June 2014


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 …

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