About The New TOEFL Writing Task (Writing for an Academic Discussion)

The new TOEFL writing task will be included on the TOEFL iBT and the TOEFL iBT Home Edition starting on July 26.  It will replace the independent writing task.    It takes ten minutes.  The question will look something like this:

Your professor is teaching a class on marketing. Write a post responding to the professor’s question.  In your response, you should:

  • express and support your personal opinion
  • make a contribution to the discussion in your own words

An effective response will contain at least 100 words.

Professor: Hello class!  Next week we will be discussing the impact of social media influencers on consumer behavior. With the rise of social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube, we’ve seen the emergence of a new type of celebrity: the social media influencer. These influencers have large followings and can sway consumer behavior by endorsing products or services. Here’s a question for the discussion board:

Do social media influencers have a major impact on consumers?  Why or why not?

Jack: I think social media influencers have a significant impact. When young people start admiring these influencers and trust their recommendations, they are more likely to buy products or services that they endorse. However, I also think there are some concerns about the authenticity of these endorsements, as some influencers may promote products that they don’t actually use or believe in.


Emily: I’m not convinced that social media influencers have a significant impact on consumer behavior. While they may have large followings, most people are smart enough to make their own purchasing decisions based on their needs and preferences. Plus, there are so many influencers out there promoting different products that it can be hard to know who to trust.


As you can see, the question simulates a discussion board on a university website. The professor asks a question and two students respond to it. You must answer the question.  You have ten minutes to read everything and write.  You should write “at least” 100 words.  I recommend writing slightly more (about 130 words).

Check out my big collection of samples for more sample questions.

A word counter will be displayed on the screen as you write.  You can see the question and responses as you write.

Sample Answer

Here’s the answer I wrote the above question:

In my opinion, social media influencers aren’t as significant as some people suggest.  I agree with Emily’s idea that people are too smart to be influenced by them.  I’d add that twenty years ago a charismatic person might have convinced us to buy something we didn’t really need, but I think that doesn’t happen so much nowadays.  That’s because we can thoroughly  research whatever we are interested in using blogs, consumer magazines and social media.  We can use these sources of information to find products that exactly suit our needs, so we aren’t swayed by the exaggerated claims of social media influencers. Jack raised the relevant point that young people are especially vulnerable, but I think parents these days take the time to educate their kids and monitor their internet use.  As a result, young people aren’t likely to make rash decisions about what to buy.

My answer includes a few key features:

  • Direct references to some of the things mentioned by Emily and Jack
  • My own unique ideas.
  • Basic transitions and conjunctions.
  • Various grammatical forms.

A Template

Here’s the template I’ve been using for this task:

  • In my opinion, [respond directly to the question].
  • I strongly agree with [student]’s idea that [mention one point made by the student]. 
  • I’d add that [expand on the point with your own idea].
  • [Other student] raised the relevant point that [mention one point made by the other student], but he/she didn’t mention that [challenge that point].
  • For example [elaborate on your challenge with your own ideas].

In this template I made use of stuff from both of the students.  But you might refer to only one student.  You could use something like this:

  • In my opinion, [respond directly to the question].
  • I strongly agree with [student]’s idea that [mention one point made by the student]. 
  • I’d add that [expand on the point with your own idea].
  • For example [provide more ideas].

Don’t use these templates word for word.  Change them a bit to suit your writing style.


The official scoring rubrics for the top two levels look like this:

The scoring criteria seem pretty straightforward.  You must make an argument and elaborate on it using examples or details.  You must use a variety of grammatical forms (here called “syntactic structures”) and idiomatic (natural) word choice.  Note that “idiomatic” does not refer to the use of colloquial idioms.  Don’t bother with those.

The rubric seems to suggest that grammar is quite important here.  It almost looks like correct grammar is even more important than in the old independent writing task, but that remains to be seen.

Get the full rubric over here.

Practice Questions

I’ve got a ton of practice questions (with sample answers) over here.  I think ETS will release their own questions in April.  I’ll link to those when they are available

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