Sample Essays for the Writing Section of the TOEFL® Test

Did you hear about the updated TOEFL iBT Writing section?

On July 26, 2023, ETS introduced a new TOEFL Writing question: Writing for an Academic Discussion.

That’s right. The Independent Writing question has been retired from the official TOEFL iBT test.

Before we get into the topics and sample essays for the new TOEFL Writing question, let’s start with the first task, which hasn’t changed, the Integrated Writing.

TOEFL Integrated Writing Topics

In the TOEFL Writing Section, there are two questions you must respond to. The first question is called the TOEFL Integrated Writing task. The second question is called the TOEFL Independent Writing task.

The list of 20 TOEFL Writing topics above is actually for question two, the independent writing task.

“Why did you start with question two?”

Well, it’s a simpler question. It provides one direct question and you have thirty minutes to write. That’s it.

But the TOEFL Integrated Writing question

The integrated question presents a reading and listening passage, followed by a question, which is a bit more complicated.

Integrated Writing: Task Breakdown

Question Structure Content
1st The writing section instructions will be read aloud. You can skip this introduction.
2nd You will be given an academic passage to read. This passage will contain between 250-300 words. When the clock starts, you will have three minutes to read the passage. After that, the passage disappears and an audio lecture starts. However, the reading passage will return when it's time to write.
3rd A lecture that addresses the content of the reading will start to play. The lecture will last for two to three minutes.
4th After the passage finishes, you will be asked a question. The question is almost always something like: "Summarize the points in the lecture, being sure to explain how they challenge specific points made in the reading"
5th The clock starts. You will have approximately 20 minutes to write an essay of at least 250 words. You must answer the question and report on the most important points from both the reading and listening.

Simple, right?

No? Still confused.

No worries. The best way to understand something better is through examples.

Let’s do one together.

This TOEFL integrated writing topic deals with the use of Corn Ethanol.

Give yourself three minutes to read it:

The chemical compound, ethanol, has risen in recent years as the most viable alternative to fossil fuels. Ethanol is a renewable fuel made from crops, mainly from corn in the United States, which can power engines. There are many who argue that corn ethanol should replace fossil fuel gas as the primary source for running cars.

One major benefit of using corn ethanol is that it uses less energy than gasoline. Using less energy means that people can get better gas mileage while driving these more fuel-efficient cars. In the long-run, this will be cheaper for consumers because they can drive further than they do now with fossil-fueled cars. People will spend less money on gas because they won’t have to stop to fill up as frequently.

Another advantage of switching to corn ethanol is that it helps the American economy become less reliant on energy sources from other countries. Petroleum is not readily available in the U.S., so it must be imported from other countries. Depending on foreign relations with those countries, fuel becomes a political issue. Corn is a crop that America has in abundance. By using corn ethanol instead, the cost of gas will decrease because now the import taxes on fossil fuels are calculated into the price. This also means that we will be putting the money into our own economy, thus helping local corn farmers.

One of the most attractive aspects of corn ethanol is how environmentally friendly is when compared to current automobile gasoline. Fossil fuels release carbon that has been stored for years from the earth. Burning biofuels, like corn ethanol, is better for the environment because it releases less greenhouse gas emissions. Lessening the amount of carbon emissions will help prevent global warming and all of the other negative effects of climate change.

Once three minutes have ended, listen to a conversation about the same topic

Now, it’s time to write your TOEFL essay.

Stop reading.

Start writing.

Seriously.

Write your essay before you look at this TOEFL Writing sample. You will learn a lot more if you actually write the essay and then compare this to your own.

Here’s an expert TOEFL teacher’s sample essay to this particular TOEFL Writing topic.

The article introduces the topic of corn-based ethanol. More specifically, the writer discusses the advantages of switching from fossil fuels to this alternative energy source. The lecturer in the listening passage disagrees. He believes that the benefits the author mentions are misleading and attacks each of the claims made in the reading.

In the reading, the author begins by stating that drivers will get better gas mileage on corn ethanol than on fossil fuels, and therefore save money on gas. The speaker, however, disagrees. He states that the production of corn ethanol is very expensive. He says that in order to make for the costs to create and distribute this biofuel, the price of ethanol gas will increase.  Therefore, it will not be any cheaper for consumers in the long run.

The writer also claims that making the switch to corn ethanol will help the American economy because it will make the United States less dependent on foreign oil. Again, the lecturer believes there are flaws in the writer’s argument. He holds instead that mass use of corn-based ethanol will hurt the economy. He elaborates this by point out that the inevitable competition for corn by multiple consumers, including beef and dairy farmers, will drive the price of corn up.

Another reason why the author feels that moving from traditional gasoline to corn ethanol is a good idea is that they are more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels. The professor in the listening passage is doubtful that this is accurate. He suggests that as more farmlands are created to support the demands for more corn, more carbon will be absorbed by the land. This means that these emissions will still be released to negatively affect the environment.

As you can see the author and speaker hold very different views about the use of corn ethanol.

The author here clearly defined the main idea, organized the supporting points from both the reading and listening passage, and showed how they differ from each other. 

I know it may seem a bit difficult, which is why I recommend that you start off with a TOEFL Writing template for both the independent and integrated essays.

Looking for more example essays?

Download our TOEFL Writing 24+ Guide if you would like more sample essays. It includes extra tips, tricks, and strategies you will not find anywhere else. Download it for free here

Too complicated? Don’t worry.

I will share TOEFL writing templates for the Integrated Writing question, which will make your life a whole lot easier.

But first…

We have to talk about the Writing for an Academic Discussion question.

Writing for an Academic Discussion Question

You will have 10 minutes to complete the Writing for an Academic Discussion question.

For this task, you will participate in an online discussion. After you read the question and student responses, you will have to write a response that adds to the conversation.

Here’s the breakdown:

Writing for an Academic Discussion
Time Management

0-2 minutes Scan the discussion and plan
2-9 minutes Write your response
9-10 minutes Edit your response

This question is straightforward, but let’s do a sample together.

When the question appears on the screen, take two minutes to scan the passage and the student’s opinions.

Start to write your response. Be sure to add to the discussion and avoid repeating the same points as the other students.

Aim to write at least 120 words.

Get peace of mind with these TOEFL Writing Templates

Now that you have a few TOEFL Writing topics and sample essays to study from, you may want to use a writing template to help guide your writing.

A TOEFL template is basically a pre-organized set of words and phrases that you can use in almost any TOEFL Writing response.

Here’s TST Prep’s template for the integrated TOEFL Writing question (question one):

The article introduces the topic of (general topic). More specifically, the writer discusses (stance of the author on the topic). The lecturer in the listening passage disagrees. He believes that (stance of the professor on the topic) and attacks each of the claims made in the reading.

In the reading, the author begins by stating that (first point made to support stance). The lecturer, however, disagrees. He states that (first counterargument by the professor). He goes on to say that (additional detail about first counterargument).

The author also claims that (second point made to support stance). Again, the lecturer believes there are flaws in the writer’s argument. The speaker holds that (two sentences about the professor’s second counter-argument).

Another reason why the author feels that (restate stance of author) is that (third point made to support stance). The professor in the listening passage is doubtful that this is accurate. He suggests that (two sentences about the professor’s third counter argument).

To sum up, both the writer and professor hold conflicting views about (general topic). It’s clear that they will have trouble finding common ground on this issue.

And here’s our template for the independent TOEFL Writing for an Academic Discussion (question two):

.

BASIC TEMPLATE: QUESTION 2 (Writing for an Academic Discussion)

Structure Template Example
State your general opinion on the topic In my opinion, (general opinion of the topic) In my opinion, globalization is a positive force in the world today.
State a specific reason for your opinion and an example My personal belief is that (specific reason). For example, My personal belief is that when nations interact together, it leads to less suffering. For example, people who suffer from natural catastrophes can import goods and services to help mitigate their losses and recover quickly. Citizens of nations who may be going through war or famine can flee to neighboring countries for shelter.
Acknowledge the point of view of one of the speakers in the conversation. Explain why you agree or disagree with reasons and/or examples. I understand ____ concern over ____, but I believe he misses another critical point.

I totally agree with _____ point about ____, and I would like to add _______.
I understand Alex's concern over cultural homogenization, but I believe he misses another critical point. Much of the food found in grocery stores around the world is imported. Our very diet is due to the international trade partnerships and alliances forged over the last half of the 20th century.
Summarize the main point of your post. (restated reason) ____, which is why I believe ___ (restated main point) International trade and travel are not possible in a world without globalization, which is why I believe it is crucial to maintain our current global policies for a safer world with a higher standard of living.

You will notice that the sample essays in this article differ from the templates.

You do not have to use templates, it’s up to you. Some people prefer to write in their own unique fashion for the entire exam. However, you will notice that the structure of the templates is similar to the TOEFL example essays.

These templates follow the exact organization and structure you are expected to use on test day, so don’t hesitate to use them in your writing.

Also, don’t forget to download the free 24+ TOEFL Writing Guide if you would like more example essays, templates, and exclusive tips to help you earn the best possible TOEFL Writing score on test day.

If you read this far, it means you are serious about your TOEFL studies. Don’t hesitate to send us an email and let us know how we can help you earn the TOEFL score of your dreams – [email protected]

Did we forget anything? Please comment and let us know how we can improve our TOEFL Writing advice (or if you want to just say hi that would be great too).

107 Comments

  1. Ireen

    Hi Josh! For the academic writing, I only gave my reason for the topic, and I forgot to mention the opinion of the other student. I checked my word count. It is already past 100 words, and I do not
    want it to be too long. Do we really need to mention the other students’ opinion?

    Reply
    • Josh

      Hi Ireen. Great question! We often suggest mentioning one of the other students, but it is not required. As long as what you said was on topic, you “added to the discussion,” and gave specific reasons and examples, you should be okay with the 100 words you wrote.

      Reply
  2. Sarah

    Hello,
    I have a question about the independent writing: Is it a problem if I just give one reason in my essay (but detailed enough)?
    Thank you

    Reply
    • Josh

      Hi there and thank you for your question. There are no specific grading criteria that say you MUST give two reasons for your opinion, so, in theory, yes, you can just give one reason. I don’t think you will be marked down for it. If possible, try to give two though. It will make your word count higher.

      Reply
  3. Lobna

    Hello Josh, I was wondering if you have more integrated writing questions that we could do for practice, do you know where to find them?

    Reply
    • Josh

      Hi there and thank you for your question. If you search “TOEFL Writing Practice test” on Youtube you will find 2-3 TST Prep practice videos with an Integrated Writing practice question. I’m sure there will be tests from other providers as well.

      Reply
  4. Ashina

    Hey Josh, I have been following your YouTube channel for my TOEFL preparation, where I learned a lot. My question is that I got stuck between 15-17 scores in the reading section and could not figure out what I would do to enhance my scores. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Josh

      Hi there Ashina, and thank you for your question.

      It is, indeed, a difficult question to answer. Here are two pieces of advice on how to practice at home and how to improve time management:

      HOW TO DO A PASSAGE

      I am going to breakdown the process you should go through when you do a TOEFL Reading passage:

      1. Copy the test conditions (set a timer to complete the passage and all the questions in 18 minutes)

      2. Check your answers

      3. Identify the reason you got a specific question wrong (or didn’t understand why you were correct) and write down what you can do to avoid the same mistake next time.
      Step #3 is the most important and the one often overlooked because most test-takers are pretty tired after reading and answering questions. This will help you notice patterns in incorrect choices and apply what you have learned later.

      4. (Optional) Do the same passage again two weeks later. (You will remember much of what you did before, but it should help remind you of what you have learned)

      TIME MANAGEMENT

      My advice is pretty simple here, practice with LESS TIME. If it is not too stressful, try to complete a passage and all of the questions in 16 minutes (instead of 18).
      This usually does the trick for most students over time.

      I hope you find some of this helpful. Good luck, and let me know if you need anything.

      Reply
  5. Kiba

    Hey Josh, in the Reading section the last question holds two marks where we are asked to pick three choices. I have always have a hard time getting the perfect score here. any suggestions, please…

    Reply
    • Josh

      Hi Kiba, this is a popular complaint. I posted a video about summary questions here. You might find it helpful.

      Reply
  6. Joud

    Hey Josh, I have a question. If the question is saying a good essay is between 200 and 300, and I wrote more than 300, is this okay? Or should I make it only as maximum as they are saying?

    Reply
    • Josh

      Hi Joud and great question. Definitely write MORE. There is a direct correlation between test scores and word count, so the more you write the better. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should write as much as possible as fast as possible, but anything between 350-450 words would be great.

      Reply
  7. Aziz

    Hey Josh, I think I do well in my writing section, but my score doesn’t improve. Is there anything that I can do to know my mistakes from the ETS?

    Reply
    • Josh

      Hi Aziz, good question, and unfortunately, no, they do not release that information. The best you can do is work with an experienced teacher who can point out your weaknesses and work on them at home before test day.

      Reply

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