TOEFL Grammar - How to Write Simple and Compound Sentences

To score well on the TOEFL Independent essay you must write a mix of both simple and compound sentences. If you aren’t familiar with these terms, you should check out this detailed explanation.  Basically, though, a simple sentence contains just one clause ("Michael ate ice cream today"), while a compound sentence contains two clauses ("Michael ate ice cream, but he really wanted pizza") joined with a conjunction.

In your TOEFL essay you need to use both types.  This will increase your grammatical complexity (which is rewarded) and will help you avoid writing too many short sentences (sentences of less than seven words are punished by the e-rater).

Examples of Compound Sentences using Coordinating Conjunctions

The key to writing good compound sentences is mastering coordinating conjunctions.  These are sentences that use a conjunction like for, and, nor, but, or, yet and so to join two clauses.  Some examples include:

I bought my tickets early, and I got a really good deal.

My boyfriend had to work late, so I went to the movie alone.

I will need to ask my professor for help, or spend a lot of time researching the topic in the library.

I was unable to find a job, for all of the businesses in my town had closed down.

Saving for the future can be difficult, but it will ensure a comfortable retirement.

I spent several hours every evening studying for the test, yet I still got a low score.

Young students don’t have much self-control, so they should be required to attend all of their classes.

More such examples can be found right here.

More Samples - From Real TOEFL Essays

There are also many examples in my collection of sample TOEFL essays, including:

“I was required to listen to the opinions of others, so I was a more open-minded person after the class finished.” (source)

“Discussions in class teach students how to communicate effectively, and they can use this skill to excel in their future careers” (source)

"Books are much longer than online articles, so they are much more useful to students." (source)

"I based my research on the book rather than the articles, so I was able to write an insightful essay." (source)

"The assignment made up about half of my total grade in the class, so I approached my work with diligence and care." (source)

"No one was injured, but we suffered a lot of emotional trauma." (source)

"People back then had neither safe working conditions, nor effective safety equipment." (source)


Note that you can also create compound sentences using semicolons (as demonstrated here), but I strongly recommend that TOEFL test-takers do not do this.  It will often lead to mistakes, as even native speakers struggle to use semicolons properly.