TOEFL iBT Writing: How to Improve Your Writing Skills for the TOEFL iBT

Listen to this post:  How to Improve Your Writing Skills for the TOEFL iBT

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Do you fear college level writing assignments more than you fear the dentist? Is the writing section of TOEFL iBT bringing your overall score down? Would you like to improve your academic writing skills? If you have answered yes to one of these questions, pay close attention to the following tips for both the independent and integrated writing tasks for the TOEFL iBT.

Five Successful Habits for the Independent Writing Section of the


1. Create a list of familiar topics and practice writing about them: “Describe your favorite vacation destination,” and “Describe an important person who has influenced you” are representative of familiar Independent Writing topics for the iBT

2. You could also practice by stating an opinion or a preference and then by presenting reasons clearly and in detail. “Which do you think is better: living on campus in dorms or off campus in apartments?” is representative of an opinion-preference Independent Writing topic for the iBT.

3. Practice planning and writing an essay for each topic. Practice planning, writing, and revising each essay within the 30 minute time limit.

4. Practice prewriting techniques in you which you think about and list ideas related to a topic. Practice this BEFORE you begin writing your essay.

  • Identify one main idea and some main supporting points to support that main idea.
  • Create a sharply focused thesis statement and use it as a blueprint for the ideas presented in each developmental paragraph of the essay.
  • Use sufficient explanation and detail to develop the main supporting points of the essay.

5. Aim to write a minimum of 300 words for the Independent Writing section.

Five Successful Habits for the Integrated Section of Writing

Section of the TOEFL iBT

1. Understand how to write an effective summary.

2. Find a college textbook that includes discussion questions at the end of the chapter. Read the chapter, take notes, and practice writing answers to these questions.

3. Read a 300 to 400 word article and then create an outline of the major points and important details. Using the outline, write a summary of the information and ideas of the article.

4. Distinguish among quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing, three methods of citing material you use from other sources. Keep in mind when writing papers in university courses that whether you quote, paraphrase, or summarize, you will need to cite the author and page or date in your text and include a list of works cited at the end of a paper.

  • Take notes on the information in the listening and in the reading passage, especially discussing how both materials relate.
  • Synthesize (combine) the information in the listening and in the reading passage, especially discussing how the materials relate.
  • Explain how the ideas in the listening and reading materials are similar, how one idea expands upon another, how the ideas are different, or how ideas contradict one another.

5. Locate listening and reading materials on the same topic. The material, located on the Internet, in the library, or in your TOEFL book, can present different or opposing views.

So, after having put into action these tips for a period of time, maybe completing an essay examination isn’t so bad after all.

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6 thoughts on “TOEFL iBT Writing: How to Improve Your Writing Skills for the TOEFL iBT”

  1. Pingback: TOEFL iBT Speaking and Writing: A Case Study of a Student Who Took the TOEFL iBT Nine Times! - Better TOEFL Scores Blog

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  4. Dear Madam or Sir,

    Here is a short excerpt from my new book aimed at helping students, especially freshmen, negotiate the difficult passage from high school to college. If after reading it you would like a copy for review, you will find contact information below.

    Yours sincerely,

    Philip Yaffe
    UCLA Daily Bruin (1964-65)

    During my senior year, I tutored writing to make a bit of much-needed cash. I remember one case in particular. A girl came to me with a note from a professor: “Young lady, I advise you either to drop my class immediately or prepare to fail it.” Obviously she was bright enough; after all she was a student at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). So where was the problem?

    I read a couple of her essays that had gotten such poor marks. There was no question that she had a lot of interesting things to say. Equally, there was no question that she was saying them badly.

    It very quickly became apparent where the problem lay. She simply was not fully using one of the fundamental principles of good writing, because she thought that consistently applying it was just too much trouble. It took a couple of sessions to convince her that it wasn’t too much trouble — in fact it was crucial. Her writing immediately began to improve. At the end of the term, not only didn’t she fail the class, she had pulled her grade all the way up from a certain “F” to a gratifying “B”.

    This was not an isolated case. When students were having writing difficulties, it was generally because they were: 1) unfamiliar with a fundamental principle, 2) inconsistently applying it, 3) improperly applying it, or 4) not applying it at all.

    I am not saying that to be a good writer, you should first study journalism. However, because it was the antithesis of the poor writing I had been doing previously, journalism gave me a flying start. Over the past four decades I think I have added some insights into good writing that I didn’t learn from journalism. Or at least I have made explicit certain key ideas which previously were implicit, and therefore poorly applied.

    The title of the book is The Gettysburg Approach to Writing & Speaking like a Professional. To request a review copy, please contact me at:,

  5. Pingback: Better TOEFL® Scores » Blog Archive » Idiomaticity of Language and the TOEFL iBT: How Naturally Do You Speak and Write Academic English?

  6. Pingback: Better TOEFL® Scores » Blog Archive » If you want to take the TOEFL iBT, then you should read this explanation.

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