And, finally, I have updated our guide to the independent TOEFL essay. This version reflects everything I have learned over the past 14 months about writing solid essays and about which strategies are easiest for students to grasp. Next, I plan to update all of my videos about the speaking section. Stay tuned!
Tag Archives: essay
I’m happy to report that I have finally finished the 2017 edition of my guide to the integrated TOEFL essay. While the question itself hasn’t really changed since last year, I have learned a lot more about writing good essays and about which strategies work best for my students. I’ve tried to include all of those things in this new video. I hope you like it!
I will be working on new versions of all of the videos in my channel, so stay tuned.
New today is a guide to using compound sentences in your TOEFL Type Two essays. As I always tell my private students, you need to use both simple and compound sentences in your essays. The e-rater is programmed to recognize sentences of both types. Even if your grammar is strong, you won’t get a high score if you write only simple sentences.
The guide includes a short explanation of what a compound sentence is, as well as a definition of what a conjunction is. Most importantly, it provides a ton of example sentences drawn from actual TOEFL essays (which are linked).
I have just uploaded another sample essay. This one is on the old “a restaurant is opening in your neighborhood” question that has been in the Official Guide for ages. I actually dreaded writing this one (and, indeed, skipped it last year) as I find the question a bit tedious, but I am happy that I was able to come up with something at least somewhat logical and convincing. You can find the essay here. Enjoy!
For the first time in ages, I have uploaded a new sample essay. You can find it in the usual spot. The questions are taken from a Korean book (Hacker’s Actual Test) that you probably can’t find, but it does demonstrate the required structure and templates.
That will probably be my last sample integrated essay, as I am working on other stuff right now. I plan to upload a sample independent essay in the next day or two and then write some guides to things like grammar and vocabulary.
Also: I have reopened the old TOEFL Resources Forum and I will providing a few free evaluations each week. These will be at the same level as our paid evaluations, so stop by today if you need some help getting ready for the test.
Well, this is an old video that I made a few months ago, but I forgot to post it here on the blog.
The video demonstrates how to structure an integrated essay using the templates included on my site that I’ve been perfecting and modifying over the past few years. It uses an example from the “Official Guide” to walk students through the process of crafting an excellent introduction and three good body paragraphs.
Check it out! The method works. Really!
I’ve uploaded a new video! Finally!
This one is all about how to write an independent essay that will score more than twenty-five points. It is similar to my earlier video, but includes slightly more complex strategies for advanced students.
Let me know what you think.
Need an online tutor to improve your TOEFL writing score? Need someone to evaluate and score your essays? Want to know exactly how high you will score in the TOEFL Writing section? I’m available!
I’ve been teaching TOEFL for five years, and have been running the TOEFL Resources website and blog for 18 months. I’ve worked online with hundreds of students around the world who are preparing to take the TOEFL. My students see an immediate increase in their writing score, as I help them with organization, structure, grammar and logical thinking.
I examine student essays line-by-line and word-by-word, using the commenting feature of MS WORD to point out all errors and mistakes, while simultaneously showing students how to write a better essay next time. Customers are entitled to unlimited support by e-mail as they prepare for the test.
In my last entry I talked about the problem with repeating transitional phrases in both the introduction and body paragraphs of your TOEFL essay. Today I’ll talk a bit about the problem of overusing the phrases “for example” or “for instance” in your body paragraphs.
I always encourage my students to include personal examples from their lives when writing essays, but if they set them up using the same transitional phrases several times in a single essay, their work looks amateurish. Here’s some alternatives I often suggest:
- examples include
- one example of this is
- take the case of
- …illustrates this point
- as a example of this, I can point to…
- I’ve witnessed numerous examples of this. One very telling example is…
Lets put a few of these into use. Here’s part of an essay written by an actual student of mine:
“Children can learn about how to organize things effectively when they clean their rooms. For example, my young cousin is required to put his toys back in his toy box after playing with them. In the beginning, he picked up toys from the floor and walked to the toy box to put them away. He walked back and forth many times. After a lot of practice, he eventually found a more effective way to collect his toys. This involved…”
How could this student have replaced “for example?”
- “The experience of my young cousin illustrates this point. She is required to…”
- “One example of this is my young cousin. She is required to…”
- “Take the case of my young cousin. She is required to…”
- “As an example of this, I can point to my young cousin. She is required to…”
- “I’ve witnessed many examples of this. One very telling example is the case of my young cousin. She is required to…”
All of these choices are better than using another boring “for example” and will greatly improve my student’s score. Try one of these phrases in your next essay!
Everyone knows that using transitional words is key to writing a well-developed and coherent TOEFL essay. One mistake that many students make, however, is using the same transitional words many times in an essay. There are a couple of specific mistakes that they often make. I’ll discuss a few of them here.
Repeating transitional phrases from your Introduction
Check out this introductory paragraph, written by an actual student of mine. The question was “should people be satisfied with what they have, or should they strive to acquire more material possessions?”
“We are living in an era of technology. Every day scientists develop new technologies that make our lives more comfortable. While some people feel fulfilled with what they have, others do not. Personally, I think that a human should never be satisfied with what he or she has. I feel this way for two reasons. First, competition to acquire more inspires people to improve themselves and their lives. Second, desire motivates people to achieve their goals.”
This is a pretty good introductory paragraph. The student states his main point (“personally…”) and then briefly introduces his supporting reasons. He uses a transitional word (“first,” “second”) before stating each reason. Those transitions (along with “I feel this way…”) are a good way for students to ensure that their reasoning is well-understood by the person grading their essay.
Can you spot the mistake that the student made in his first body paragraph:
“First, competition to acquire more than they currently have often leads people down the path of self improvement. People always look around to see if someone else has a better home, car, or possessions. If we see someone who has more than us, we think hard about what we must do to better ourselves. If our neighbor…”
The mistake in this essay is to repeat the word “first” when beginning the body paragraph. To show off your skill as a writer, you should choose some alternative transitional phrase. The student could have used a phrase like “to begin with” or even “first of all.” Little changes like this will make your essay look more professional and will help you get a better score.
Next time I will write about alternatives to “for example.” Check back in a few days for that!