The TOEFL® writing section has two parts:

  • First is the TOEFL integrated writing question . You will read an article (four paragraphs) and  listen to a lecture (2-3 minutes) on the same topic. The lecture will challenge the argument made in reading.  Sometimes this is a direct challenge of each point made in the lecture.  Sometimes the reading will present a solution to a problem and the lecturer will explain why the solution doesn’t work.  In any case, your essay must compare the reading to the lecture.  You will be given twenty minutes to write your essay. You should write about 280 to 300 words.  In your essay, include one body paragraph for each “point/counter-point” referred to in the sources.
  • Second is the TOEFL independent writing question . You must give your personal opinion on a given question.  The questions usually relate to education, work and lifestyle preferences.  Often you are asked if you agree or disagree with a given statement, but you might be given a multiple choice (3-5 options) question or “paired choice” (2 options) question.  You will have thirty minutes to write your essay. You should write about 380 to 400 words.

Each part has equal value.

How are you Graded?

Your grades come from two separate systems:

  • First, a human grader checks your essay based on the official ETS rubrics.  They give you a holistic score from 0 to 5.  “Holistic” means that they consider the essay as a whole rather than looking at specific parts.  The human score is based on your content, organization and language use.  ETS is secretive, but research indicates that the human rater contributes 50% of the score in the independent task, and 66% of the score in the integrated task.
  • Next, the ETS “e-rater” software checks your essay.  It mostly focuses on structure, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary.  Again, ETS is secretive, but research indicates that it contributes 50% of your score in the independent task, and 33% of your score in the integrated task.

Your official score report will include a total score out of 30 points.  ETS no longer provides separate scores for each of the writing questions.

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