TOEFL iBT Independent Writing: Analyses of Four Thesis Statements

Create sharply-focused thesis statements for TOEFL iBT writing.
Create sharply-focused thesis statements for TOEFL iBT writing.

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On Tuesday, my advanced TOEFL iBT class had 30 minutes to answer the following writing assignment: What historical event in your country has had a major effect on your country? Give reasons and examples to support your response.

Though this assignment does not involve writing about a reading and listening passage, like its integrated writing counterpart, it can be challenging for some students in that it involves using their imagination, brainstorming, creating a sharply-focused thesis, and structuring 3-4 developmental paragraphs in addition to the introductory paragraph. The following four thesis statements were written in my TOEFL class.

Thesis 1: The salvation war in my country has had a major effect. It has changed our lives.

Thesis 2: The independence war happened which is the biggest war that affected the history of my country.

Thesis 3: Two of the most important events in our history are wars which shaped my country in new ways. Moreover, these two wars have a relation to each other.

Thesis 4: The unification of my country at the end of a war in 1975 caused political changes, financial strains, and a drastic reduction in natural resources.

Since the thesis statement controls the flow of information in the developmental paragraphs and since it should be organized around the purpose of the writing assignment, whether you pass or fail an independent writing task on the TOEFL iBT will largely be determined by how your “frame” your thesis statement.

Both theses 1 and 2 are too general and do not predict the points to be discussed in the developmental paragraphs. For example, “How has this event changed you?” or “How has this war affected your country’s history?” should be specifically addressed in the thesis State a conclusion in the introduction and then defend how you came to that conclusion in the developmental paragraphs. Creating a sharply-focused thesis statement will make it easier for you to create the topic sentences of your developmental paragraphs.

Thesis 3 is setting itself up for a discussion of too many events and an analysis of how the two are related. It will be impossible for the writer to fully develop all of these points even in a 10 page writing assignment. Make sure you can deliver on what you promise in your thesis statement.

Thesis 4 Sharply-focused, this thesis statement includes a point by point list of three effects the war had on his/her country. Using this thesis as a blueprint will help this writer to write a coherently organized essay that directly answers the question.

By following a few simple tips, you too will be able to write sharply-focused thesis statements for the independent and integrated writing sections of the TOEFL iBT.

For more information, go here: http://onlinetoeflcourse.com

Thanks,

Michael Buckhoff, mbuckhoff@aol.com

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