Writing Task 2 Strategies: Writing in an Online Discussion

A few TOEFL Writing Task 2 Strategies will help you to score higher on the TOEFL exam.

Writing Task 2 Strategies






Understand how you will be graded on this new TOEFL writing task.

Below is a picture of the rubrics that ETS uses for its new TOEFL Writing Task 2.

New TOEFL Writing Task Writing for an Academic Discussion

To sum up the new rubrics, keep in mind the following points assigned for scores 4.0-5.0, 2.5-3.5, 1.0-2.0, and 0.

Good: 4.0-5.0

  • You provide supporting detail relating to the discussion.
  • Your ideas are easy to understand.
  • Your writing is sometimes ungrammatical, unclear, or unidiomatic.
  • You could have provided more detail or explanation.

Fair: 2.5-3.5

  • Your post mostly relates to the online discussion.
  • Your ideas are mostly understandable.
  • The support for your viewpoint or argument is unclear, irrelevant, or missing an important detail.
  • You have some obvious grammatical mistakes and imprecise word choice.
  • Your writing lacks sufficient variety with vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure.

Limited: 1.0 – 2.0

  • Your post was unsuccessful because it is poorly supported and is not relevant to the discussion.
  • Your response contains serious, frequent errors with grammar and vocabulary.
  • In your post, you use mostly basic grammar and vocabulary, thus implying that you have limitations with your language use.
  • You copy ideas already stated from others, so your discussion post does not bring anything new to the academic discussion.

Score of 0

  • Your post rejects the topic in a way that anything you write is not connected to the topic.
  • You simply copy words from the question or other posts.
  • You write in a foreign language or use unrelated keystroke characters.
  • You did not write enough words for iBT human raters and artificial intelligence to score.

Know the purpose of this new writing task

During the Covid19 Pandemic from March 2020 to September 2022, students all over the world were thrust into online learning. Even though the Pandemic is behind us now, online learning is still a popular way to complete university courses. For example, at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB), where I teach, approximately 50% of all courses are still online. In addition, even the courses that do not meet in synchronous and asynchronous settings, many professors, including me, require students to complete academic discussions online. Therefore, being proficient in this type of writing task will greatly help you to meaningfully contribute to the countless online discussions that you will be having once you get admitted into an English-speaking university.

TOEFL Writing Task 2 Strategies: Read a model response of how you can respond to this topic.

  • Similar to the 30-minute independent writing task that is just about to go the way of the flesh, the new July 2023 TOEFL task two may ask you to state a preference (i.e., Should university students be required to take general education classes in addition to their major, or should they only be offered specialization courses in their major?)
  • Or, you may be asked yes/no questions such as whether students should be required to complete online evaluations of their professors.
  • Finally, another type of task may be opened-ended in which you may, for instance, be asked, “In your view, what is the most important contribution that the Internet has made to our society? Below is an example of a preference question type for writing for an academic discussion.

TOEFL Writing Task 2 Strategies: Preference Question Type Example

A class on sociology is being conducted by your professor. Write a post in which you respond to the lecturer’s question. Make sure that you

  • convey an opinion with specific supporting details from your personal experience.
  • using your own words, meaningfully contribute to the discussion.

Your response should contain a minimum of 100 words.

Picture of ProfessorProfessor Kendricks: We can be heavily influenced by magazines, radio, film, and other forms of media, as we discussed in our last lecture. And, for the last couple of decades, social media have become powerful tools to globally connect us professionally, academically, and personally. In your discussion with others from the class, explain one positive or negative effect of social media.

Your response should contain a minimum of 100 words.

AnkuraAnkura: Social media is a game-changer for staying connected and updated. I can easily reach out to classmates and teachers, ask questions, and discuss stuff related to school. It’s like having a virtual hangout where we can share resources, study tips, and even help each other out with assignments. Plus, I get quick access to news and educational content that keeps me informed and engaged. Social media brings our school community together, making learning more fun and accessible, even outside the classroom. It’s like having a 24/7 study buddy right in my pocket!

Alex: Social media can be a real time-sucker and distraction for me as a student. I find myself endlessly scrolling through feeds, watching videos, and getting lost in mindless content when I should be studying or doing homework. It’s hard to stay focused with all those notifications and the fear of missing out on something cool. Plus, sometimes, I see my friends having a blast while I’m stuck with work, which can bring down my mood. It’s a constant battle to manage my time and avoid falling into the social media rabbit hole.

Model Response: Definitely, social media positively impacts my life and not just because of the academic effects that Ankura states.  I have even found that I can communicate with my boss when I have questions about my job shift time and when I may be a few minutes late to work because of traffic. Similarly, other workers also communicate via social media so we have all been able to strengthen our relationships with each other. However, I will concede that, without discipline, social media can be very distracting, as Alex states, but like my job, I organized a social media group for my biology class last semester. Many students in our class shared their class notes and study guides online, and if I had not participated in that online academic forum, I really believe I would have failed that course.

Use these TOEFL Writing Task 2 Strategies when you take the official exam.

These TOEFL Writing Task 2 Strategies will optimize your score:

  • Begin the post with an assertion in which you state an explicit argument.
  • Agree with one of the discussion posts, and then add something new. Use a specific, personal “I” point-of-view example to support your argument.
  • Disagree with one of the discussion posts. Be sure to provide a personal experience “I” point-of-view example to support your position.
  • Make sure your post is at least 100 words long.
  • Use a combination of long and short sentences, with the average sentence length 20+ words or more.

Michael Buckhoffmbuckhoff@aol.com

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