Cohesive TOEFL Topic Sentences

Using cohesive TOEFL topic sentences will help you organize your speaking and writing tasks. Indeed, having a cohesive organization during the speaking and writing sections of the exam will help you to score high. In addition, understanding how speakers and writers organize their ideas will help you to perform optimally during the reading and writing sections of the TOEFL exam.

Therefore, how exactly should you organize your speaking and writing tasks? This web page will give you training in how you can use particular phrases and transition words. You will learn how to use these phrases and words to help listeners and readers understand the connection of your ideas. Lastly, you will complete some practice exercises to strengthen your ability to write and speak cohesive topic sentences.

Cohesive TOEFL Topic Sentences


Cohesive TOEFL Topic Sentences: What is cohesion?

Cohesion is the skill of connecting two pieces of information together. From one sentence to the next and from one paragraph to the next, cohesion is the glue that holds your speaking and writing ideas together. You should use Cohesive TOEFL topic sentences during the speaking and writing parts of the TOEFL exam.

Two non-cohesive sentences: Students should study in groups so that they can understand the course material better. Universities give objective exams, essay exams, and speaking and writing projects.

Two cohesive sentences: Students should study in groups so that they can understand the course material better. For example, students can learn the biological concept of photosynthesis more effectively by discussing the term in groups for clarification purposes.

The second sentence uses “for example,” “students,” “learn,” “biological concept of photosynthesis,” “effectively,” and “groups” to tie back to the ideas in the previous sentence. Therefore, the sentence has cohesion.

Cohesive TOEFL Topic Sentences: What is a topic sentence?

A topic sentence statesa a generalization. The rest of the paragraph illustrates that generalization with specific examples. On the one hand, independent speaking or writing tasks should include arguable topic sentences, thereby creating an argumentative tone.   On the other hand, integrated speaking or writing tasks should include factually general topic sentences, hence signifying an objective (non-argumentative) tone. In either case, make sure that you use cohesive TOEFL topic sentences.

Example of an independent writing topic sentence: Good co-workers should be team players, an important quality if they are to get along well with others in the organization.

From the sentence, it is clear that the writer will now argue why teamwork in an important quality in a good co-worker.

Example of an independent speaking topic sentence: Bicycling is a better form of exercise than running because it has less harmful impact on the body.

This clearly framed topic sentence will argue that bicycling has less impact on the body to illustrate why it is a better form of exercise than running.

Example of an integrated writing topic sentence: However, the speaker questions the benefits of the social strain theory discussed by the author in the reading passage.

After the topic sentence, the writer, using a neutral tone, will now explain how the speaker does not agree with the benefits of the social strain theory that are mentioned by the author in the text.

Example of an integrated speaking topic sentence: The speaker uses a specific example to further illustrate the concept of the economic principle of the law of supply and demand.

Using an objective, or non-argumentative tone, the test-taker will explain how the speaking in the listening passage adds to the supply and demand economic principle. These examples point out that you should use cohesive TOEFL topic sentences if you want to score high on the speaking and writing sections of the TOEFL exam.

Cohesive TOEFL Topic Sentences: Using “In addition to….”

One way to link two ideas together is the “In addition to” phrase.

First idea: An important quality in a co-worker is punctuality.

Second idea: In addition to being punctual, good co-workers should be team players.

The second sentence uses a phrase “in addition to being punctual” to connect back to a topic in a previous paragraph. Then the independent clause uses “team players” as the new topic of the paragraph.

First idea: First of all, the reading passage explains that Zebras have black and white stripes to dazzle their predators.

Second idea: Second of all, in addition to dazzling their predators, the zebras’ black and white stripes, according to the author, confuse biting insects which prefer to land on animals with solid colors.

The second idea uses phrases “Second of all” and “in addition to dazzling their predators” to cohesively tie back to the first idea. Then in the main part of the sentence, the writer uses “….stripes….confuse biting insects” as the new topic of the paragraph.

Hence, using “in addition to” in cohesive TOEFL topic sentences helps to organize your writing and speaking tasks.

Cohesive TOEFL Topic Sentences: Using “like”

“Like” can also be used to tie ideas together in cohesive TOEFL topic sentences, particularly to show a similarity between two ideas.

First idea: Hurricanes cause considerable damage to large coastal areas.

Second idea: Like hurricanes, tornadoes wreak property havoc on an area.

The second sentence uses “like hurricanes” to show how tornadoes are similar in terms of the damage they can inflict on an area.

Using “similar to”

“Similar to” also shows the similarity between two ideas in cohesive TOEFL topic sentences, hence cohesively connecting them.

First idea: The man does not like the new policy of bicycling parking on campus because it will force students to park too far from their classes.

Second idea: Similar to the man, the woman disagrees with the new policy and adds that it is unfair to begin ticketing students who violate the new regulation.

“Similar to the man” is used in the second sentence to show how the man and the woman hold a negative view of the new policy.

Using “similarly”

Instead of a group of words, the adverb “similarly” connects ideas that show a likeness in cohesive TOEFL topic sentences.

First idea: The man agrees with the policy that final exam week should be shortened from four to two days.

Second idea: Similarly, the woman agrees that reducing final exam week to two days will be much more convenient for both students and faculty alike.

The second sentence uses “similarly” to show how the woman, like the man, also thinks that reducing the length of final exam week is beneficial.

Using “also,” “furthermore,” and “moreover”

“Also,” “furthermore,” and “moreover” are three cohesive TOEFL transition words. They can be used in cohesive TOEFL topic sentences to add to ideas in previous paragraphs.


First idea: Roommates must be honest in order for me to live with them.

Second Idea: Also, being clean is an important quality of compatible roommates.


First idea: Nuclear energy is not a viable energy source for the future because plutonium can be used to produce nuclear weapons.

Second Idea: Furthermore, nuclear energy should not be used since these energy-producing facilities are susceptible to natural disasters


First idea: The author in the reading passage claims that scope creep represents unplanned, unnegotiated parts of a project.

Second Idea: Moreover, scope creep, according to the author, causes a worker to take on more parts of a project without being compensated.


Quiz 1 on Topic Sentences


Read each paragraph/response and then choose the topic sentence that bests explains its purpose.

1.  ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________To illustrate, last semester I was taking an organic chemistry class. About four weeks into the class, I began preparing for our scheduled midterm exam which was worth 35% of our overall grade. The midterm exam covered a lot of important concepts, but I was not 100% confident that I would score well. Therefore, I joined a group to prepare for the exam. During our three hour study session, we prepared a specific study guide with sample test questions plus answers.  Then we verbally tested each other all the mock test questions that we had prepared.  Participating in this group study definitely helped me understand the organic chemistry content because I scored a 97% on the test which was higher than the 81% I received on the previous test for which I had studied alone.

A. Chemistry class was a lot harder than I thought it would be.

B. I prepare for tests by making mock questions to see if I can accurately recall the information.

C. Group study is more beneficial than individual study because students can understand the course better.

D. I usually score well on most of my tests in college.

2. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________Last year, for instance, I had a friend who started bicycling. To get started, he bought a mountain bike for $1,540.  After that he purchased bicycle pants, shoes, shirts, and a helmet, all of which totaled more than $2,300.  However, as I runner, I purchased some necessary equipment and running apparel such as watch ($100), shorts ($50), shoes ($100), and socks ($35), which is a lot less expensive than the bicycling gear that my friend had to buy.

A. Bicycles can be more expensive that most people think.

B. Running shoes cost around $100 a pair.

C. Running is a better form of exercise than bicycling because it is much cheaper.

D. Bicycle helmets should be worn at all times.

3.  ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________I work in a marketing agency, to illustrate, and the first thing in the morning after we show up for work, my team and I collaborate to figure out what projects we need to begin for our many clients. At that early meeting, our team delegated specific tasks to each group member.  On that day, Tomas did not arrive to work until 9:30 AM, but he was supposed to show up at 8:00 AM. Thus, he missed the first 90 minutes of our team meeting, and, after he showed up, we had to spend a lot of time catching him up on his assigned tasks. Workers, like Tomas, who consistently show up late should be fired because they cannot be depended on.

A. An important quality of a good co-worker is punctuality, and showing up to work in a timely fashion is a must.

B. Teams often delegate tasks to each participant in order for the group to function well.

C. Some workers may show up late from time to time when they are going to their jobs.

D. An important attribute of a good co-coworker is that he or she gets along well with others.

4. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________During the time of the dinosaurs, the author explains, a gradual warming trend caused dinosaurs to become hot. Moreover, their testes hang out externally, and the dinosaurs could not shed the unwanted heat. Hence, their testes became so hot that they could no longer function correctly.  Eventually, the great beasts, according to the author, became sterile, so they could no longer reproduce with their female dinosaur counterparts. Eventually, the author asserts, dinosaurs died out.

A. Dinosaurs overheated because of a gradual warming of the atmosphere.

B. The great beasts prefer to wander with their female counterparts so that they have the chance to socialize.

C. According to the author in the reading passage, dinosaurs became extinct because global warming caused the males to become sterile so that they could not longer reproduce.

D. The reading passage explains that dinosaurs could no longer reproduce.

5. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________For instance, my friend who lives in the High Desert in Southern California recently purchased a 40 foot tall wind mill. A average wind speed of 12 miles per hour propels his wind turbine, and each day he generates enough electricity from the wind to power all the electricity needs for him and his family. In addition, since he does not rely on fossil-fuel produced electricity, his use of wind power is much better for the environment since wind power does not emit any harmful greenhouse gases.

A. Some residents in areas of ample wind purchase windmills.

B. Fossil fuels create greenhouse gases as a byproduct of their usage.

C. An average wind speed of 12 miles per hour is needed for wind power.

D. Wind power is a viable alternative to fossil fuels because it is a clean energy source. 

6. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________First of all, the woman believes that shortening the final exam week would place unnecessary stress on students. Right now, students have 5 days for final exams, and only 1 exam occurs on each day.  However, according to her, changing that schedule would force students to have to take 2-3 exams on each day of finals which is too much.  Second of all, changing the final exam week to only two days, the woman asserts, would make it harder for professors to get all their grading done before having to submit their grades at the end of the semester.  Currently, like students, professors only have to administer 1 final exam during each day of finals, so they have plenty of time to grade their exams and papers, concludes the woman.

A. Students would have to take too many exams on each day of final exam week if it were compressed to two days.

B. In the listening passage, the woman believes that shortening final week has two negative consequences.

C. According to the woman, shortening final exam week would put too much pressure on professors.

D. Final week will undergo some changes in order to make it better for both students and faculty.

7.____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________The critical period, mentions the speaker, is a window from 0 to puberty in which the brain is receptive to learning a language.  After that window of learning has passed, it is much more difficult to learn a language, adds the speaker. To illustrate this theory, the professor explains that adults, since they have passed that critical period, find it much more difficult to learn second languages than prepubescent children who learn other languages. In addition, the speaker gives the example of Genie, who had not learned a first language before puberty, and, at the age of 14 was unsuccessful in acquiring a language with near-native proficiency.

A. Adults cannot learn second languages since they are past the critical period.

B. Mature brains are most receptive to learning a first or second language, argues the professor in the listening passage.

C. The speaker in the lecture explains that children and adults can easily acquire a second language with practice.

D. The professor defines the critical period theory of child language acquisition and presents two examples to further illustrate the idea.


First of all, according to the reading passage, the cafeteria will no longer serve hot meals.  Having cold meals will be less expensive, and this food will even be healthier for students, concludes the author.

Second of all, the man in the listening passage disagrees strongly with the new policy. He argues that students do not like eating cold foods in the morning. Instead, they prefer a hot breakfast which will help them get the day started right. In addition, the man doesn’t believe that serving only cold cereals is a healthier option because most breakfast cereals contain high amounts of sugar.

A. According to the man, serving any kind of breakfast, whether it is hot or cold, will be advantageous to students.

B. The reading passage explains a new policy about cafeteria food on campus, and, in the listening passage, a student reacts to the new policy.

C. Basically, the reading and the listening passage are focusing on a similar idea of life style choices that the students must make during their university life.

D. Opposing the new policy, the man believes that no changes should be made.

9. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

On the one hand, group study is beneficial because students can consult with each other to have a deeper knowledge of the class content. For example, a couple of years ago, I was preparing for a biology exam. To get ready for the exam, I decided to study with four other students.  Because I was able to study with my classmates, I was able to get a deep understanding of cell division in plants.

On the other hand, group study can create some problems. To illustrate, during my group study for my biology exam, sometimes we talked about personal and unrelated matters instead of focusing on our discussion of cell division. As a result, we spent about three hours preparing for our exam on cell division.  I am sure that we could have finished our study within a 90 minute time frame had we not spent so much time chit chatting.

A. Group study is the most beneficial method of study in that I stay more alert since I have others to keep me focused.

B. A disadvantage to group study is distractions as members may digress from the purpose of the study session by talking about trivial matters.

C. I do not prefer group study because it causes too many distractions which cause me to lose focus from my studies.

D. Group study has advantages and disadvantages for students who choose this method of exam preparation.

10. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________The hospital in my town has limited funds, and unfortunately, a lot of poor people live in the vicinity.  My town has no funds to help poor people to get the basic healthcare they need so that they can get treatment when they get sick.  Five million dollars would allow the hospital to set up a clinic with a staff of three doctors and six nurses. Children, parents, and their elderly relatives would be able to get basic medical treatment with this money, so I would definitely donate my half of my lottery winnings to this cause.

A. Most poor people in my town do not have enough money to purchase health insurance.

B. My hospital with its emergency room, pediatric center, and surgery center, treats more than 987 patients daily.

C. Winning 5 million dollars would be so exciting to me, so I would not spend it on anything but myself.

D. Donating 5 million dollars of my lottery winnings would help our local hospital provide more care for the uninsured.


Quiz 2 on Sentence Cohesion

Which sentences connect together cohesively?

  • The second sentence will use the same or similar words to refer back to words in the first sentence.
  • A transition word may be used in the second sentence in order to show how the two sentences are related. 
  • The second sentence may use an example to illustrate a point brought up in the first sentence.


A. Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. This popular season of the year also gives people a chance to spend time with family.

B. Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. My friend gave me a present last year, which was a gift certificate to Disneyland.


A. Being friendly is indeed an important characteristic in a roommate. My friend went to his parent’s house last week so that he could visit with them for a few days.

B. Being friendly is indeed an important characteristic in a roommate. Without this crucial trait, roommates will not be compatible.


A. Completing homework assignments daily creates less stress for students. Professors require most students to complete a research project in English Composition courses.

B. Professors require most students to complete a research project in their English Composition courses. In fact, my friend is completing a 7-10 page term paper in his writing class this quarter.


A. Typically, Southern California receives most of its rain during the winter months from December through March.  However, this past year California had unusual amounts of rain during the summer time.

B. This past year California had unusual amounts of rain during the summer time. Typically, the southeast portion of the United States experiences killer tornadoes during the spring.


A. The United States’ economy experiences robust periods of growth for 5-7 year cycles.  After this booming cycle, the economy slides into a recession with declining GDP rates for 3-5 years.

B. The United States’ economy experiences robust periods of growth for 5-7 year cycles. I invest in the stock market but only a small percentage of the money I earn.


A. Improving your TOEFL speaking and writing skills can be directly attributed to how much listening and reading input you get. When you study grammar, focus on the more advanced structures such as adjective, adverb, and noun clauses.

B. Improving your TOEFL speaking and writing skills can be directly attributed to how much listening and reading input you get.  To illustrate, aim to get 45 minutes of listening and reading practice daily.


A. Children who have cell phones have more distractions. Complete, unlimited access, for example, to the Internet through these smart phones will take children’s focus off of their studies, and these children will obsess over their social media accounts.

B. Children who have cell phones have more distractions. I have a friend whose child brings his iPad to school every day and uses it to complete his required in-class exercises.


A. Photosynthesis is the process through which plants convert sunlight into energy. Sometime the sun’s solar flares disrupt frequency signals here on Earth, thereby making it difficult to access the Internet or to use any devices requiring wi-fi.

B. Photosynthesis is the process through which plants convert sunlight into energy. As the sun shines on plants, they use its rays to create foods from carbon dioxide and water.


A. Chad and I went mountain bike riding up a steep incline to Simpson Park.  Once we got to the summit, we took a break from our ride and drank some Gatorade.

B. Chad and I went mountain bike riding up a steep incline to Simpson Park. My spouse and son were watching television at home because they wanted to watch the premier television show A Christmas Carol.


A. According to the author in the reading passage, parrots use language because they can name different colors when they trainer points to them. However, the speaker in the lecture does not believe parrots use language and claims that the birds are conditioned to name the colors.

B. Parrots use language because they can name different colors when they trainer points to them.  Marmots live in the High Sierra mountains and have adapted to the cold weather by growing thick furry coats

Quiz 3 on “in addition to,” “like,” “similar to,” “also,” “furthermore,” and “moreover”

Choose which word best fits into the sentence.

1.  Off the coast of Spain, explorers found many gold coins at the bottom of the ocean. ________________, the explorers discovered three old cannons that used by the Spanish Armada 100’s of years ago.

A. in addition to

B. like

C. similar to

D. furthermore

2. ____________earthquakes, flash floods cause catastrophic damage on a community.

A. in addition to

B. also

C.  furthermore

D. moreover

3. ________other states, California regulates automobile emissions.

A. in addition

B. like

C. Similar

D. moreover

4. _________________Earth, Mars has an atmosphere, but the extremely cold night time temperatures will make it difficult for colonizers to live there.

A. in addition

B. also

C. similar to

D. furthermore

5. Giving gifts to others during the Christmas season is a rewarding experience. ___________, it is also satisfying to receive gifts from loved ones.

A. in addition to

B. like

C. similar to

D. furthermore

6. ____________building your vocabulary, you should also be reading and listening to authentic texts for 45 minutes daily.

A. in addition to

B. furthermore

C. also

D. moreover

7. _____________, completing speaking and writing practice tests and getting qualified feedback will help you to improve your TOEFL score.

A. in addition to

B. like

C. Similar to

D. also

8. ____________controlling your vocabulary, you should also be using basic and advanced vocabulary during the speaking and writing sections of the TOEFL exam.

A. in addition

B. like

C. similar

D. moreover

9. ___________China, India has more than 1 billion people living within its borders.

A. in addition

B. moreover

C. similar to

D. also

10. My parents purchased a dog for me when I was a child.  __________, they made sure I took care of this dog by feeding, bathing, and running it.

A. in addition to

B. like

C. Similar to

D. furthermore

11. This year Disney has produced six movies, each of which has produced 1 billion dollars. __________, their amusement park in Anaheim has also had robust sales, especially with the addition of the Star Wars attraction.

A. in addition to

B. like

C. similarly

D. however

12. Children need loving parents who can make them feel wanted. They_______need to be constantly learning new ideas so that their brains remain stimulated.

A. in addition to

B. like

C. similar to

D. also

13. _____________wrestling, practicing Karate improves your fine motor skills.

A. moreover

B. like

C. Similarly

D. furthermore

14. During TOEFL task 2, you need to create a sharply-focused thesis to frame your body paragraphs. ____________, you should write clearly marked topic sentences restating they key points mentioned in your thesis.

A. in addition to

B. like

C. similar to

D. furthermore

15. In the integrated writing task, you should create an introduction that states the main point of the reading and the listening passage. __________, each of your body paragraphs should state one of the key points from the reading and listening passages.

A. in addition to

B. like

C. similar to

D. moreover

16.  ____________that of California, the climate in parts of Arizona is arid with sparse rainfall.

A. in addition

B. alike

C. similar to

D. also

17. Plastics should be recycled. ____________, societies should stop using nonbiodegradable plastics.

A. in addition to

B. like

C. similar to

D. furthermore

18. _________Las Vegas, other cities are allowing gambling so that officials can tax people’s winnings

A. additionally

B. like

C. similarly

D. also

19. ___________having  a lot of exposure to English, you should also take some TOEFL practice tests in order to measure your progress and to pinpoint your weaknesses.

A. in addition to

B. like

C. Similar

D. furthermore

20. When hiking in the Grand Canyon, you should wear clean, dry socks with well-fitting boots about 1/2 a size too big.  ___________, hikers should bring at least 3 liters or water on the downhill portion and then fill up by filtering 5 liters of water from the Colorado River before they begin the uphill portion of the hike.

A. in addition to

B. like

C. Similar to

D. moreover

TOEFL Services

Are you ready to finish the TOEFL so that you can move on with your life?  I have several services to help you in your TOEFL preparation:

Good luck!

Michael Buckhoff
Michael Buckhoff







Michael Buckhoff,

Teaching Experience

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