TOEFL Integrated Writing Strategies

The TOEFL integrated writing strategies on this web page will help you understand the skills that you will need. In addition, you will learn some important tools that you can use during the test so that you can score high when TOEFL test day comes.

Use this TOEFL integrated writing lesson to score higher.
Use this TOEFL integrated writing lesson to score higher.

TOEFL Integrated Writing Strategies: Use transition words

Remember that ETS’s eRater scoring engine will be evaluating your writing task. Therefore, good TOEFL integrated writing strategies are to use transition words. These important words will show how your ideas are connected.

Transition Words of Contrast

TOEFL integrated writing strategies

Transition words of contrast should be positioned after you discuss one of the main points from the reading passage.  When you begin the lecture, use a transition word of contrast to show that the lecture differs from the information in the reading passage.

Example:  Bears are naturally aggressive toward humans, asserts the author in the reading passage, because these wild animals often find food around people’s homes. Therefore, bears have lost their fear of people and are more likely to attack. By contrast, the speaker in the lecture casts doubt on this claim. In fact, the speaker believes that much evidence suggests that bears which often live in close proximity to humans and which are often fed by humans rarely attack humans. As a result, bears are not naturally aggressive toward people, argues the speaker in the listening passage.

Notice how I use “by contrast” right after I finish discussing the information in the reading passage. In addition, I also use “because,” “therefore,” “in fact, and “as a result” in this short paragraph.  Out of the 77 words in this passage, 5 are transition words. Consequently, about 15% of words in this paragraph are transition words.  I recommend that you stay between 15%-20% ratio with your use of transition words.

Transition Words of Addition

TOEFL integrated writing strategies
TOEFL transition words of addition

Effective TOEFL integrated writing strategies encourage you to use additional transition words if you want to add to something that you have previously mentioned.

Example: The writer in the reading passage explains that businesses should encourage employees to read all documents in their entirety. In addition, the author claims having workers read all documents will help them perform their job tasks more efficiently.

“In addition” is used to add the ideas in the previous sentence.

Transition Words to Show Emphasis

TOEFL transition words to show emphasis
TOEFL transition words to show emphasis

You can use these transition words to emphasize ideas.

Example: The author in the reading passage claims that camouflage can effectively help animals sneak up on their prey.  Surprisingly, when the lion gets within 30 meters of its prey, the author explains that the prey has no idea how close the lion actually is.

Example: The lecture casts doubt on the claim that lowering taxes will create more economic activity. Indeed, the speaker believes that lowering taxes will slow the economic activity.

“Surprisingly” and “indeed” are used to emphasize ideas.

Transition Words to Show Sequence

TOEFL transition words to show sequence
TOEFL transition words to show sequence

Some of these sequence transition words can be grouped together.  In other words, certain transition words that you use in the first line of one paragraph will lead to specific transition words in the first line of other paragraphs which are parallel to those words.

  • First of all, second of all, third of all….
  • First, second, third…
  • In the first place, in the second place, in the third place…
  • The first step, the second step, the third step…

Transition Words to Introduce Examples

Transition Words to Introduce Examples
Transition Words to Introduce Examples

Additional TOEFL integrated writing strategies can help you when using TOEFL example transition words.   Look over the outline below to see how you should be organizing your notes before you begin the TOEFL integrated writing task:TOEFL integrated writing outline

As you can see from the outline, you will be introducing a total of six examples. The example transition words on the above chart will help you to do that.

Example: The speaker claims that lowering taxes will stifle economic activity. For instance, a large corporation, according to the speaker, got a huge tax break. However, its owner choose not invest those savings in its workforce or the community. Instead, the owner sent the money overseas to a Swiss bank account to protect the money from any additional capital gains tax.

The writer uses the TOEFL transition word “for example” to introduce the example of the corporation.

Transition Words to Show Cause/Effect

TOEFL cause effect transition words
TOEFL cause effect transition words

You may also need to show cause-effect relationship.

Example:  The author asserts that bloggers do not have the same training as journalists.  Consequently, these online writers should not be seen as credible writers.

Consequently” is used to link the cause “bloggers are not well trained” with the effect “they are not credible.”

TOEFL Integrated Writing Strategies: Summarize and paraphrase ideas

TOEFL summary tips
TOEFL summary tips

Your goal as you learn these TOEFL integrated writing strategies is to use a neutral tone. In addition, you should frame your writing from the point of view of the author in the reading passage. You should do the same thing with the listening passage. To accomplish this, follow these tips:

Choose the most appropriate point of view.
Choose the most appropriate point of view.

To illustrate, let’s compare four points of view. Which one works better for the integrated writing tasks?

  • 1st person singular point of view: I believe that bears are no more likely to attack humans even if they live within populated centers.
  • 2nd person singular point of view: Even if bears live near you, they are no more likely to attack.
  • 3rd person singular point of view: Bears are no more likely to attack even if they live in populated centers.
  • 3rd person point of view with voice marker + reporting verb: The author explains that bears are no more likely to attack even if they live in populated centers.

The 1st person point of view “I believe”  focuses on the writer’s experience. However, that creates a personal experience tone which is inappropriate in the TOEFL integrated writing task. Therefore, this sentence has a argumentative tone.  In contrast, the sentence should have a neutral tone.

The 2nd person point of view “near you” writes directly to the audience.  But the purpose of this type of writing is to focus on the information in the reading and the listening passage. Moreover, using “you” makes the writing less formal, but the sentence needs to be more, not less, formal.

The 3rd person point of view indeed focuses on the information about bears.  Still, because there is no mention of the author in the reading passage, iBT human raters have to assume that the writer is stating his opinion. Hence, the sentence reads more as an argument instead of a neutral summary.

The 3rd person point of view with the voice marker plus the reporting verb focuses on the information and acknowledges the author.  Thus, this sentence sounds more like a paraphrase or summary of someone else’s ideas. The tone is both formal and objective, which exactly matches the purpose of the integrated writing task.

TOEFL Integrated Writing Strategies: Use a chunking compare/contrast organization

Having strong integrated writing strategies involve understanding compare and contrast method of organization. Since the lecture will differ from the points in the reading, you will need to use a logical, easy-to-understand compare and contrast structure.

  • A very easy way to do that is by chunking ideas from the reading passage.
  • In addition, you can chunk ideas together from a listening passage.
  • The first 1/2 of a paragraph can, for example, group together an important point from the reading passage.
  • Then in the second 1/2 of a paragraph, for instance, you can group ideas from the listening passage that oppose that point.

Observe in the following paragraph how I place the important points from a reading and listening passage:

Global warming, according to the author, is mostly caused by human activities.  To illustrate, the author presents multiple examples of glaciers all over the world that are melting at a faster rate than seen in previous decades. In contrast, the speaker argues that global warming is mainly due to natural factors.  To support this claim, the speaker points to other periods of time 1000’s of years ago when there were also  warming trends.

The way I wrote this makes it easy to see how the human activity and natural factor are opposing points from the reading and listening passage. Notice how I spend roughly the same number of words to  explain the reading and listening passage. This balance prevents any possible bias I might have about the topic. For example, I believe global warming is mostly due to human activities. However, there is no way for you to know my personal beliefs from reading this paragraph, right?

TOEFL Integrated Writing Strategies: Create unique templates to frame your writing task

You have learned several important TOEFL integrated writing strategies so far in this lesson.

  • You learned about the importance of transition words. Specifically, you learned that 15%-20% of each paragraph should consist of transition words.
  • In addition, you learned that you should frame your essay from the author’s and the speaker’s point of view. That means you should use the third person point of view.
  • You also learned that you should use present tense reporting verbs to explain reading and listening passages.
  • Finally, you also learned how a chunking compare/contrast organization logically, easily, and accurately shows how the information in the listening passage is related to the information in the reading passage.

Your next step is to create  a unique template that you can use based on what you are learning on this web page. However, I will NOT give you a template. You must create your own way of organization. You will remember better if you create your own. In addition, it will sound more natural. Here are some general guidelines to help you to organize the different parts of your TOEFL integrated writing task:

Introduction: Your introduction needs to be about 25 words. Use a compound sentence, as you can see in this lesson, connecting the main point of the reading and the listening passage.

Body paragraph 1: Begin this 100 word paragraph with a transition word of sequence. After the reading passage, use a transition word of contrast.  As you discuss the reading and listening points, use other transition words as necessary.

Body paragraph 2: Repeat the same step in paragraph 1. This time place reading point 2 with listening point 2.

Body paragraph 3:  Follow the same step in paragraph 1.  Combine reading point 3 with listening point 3.

Conclusion: Use a transition word such as “to sum up.”  Write a short sentence explaining how the listening passage disagrees with the information in the reading passage. However, use different vocabulary and grammar that you used in the introduction.

TOEFL Integrated Writing Strategies: Take a mock Integrated writing practice test

Now that you have learned some TOEFL integrated writing strategies, you should take a mock practice test.   Watch the video, take notes, and then write a 250-350 word response. You can compare your notes + essay to the model response on this web page.  Good luck!

TOEFL Integrated Writing Strategies: Compare your sample notes note to these.

Below are notes based on the most important points from the reading passage and the listening page. During the TOEFL exam, you should ask for 5-6 sheets of paper so that you can take notes. As you can guess, taking accurate and complete notes are important TOEFL integrated writing strategies.

TOEFL integrated writing example notes
TOEFL integrated writing example notes

TOEFL Integrated Writing Strategies: Compare your practice test to this model response

To help you see the integrated parts of this response, pay attention to the follow parts, each with its own color:

  • Reading passage
  • Listening passage
  • Voice markers/reporting verbs
  • Transition words/connectors

The reading passage discusses three theories regarding the extinction of the dinosaurs, and the lecture casts doubts on each theory.

First of all, the author in the reading passage explains that a warming trend caused dinosaurs’ testes to malfunction. As a result, the male dinosaurs became sterile. Hence, the dinosaurs died out, according to the author, because they could no longer reproduce. On the other hand, the speaker in the lecture says there are too many unanswered questions about this theory. Most importantly, because testes do not fossilize, no fossil records can provide evidence to prove or disprove this theory.

Second of allpoisonous flowering plants began to grow  during the dinosaurs’ reign, asserts the authorThe author explains that dinosaurs could not taste the bitterness of these deadly flowers. Consequently, the dinosaurs died of overdoses. Conversely the speaker argues that these poisonous plants flourished long before and during the time of the dinosaurs’ time. As a result, the speaker questions why it took so long for the dinosaurs’ to die out.  In addition, similar to the testes theory, the speakers argues that  the fossil record cannot tell scientists what dinosaurs ate and whether or not they died of overdoses. Like testes, livers do not fossilize.

Finally, a large asteroid hit the Earth, according to the author, who believes that the impact caused a lot of dust to rise into the atmosphere. This dust, reports the author, blocked sunlight, which caused the dinosaurs to freeze to deathHowever, in the lecture, the speaker explains that the impact may have happened 1000’s of years before the dinosaurs became extinct. In addition, the fossil record suggests that dozens and dozens  of species of plants lived during the impact  and after the impact of the asteroid. As a result, the speaker contends that the effects of the impact may not have been as serious as once thought.

In conclusion, the listening passage is skeptical of the accuracy of each theory discussed by the author.

TOEFL Integrated Writing Strategies: Final Tips on scoring high

Improving your writing so that you can reach 24+ may take some time.  I offer two great ways for you to practice your writing. 1) You can subscribe to STEALTH, “The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT.” After you join, you can start sending me independent and integrated writing practice every day. I will evaluate, score, and provide basic feedback on your writing practice tests so that you can monitor your progress. Find out more.

In addition, I have a more expensive option.  Like the less expensive option, you will get access to STEALTH. You will also be able to send me writing practice tests every day for evaluation. However, with this option, I will error correct two of your essay so you can exactly see your mistakes. Watch part of the following video to see how my error-correction service works:

If you are interested in this more expensive option, you can join my TOEFL Writing Boot Camp Course.  Read the course outline. You will also have the option to join the course.

Getting my feedback might be good TOEFL integrated writing strategies, especially if you have failed the writing section more than one time.  Many students make the same mistakes repeatedly. However, they do not know what they are doing wrong. I can quickly show you what your mistakes are so you can avoid them during the writing section of the TOEFL iBT. Some students who do not get professional help end up in TOEFL Hell. Do NOT go there!

TOEFL Integrated Writing Strategies: Helpful links

Additional lessons will help you to improve your TOEFL integrated writing strategies:

I hope that you found this lesson useful! Leave a comment below if you have any questions.

You WILL be able to reach your target TOEFL writing score.
You WILL be able to reach your target TOEFL writing score.

Michael Buckhoff,





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  1. Pingback: TOEFL Speaking Practice - Better TOEFL Scores Blog

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