Mario is learning in his TOEFL course how to improve his writing proficiency.

“Let me see if I can get this writing practice test right this time,” thought Mario as he thought about how he had decided to subscribe to this TOEFL course three months ago. It seemed as if he had been studying TOEFL for a thousand years while he worked hard to solve vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, listening, reading, writing, and speaking problems. And the biggest problem of all was the writing section.

The first problem Mario faced was learning how to create a thesis statement for the independent and integrated writing tasks. It was relatively easy for him to create a thesis for the integrated writing task, but Mario struggled with what Michael had kept telling him after his first three independent writing practice tests–that he needed to create  an arguable, sharply-focused, and unambiguous thesis.

The second issue that Mario faced was his topic sentences. Even though he had read many sample essays and even though Michael had taught him, Mario still struggled with writing topic sentences that were, like his thesis, arguable, focused, and clearly stated, even to the point that they would restate a key point from the thesis.  “Why does writing, wondered Mario, “have to be so organized. Why can’t I simply say what is on my mind?”

A third issue with which Mario dealt was using appropriate details to support his generalizations. He had a tendency to use nondescript details to support his generalizations, only sometimes relating these specifics to the purpose of his body paragraphs. It was hard for him to imagine ideas with an imposed 30 minute time constraint, and he had never been asked to do that type of writing before,  even in his own language.

The last difficulty facing Mario was that he was trying to improve his knowledge of basic and advanced vocabulary and grammar usage.  “You need to display more syntactic variety,” Michael told him each time after Mario had completed his first two practice tests.  “Why does English have so many vocabulary words,” Mario contemplated, “and so many different sentence structures.”

But as Mario started his fourth independent writing practice test at “The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT,” he felt like a sword that had been bent and shaped after being heated in 1,700 F heat.   The trials–his learning to write a thesis, create topic sentences, use telling relevant details in body paragraphs, and display basic and advanced vocabulary and grammar–had pushed him to his intellectual limit but had helped him to improve his writing proficiency. So this time, he was more confident and knew he had what it took to score 24/30 on the writing section of the TOEFL iBT.

This article was written by Michael Buckhoff–co-founder and materials writer for Better TOEFL Scores and The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT, Composition and Linguistics Professor, TOEFL Specialist, ESL Master Instructor, and Placement and Testing Coordinator for California State University, San Bernardino.Follow more posts and videos from Michael at Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube.

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