TOEFL Essay Topic

I got an email about a TOEFL essay topic. One of my students saw the writing prompt during the independent writing task. Unsure of how to answer the question, she sent me an email asking me how she should frame her answer.
TOEFL essay topic

TOEFL Essay Topic

Do you think the problems that we face in today’s society can be solved during your lifetime? Give reasons and examples to support your response.

TOEFL Essay Topic: Writing Tips with an unfocused writing prompt

  • Even though the prompt uses the words “problems,” it does not mean you should create a broad, unfocused answer to the TOEFL essay topic. In 30 minutes, it is impossible for you to explain several problems and whether or not society can address those problems.  If you approach your writing from that angle, you have already failed the writing task before you have even started it.
  • Therefore, your strategy is to narrow your topic until you are addressing a specific problem in society such as education, immigration, crime, employment, or climate change.
  • Then you can explain whether or not you believe society can solve that particular type of problem.

Model Essay

 In societies all over the world, people want to succeed financially, they want to be in good health, and they want their families to feel safe. Of course, there are no guarantees in life, and unfortunately current problems exist that prevent many people from even having the basic necessities of life. A current worldwide problem facing society is climate change. Although researchers believe that the current human-induced greenhouse gases could cause an extinction-level event for humans, this existential threat will not be solved in my life-time. Economic dependency on fossil-fuel products, the unwillingness for many countries to come together for a solution, and the lack of power at the United Nations will make it nearly impossible to solve this problem.
First of all, society will not be able to address the complexities of climate change because many countries rely too much on fossil fuels. For example, in the United States, despite incentives from local, state, and governmental agencies, many people continue to rely on automobiles as their main mode of transportation. In addition, these drivers use gasoline-powered engines which emit carbon dioxide and other noxious fumes into our air. Similarly, many companies continue to build products from plastic which is also produced by petroleum products. In fact, consumers continue to buy these plastic products because they are cheaper. In appears that many consumers in the US are unwilling at this point to change how they travel nor are they willing to purchase non-fossil fuel based products.
Second of all, the unwillingness of major economic superpowers to work together will also make solving climate change impossible.  For instance, California, which has a population of almost 41 million people, leads the United States in making positive changes to address climate change. To illustrate, California requires that gasoline be mixed with ethanol and also requires that all vehicles have cleaner-burning engines that filter the more harmful pollutants from ever entering the atmosphere. However, others states in the south such as Georgia and Mississippi do not have these same regulations because it makes gasoline too expensive for their consumers. Likewise, other countries such as China and India, two of the biggest greenhouse gas pollutants on Earth, do not follow California’s strict environmental regulations either.  Citing economic hardships, many countries are unwilling to come together to address climate change.
Last of all, because the United Nations (UN) is seen by many as a toothless tiger, this political body, whose permanent members are United States, United Kingdom, China, Russia, and France, is unable to force countries to address the climate change issues in front of us.  For example, the UN Security Council has power to deploy troops, to mandate a cease-fire, and to impose economic sanctions on a country. Therefore, in theory, the UN could vote to impose sanctions on countries that are considered gross pollutants. However, the UN must have a unanimous vote before it could impose those sanctions. Typically, China, Russia, and sometimes France vote in an opposite manner to the United States and the United Kingdom. Therefore, it is impossible for the UN to make any positive changes toward climate change since not all members in the UN see that in their national interest.
To sum up, climate change, like many societal problems, will not be solved in my lifetime. Sadly, many people are too dependent on fossil fuels, countries are unwilling or unable to work together, and the UN does not have the power to force nations to address climate change issues.

Discussion of the Model Essay

The essay will score high for several reasons:

  • Instead of discussing several societal problems, the writer focuses exclusively on climate change.
  • The writer includes a sharply-focused thesis to frame the body paragraphs.
  • Clearly-marked topic sentences restate the key points of the thesis.
  • Specific details are used in each body paragraph to illustrate its topic sentence.
  • Several transition words are used in each paragraph to give the paragraph a coherent structure.
  • The writer has good control of both basic and advanced vocabulary and grammar.
  • A conclusion restates the purpose of the essay.

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