There are five types of independent writing questions on the TOEFL. We learned what they are a few weeks ago. We have discussed some strategies to answering these questions. In the future I will list each type of question here and outline the possible ways to answer the questions. It is important that you try to practice and memorize the possible strategies before writing TOEFL.

Agree or Disagree Questions

Agree Disagree Questions:

1. Method One: Agree with the statement

Thesis: I agree with/that ….
Topic 1: One reason I agree is….
Topic 2: Another reason I agree is…
Topic 3: The final reason I agree is…
Conclusion: The reasons I agree with… are …

2. Method Two: disagree with the statement

Thesis: I disagree with/that ….
Topic 1: One reason I disagree is….
Topic 2: Another reason I disagree is…
Topic 3: The final reason I disagree is…
Conclusion: The reasons I disagree with… are …

3. Method Three: (mixed answer)\ both agree and disagree

Thesis: I both agree and disagree

Topic 1: One reason I disagree is….
Topic 2: One reason I agree is…
Topic 3: Another reason I agree/disagree is…
Conclusion: I neither/both agree or disagree with … because …

TOEFL Writing Strategy – Compare / Contrast Questions

Compare / Consrtast: (ie. 1. 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?)

These questions the most difficult and have the most methods of possible answer.
You need to evaluate the question carefully to determine if method one or method two is applicable.

1. Method One: There are many similarities and differences between A and B. I think that A (or B) is most important (mimic verb from question)

Thesis: There are many similarities and differences between A and B. I think that A (or B)…
Topic 1: Some similarities between A and B are …(mimic verb in question)
Topic 2: Some differences between A and B are …
Topic 3: I think that A (or B)… (mimic verb in question)
Conclusion: There are similarities and differences between A and B. I think that A (or B)…(mimic verb in question)

2. Method Two: There are various advantages and disadvantages to A and B. I think that A (or B) is most important (mimic verb from question)

Thesis: There are various advantages and disadvantages to A and B. I think that A (or B)…
Topic 1: The advantages of A are …
Topic 2: The advantages of B are …
Topic 3: I think that A (or B)… (mimic verb in question)
Conclusion: There are various advantages and disadvantages to A and B. I think that A (or B)… (mimic verb in question)

TOEFL Writing Strategy – Description / Explanation

Description / Explanation: (ie. In your opinion, what is the most important personality characteristic a person can have?)

These questions are very similar to the If/Imagine questions because they allow you more freedom in creating your thesis, but they also require more creativity.
There is only one basic method to answer this type of question.
However, there are many possible scenarios that the question can include.
Therefore it is very important when answering this type of questions to look at the verb or verb phrases in the questions and mimic those verb phrases in your answer. Examples are shown below.

Mimicking the verb or verb phrase of the question. (mimic means copy)

Here are some example questions with various verbs. You can notice how the thesis below each question will use the same verb form as the questions.

Q1: In your opinion, what is the best gift to send a grandmother?
T1: In my opinion, the best give to send a grandmother is …

Q2:Describe a custom from your culture that is very important.
T2: One custom from my culture that is very important is …

Q3: Explain why it is necessary for society to have police.
T3: It is important to have police because…

1. Method One:

Thesis: I think / believe that … (mimic the verb or phrases used in the question)
Topic 1: One reason I think that .. is because…
Topic 2: Another reason I think that .. is because…
Topic 3: The final reason I believe that .. is because…
Conclusion: The reasons I think that .. are … is because… (list reasons 1-3)

** You may include a topic like: On the other hand, although …. is important, there is also another side.

TOEFL Writing Strategy – If / Imagine Questions

If/Imagine: (ie. Imagine you could travel to any country for vacation, where would you go?)

There is only one basic method to answer this type of question:

1. Method One: If I could … I would …

Thesis: If I could … I would …
Topic 1: One reason I would choose to .. is because…
Topic 2: Another reason I would choose to .. is because…
Topic 3: The final reason I would choose to .. is because…
Conclusion: The reasons I would choose to .. are because… (list reasons 1-3)

** You may include a topic like: Although I would … if I could, there are also some good points about … (another idea)

TOEFL Writing Strategy – Prefer Questions

Prefer Questions: (ie. Which do you prefer A or B)

1. Method One: I prefer A (or B)- All topics support

Thesis: I prefer A
Topic 1: One reason I prefer A is….
Topic 2: Another reason I prefer A is…
Topic 3: The final reason I prefer A is…
Conclusion: The reasons I prefer A are …

** You may include a topic like: Although I prefer A (or B), one negative point about A (or B) is that…

2. Method Two: I don’t prefer A or B – some topics to support A and some to support B.

Thesis: I neither prefer A or B.
Topic 1: One reason A is better is because…
Topic 2: One reason B is better is because…
Topic 3: Another reason A (or B) is better is because…
Conclusion: I neither prefer A or B because …

Check out this video on YouTube:

http://youtu.be/H7msd7oXbRo

There are many components of academic writing that are recurring. That is, there are many elements of academic writing that are common in all papers. For example, reviewing literature, critical discussion of previous research, discussing methodology, reporting your results, describing trends, etc.

ESL students and native speakers alike have problems to express these elements concisely, although they don’t need to have this trouble. There is a common phraseology that can be used in your writing that can make it much easier to express your ideas in acceptable and academic way.

The following link will take you to the Academic Phrasebank at Manchester University. On the left-hand menu, the site lists several common academic writing sections, as well as some common functions of academic writing. If you click on a menu-item, a explanation, as well as several sub-sets of phrases that you can use will be displayed.

http://www.phrasebank.manchester.ac.uk/

Check out the video and quiz at this link:
http://ed.ted.com/lessons/sex-determination-more-complicated-than-you-thought#review

The video is very interesting because you can see how many species are different when it comes to what determines the sex of their offspring. WARNING: The video listening level is advanced level. Try the quiz below the video to see how well you understand the video contents!

Movie genres are important to know if you want to have a conversation about movies with your friends. What kinds of movies do you like? Is there any kind you really don’t like? Personally, I love scary movies. They don’t usually scare me, but sometimes I think they are funny. Rarely, if I’m alone, they may scare me a little. I hope you are brave and enjoy scary horror movies!

Here is a website that has a complete list of film genres and also some information to help you!

http://www.filmsite.org/filmgenres.html

Download this conversation class worksheet to guide your conversation class with your students or friends:
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/45852891/Ridley/Movie%20Vocabulary%20Worksheet.pdf

Try this online crossword puzzle to see if you know your movie genres:
http://www.esolcourses.com/content/topics/cinema/film-genres-crossword.html

Here are some tips for writing TOEFL from the website:

http://www.manhattaneliteprep.com/toefl-books-tips-writing-advice/

  • Don’t waste precious time obsessing over introductions and conclusions, keep them brief and focus mainly on your body paragraphs
  • Devote a small amount of time to brainstorm and plan your essay, 3-5 minutes maximum
  • Remember that in addition to details and examples, you will also be graded on organization and coherence
  • Practice at home by doing quick five minute outlines of TOEFL writing topics

Here is a great video about brainstorming for the writing question before you write it. This will help you to write coherently and in an organized manner:

The following link will also give some advice for brainstorming and writing for TOEFL.

http://www.mindomo.com/mindmap/toefl-essay-brainstorming-824759da424542e98efeebd4f6850f48

When you are writing for school essays and science, you should learn to write using positive phrasing. This means that you use the positive form of the verb rather than the words like “not” or “didn’t”. The reason is that positive language is easier and more clear. That makes it easier for people who read your writing.

Use Positive Language:

not possible / impossible
not more than / at most
did not succeed / failed
did not have / lacked
did not remember / forgot
not different from / similar to
not current / outdated
not on purpose / accidental
not unless / only if
not until / only when
not important / trivial or unimportant
not true / false or untrue
not clear / vague, ambiguous, unclear, blurred, or cloudy
did not fail / passed or succeeded
not aware / ignorant, oblivious, or unaware
not broken / fine or working
not closed / open