How to Prepare for the TOEFL Integrated and Independent Writing Tasks
The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) includes two writing tasks: the Integrated Writing Task and the Independent Writing Task. Both writing tasks have relatively short time limits, so you are mostly being tested on your ability to understand and write English—particularly in an academic context. Below, we’ll get into the specifics of each writing task and provide helpful tips on how to effectively prepare.
Integrated Writing Task
This writing task requires you to read, listen, and write. You’ll read a passage on a certain topic and then listen as a speaker discusses the same topic. You’re allowed to take notes as you listen. Finally, you’ll write a response summarizing the key parts of the speech and explaining how they relate to the main ideas of the reading passage. You are given 20 minutes to write your response.
Your essay will be assigned a score ranging from 0-5. According to the TOEFL rubric, a score of zero indicates that the essay is blank, off-topic, or written in a language other than English.
To score a 5, your essay must include important information from the lecture and coherently and accurately relate this information to the relevant points from the reading. The essay must be well-organized, and while occasional language errors are acceptable, these errors shouldn’t result in inaccurate or imprecise presentation of content or connections.
Tips for the Integrated Writing Task
- Underline main ideas and/or the most important information as you read the provided passage.
- Take notes as you listen to the speaker. Try to focus on important details that are related to the information in the reading passage.
- When you’re done, quickly compare your notes on the listening passage to the information you underline in the reading passage. Choose 2-3 related pieces of important information to focus on in your essay.
- In your essay, focus on these main points and provide details or quotes from your two sources, in addition to your own analysis of how the information is related.
- Do NOT include your own opinion in this writing task. You should focus on what you read and heard, and you’ll mention your own opinion in the independent writing task.
- Check over your work if time allows, and correct any noticeable errors.
Independent Writing Task
For the second writing task, you’ll be asked to provide your opinion on a topic or question. You’re expected to explain your choice and support it with specific details and examples.
The independent writing task may ask a question like, “If you could change one important thing about your hometown, what would you change? Use reasons and specific examples to support your answer.”
You have thirty minutes to respond to the independent writing task. Like the integrated writing task, this essay is given a score ranging from 0-5. The zero is, again, off topic, written in a language other than English, or left completely blank.
According to the rubric, an essay that receives a score of 5 must effectively address the topic and task, be well-organized and use clearly appropriate details, examples, and explanations, display unity, progression, and coherence, and demonstrate consistent facility in the use of language. This includes using appropriate word choice and varying the length of your sentences.
Tips for the Independent Writing Task
- Take some time to plan before you begin writing. Jot down 2-3 reasons in support of your opinion, and make sure you have at least two solid supporting details or examples for each.
- If you can’t think of enough support for your opinion, you may need to argue a different position in order to write a stronger paper.
- Whatever you do, you have to state an opinion, even if you need to make one up. Don’t say that you have no opinion on the issue.
- At the start of your essay, state your opinion and your 2-3 supporting reasons. Next, explain your reasoning with examples and details.
- Use transitions to connect your ideas.
- If you have time left, check your spelling and grammar and correct any errors.
How WriteLab Can Help You Prepare
To begin preparing for the TOEFL writing tasks, we strongly recommend that you read sample questions and sample responses. This will give you a better idea of what to expect on the test day, and the scored sample responses will help you understand how to achieve a high score on your essays.
However, the most effective way to prepare is by writing practice responses of your own. Time yourself so that you can get a feel for how quickly you’ll need to plan and write your essay on the official test.
To receive helpful feedback and tips on improving your writing, you can upload your practice essays to WriteLab. The app gives you feedback on Concision, Clarity, Logic, and Grammar, all elements that are evaluated on TOEFL writing tasks.
WriteLab helps you make your points clearly and effectively by encouraging you to delete unnecessary words, revise overly wordy sentences, and strengthen weak or vague words and phrases.
TOEFL’s writing task rubric specifically mentions varying syntax, which includes using a variety of sentence lengths. WriteLab points out areas in your writing that use too many short sentences or an excessive amount of long sentences, helping you master this skill.
Additionally, WriteLab asks questions that are intended to help you think critically and analytically. The questions push you to use specific details and examples and provide more evidence when needed, another skill mentioned in the TOEFL writing task rubric.
You can also improve your spelling, grammar, and other language skills using WriteLab. Suggestions about grammar include simple, easy to understand explanations that can help you improve your use of English conventions.
The more you write timed practice essays and upload them to WriteLab, the more you’ll improve your writing ability, and the higher you’ll score on your TOEFL writing tasks.