifficultiesBy the way, sign up for Magoosh TOEFL Prep! 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