TOEFL: 10 INDEPENDENT WRITING TOPICS (FOR PRACTICE)

The TOEFL exam allows 30 minutes to complete the “Independent Writing” section. This should usually be 4-5 paragraphs in which you defend a position (viewpoint) you choose on an assigned topic. We will post something soon which breaks down how much time to spend on different activities during this time to complete your essay (e.g. brainstorming, writing, editing & proofreading).

toefl write

To begin practicing writing essays, here are 10 writing prompts which have appeared on ACTUAL (real) past TOEFL tests.

(These are also good for practicing independent speaking questions, too — just give yourself 45 seconds to talk on these subjects.)

1. People attend college or university for many different reasons (for example, new experiences, career preparation, increased knowledge). Why do you think people attend college or university? Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

2. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Parents are the best teachers. Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

3. Nowadays, food has become easier to prepare. Has this change improved the way people live? Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

4. It has been said, “Not everything that is learned is contained in books.” Compare and contrast knowledge gained from experience with knowledge gained from books. In your opinion, which source is more important? Why?

5. A company has announced that it wishes to build a large factory near your community. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this new influence on your community. Do you support or oppose the factory? Explain your position.

6. If you could change one important thing about your hometown, what would you change? Use reasons and specific examples to support your answer.

7. How do movies or television influence people’s behavior? Use reasons and specific examples to support your answer.

8. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Television has destroyed communication among friends and family. Use specific reasons and examples to support your opinion.

9. Some people prefer to live in a small town. Others prefer to live in a big city. Which place would you prefer to live in? Use specific reasons and details to support your answer.

10. “When people succeed, it is because of hard work. Luck has nothing to do with success.” Do you agree or disagree with the quotation above? Use specific reasons and examples to explain your position.

FIVE PARAGRAPH ESSAY IS LIKE A HAMBURGER!

Writing a five-paragraph essay is one of the most important skills you need to succeed on the independent writing section of the TOEFL (and many other tests including the GRE and GMAT) and in order to write papers for American college classes.

Americans love hamburgers more than you thought!

One easy way to remember how to do this is to think of your essay like it’s a hamburger. You can find a million examples like this online (just type “essay hamburger” into Google Images). College papers usually must be at least several pages long (and often can be 10-20 pages long) but they can still follow the “hamburger model.”

The basic idea:

TOP BUN = Paragraph 1 = Introduce the topic and present the argument you are trying to make (thesis)

TOMATO = Paragraph 2 = First type of support for your argument, with at least one specific example

LETTUCE = Paragraph 3 = Second type of support for your argument, with at least one specific example

MEAT PATTY = Paragraph 4 = Third type of support for your argument, with at least one specific example

BOTTOM BUN = Paragraph 5 = Conclusion; repeat your main argument and find a good way to end. For example, make a prediction about the future.

Some essay hamburger examples:

This model can also be use for writing a single paragraph: