Topics and Sample Essays for the Writing Section of the TOEFL® Test

Let’s start with the basics, the TOEFL independent writing question.

Below you will find a short but powerful list of TOEFL Writing topics that were just updated for .

 

 

  1. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “It is more important for students to study art and literature than it is to study math and science.” Provide reasons and examples to support your opinion.
  2. Your friend has decided to switch careers but isn’t sure which to choose. What advice would you give them? Provide reasons and examples to support your response.

Want over 100 more TOEFL Writing topics? Download them here.

  1. Describe an annual day in your country when you give people special gifts.
  2. Describe a fear you had to overcome. How did you overcome it?
  3. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “Video games offer benefits to children.” Provide reason and examples to support your stance.
  4. What are the characteristics of a good coach?
  5. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “It is better to read books on an electronic device than it is to read traditional books on paper.”
  6. Some people feel that high school students benefit from participating in organized sports, while others feel that sports are a waste of time. Instead, students should focus on studying. Which point of view do you agree with and explain why.
  7. You must prepare a final project. Which style would you prefer: a) giving a class presentation b) design a poster c) write an essay.
  8. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “It is better to be a follower than a leader.”
  9. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “Every individual should spend at least a year living in a foreign country.” Provide reasons and examples to support your opinion.
  10. You are going to start a new business. Which of the following do you feel is most important to be successful: a) lots of money b) lots of friends c) lots of products.
  11. Would you before to go to a small university in the countryside or a large university in the city?
  12. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “Reading the newspaper or online news sources is a waste of time.” Provide reasons and examples to support your opinion.
  13. You have been given a gift of money. Which would you rather spend it on: a) a piece of jewelry b) a pair of concert tickets c) an expensive meal.
  14. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “Professional athletes are born with talent. You can not train someone to be a professional athlete.” Provide reasons and examples to support your response.
  15. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “It is always better to study with a teacher than it is to study alone.” Support your response with reasons and examples.
  16. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “Children nowadays have too much freedom.”
  17. You are going to have a new roommate next semester. Which of the following qualities is most important to you: a) cleanliness b) humorous c) politeness.
  18. If you had to work on a project for school would you rather: a) work alone, b) work with classmates, or c) work with a tutor.

TOEFL Writing Sample Essay #1

  1. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “It is more important for students to study art and literature than it is to study math and science.” Provide reasons and examples to support your opinion.

There is no shortage of opinion on whether it is better for students to learn art and literature or math and science. In my opinion, I disagree with the statement; I think it is more important for people to study math and science. The following paragraphs will explain my two major reasons for this opinion.

First of all, science and math are more valuable than art and literature because knowledge of math and science is necessary for understanding and advancing technology. Technology has led this world to become extremely interconnected. The internet, cell phones and airplanes are all technological advances that people use every day and would not be possible without students of math and science inventing them. I heard a story on the news once that illustrates my point quite well. Used plastic is overflowing in landfills and polluting the seas. However, clever scientists have found interesting ways to reuse wasted plastic. In India, they mix thrown out plastic waste with asphalt and use it to pave new roadways. This invention is made possible because of science and math, and it can help solve the pollution problems in the oceans. If students do not continue to learn math and science, then more technologies of the future like this one may never be created. In order to continue making technological advancements, it is better for students to study science and math.

Secondly, math and science are more important subjects because people need to know them in order to save lives and keep everyone healthy. Doctors, nurses, and medical technicians are all former students of science and math. Drawing from my own experience, my brother recently went to college to become a surgeon. He is going to be studying for eight years, and almost all of his classes will be of these types. For example, he is now learning anatomy, algebra, biology, and geometry which are all science and math courses. When he graduates, he will have the skills to heal patients’ illnesses and injuries because he studies these subjects. For the sake of public health, it is more necessary for students to learn math and science than art and literature.

In conclusion, I strongly believe it is more important for students to study science and math than it is to learn about literature and art. This is because math and science provide students the knowledge to advance technology, and the ability to cure the sick and dying people in the world.

If you want to know more about the structure of the TOEFL independent essay, check out this excellent video from Michael Goodine at Test Resources.

And here’s another example TOEFL Writing topic and sample essay from an expert TOEFL instructor:

  1. Your friend has decided to switch careers but isn’t sure which to choose. What advice would you give them? Provide reasons and examples to support your response.

When children are young, they asked by adults what they want to be when they grow up. This, unfortunately, causes kids to think that they can only have one job for the rest of their life. But, in reality, it is perfectly normal for people to want a change. If my friend was thinking about switching her career, but she didn’t know what she wanted to do, I would give her the following two pieces of advice.

First, if my friend was considering changing her job, I would suggest that she go back to the drawing board. The best career path is one that encompasses three values, each of which everyone gives different weight. The work must allow her to make enough money to live comfortably, it must be something that she is good at, and it must be something that she finds rewarding. For instance, when I was a lawyer, I was good at my job and I earned plenty of money, but I was not proud of the work I was doing. I decided to leave the legal field behind and pursued a job that I could actually enjoy while helping people. That is when I decided to become a teacher instead. In order to determine which new career will be best for her, my friend will need to do some soul-searching first and then look for a job that will include these three ideals.

Next, if my friend wasn’t sure which new career to choose, but she had a few in mind, I would advise her to job shadow them. As they say, it is best to check the temperature of the water before diving in headfirst. This happened to my aunt when she wanted to quit her job and become a policewoman. Before signing up at the police academy, she job-shadowed. She sat in on some of the classes first, to see if she was interested. She interviewed police officers, to find out if the job would be what she expected, and she rode along with them while they were on duty, to learn what it would be like. Ultimately, she discovered that being a policewoman was not the right fit for her. It was better that she job-shadowed first before making the commitment. This is what I would advise my friend to do too.

In summary, if my friend was thinking about leaving her career, but didn’t know which one to choose, I would first recommend to her to search for work that best fit her values. Then, I would suggest that she job-shadows any potential jobs she is considering before she makes her choice.

This TOEFL essay would earn a perfect score.

Why?

Well, for one thing it avoids the most common Five TOEFL Writing Mistakes. Check out the video below to find our more

Now it’s time to move on to the TOEFL Integrated Writing topics.

But if you’re still hungry for independent writing topics, you can feed on more here: TOEFL Writing Topics

Getting sleepy?

The TOEFL has that effect. Download the PDF version of this post and read it on your own time.

TOEFL Integrated Writing Topics

In the TOEFL Writing Section, there are two questions you must respond to. The first question is called the TOEFL Integrated Writing task. The second question is called the TOEFL Independent Writing task.

The list of 20 TOEFL Writing topics above is actually for question two, the independent writing task.

“Why did you start with question two?”

Well, it’s a simpler question. It provides one direct question and you have thirty minutes to write. That’s it.

But the TOEFL Integrated Writing question

The integrated question presents a reading and listening passage, followed by a question, which is a bit more complicated.

Integrated Writing: Task Breakdown

Question Structure Content
1st The writing section instructions will be read aloud. You can skip this introduction.
2nd You will be given an academic passage to read. This passage will contain between 250-300 words. When the clock starts, you will have three minutes to read the passage. After that, the passage disappears and an audio lecture starts. However, the reading passage will return when it's time to write.
3rd A lecture that addresses the content of the reading will start to play. The lecture will last for two to three minutes.
4th After the passage finishes, you will be asked a question. The question is almost always something like: "Summarize the points in the lecture, being sure to explain how they challenge specific points made in the reading"
5th The clock starts. You will have approximately 20 minutes to write an essay of at least 250 words. You must answer the question and report on the most important points from both the reading and listening.

Simple, right?

No? Still confused.

No worries. The best way to understand something better is through examples.

Let’s do one together.

This TOEFL integrated writing topic deals with the use of Corn Ethanol.

Give yourself three minutes to read it:

The chemical compound, ethanol, has risen in recent years as the most viable alternative to fossil fuels. Ethanol is a renewable fuel made from crops, mainly from corn in the United States, which can power engines. There are many who argue that corn ethanol should replace fossil fuel gas as the primary source for running cars.

One major benefit of using corn ethanol is that it uses less energy than gasoline. Using less energy means that people can get better gas mileage while driving these more fuel-efficient cars. In the long-run, this will be cheaper for consumers because they can drive further than they do now with fossil-fueled cars. People will spend less money on gas because they won’t have to stop to fill up as frequently.

Another advantage of switching to corn ethanol is that it helps the American economy become less reliant on energy sources from other countries. Petroleum is not readily available in the U.S., so it must be imported from other countries. Depending on foreign relations with those countries, fuel becomes a political issue. Corn is a crop that America has in abundance. By using corn ethanol instead, the cost of gas will decrease because now the import taxes on fossil fuels are calculated into the price. This also means that we will be putting the money into our own economy, thus helping local corn farmers.

One of the most attractive aspects of corn ethanol is how environmentally friendly is when compared to current automobile gasoline. Fossil fuels release carbon that has been stored for years from the earth. Burning biofuels, like corn ethanol, is better for the environment because it releases less greenhouse gas emissions. Lessening the amount of carbon emissions will help prevent global warming and all of the other negative effects of climate change.

Once three minutes have ended, listen to a conversation about the same topic

Now, it’s time to write your TOEFL essay.

Stop reading.

Start writing.

Seriously.

Write your essay before you look at this TOEFL Writing sample. You will learn a lot more if you actually write the essay and then compare this to your own.

Here’s an expert TOEFL teacher’s sample essay to this particular TOEFL Writing topic.

The article introduces the topic of corn-based ethanol. More specifically, the writer discusses the advantages of switching from fossil fuels to this alternative energy source. The lecturer in the listening passage disagrees. He believes that the benefits the author mentions are misleading and attacks each of the claims made in the reading.

In the reading, the author begins by stating that drivers will get better gas mileage on corn ethanol than on fossil fuels, and therefore save money on gas. The speaker, however, disagrees. He states that the production of corn ethanol is very expensive. He says that in order to make for the costs to create and distribute this biofuel, the price of ethanol gas will increase.  Therefore, it will not be any cheaper for consumers in the long run.

The writer also claims that making the switch to corn ethanol will help the American economy because it will make the United States less dependent on foreign oil. Again, the lecturer believes there are flaws in the writer’s argument. He holds instead that mass use of corn-based ethanol will hurt the economy. He elaborates this by point out that the inevitable competition for corn by multiple consumers, including beef and dairy farmers, will drive the price of corn up.

Another reason why the author feels that moving from traditional gasoline to corn ethanol is a good idea is that they are more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels. The professor in the listening passage is doubtful that this is accurate. He suggests that as more farmlands are created to support the demands for more corn, more carbon will be absorbed by the land. This means that these emissions will still be released to negatively affect the environment.

As you can see the author and speaker hold very different views about the use of corn ethanol.

The author here clearly defined the main idea, organized the supporting points from both the reading and listening passage, and showed how they differ from each other. 

I know it may seem a bit difficult, which is why I recommend that you start off with a TOEFL Writing template for both the independent and integrated essays.

Get peace of mind with these TOEFL Writing Templates

Now that you have a few TOEFL Writing topics and sample essays to study from, you may want to use a writing template to help guide your writing.

A TOEFL template is basically a pre-organized set of words and phrases that you can use in almost any TOEFL Writing response.

Here’s TST Prep’s template for the integrated TOEFL Writing question (question one):

The article introduces the topic of (general topic). More specifically, the writer discusses (stance of the author on the topic). The lecturer in the listening passage disagrees. He believes that (stance of the professor on the topic) and attacks each of the claims made in the reading.

In the reading, the author begins by stating that (first point made to support stance). The lecturer, however, disagrees. He states that (first counterargument by the professor). He goes on to say that (additional detail about first counterargument).

The author also claims that (second point made to support stance). Again, the lecturer believes there are flaws in the writer’s argument. The speaker holds that (two sentences about the professor’s second counter-argument).

Another reason why the author feels that (restate stance of author) is that (third point made to support stance). The professor in the listening passage is doubtful that this is accurate. He suggests that (two sentences about the professor’s third counter argument).

To sum up, both the writer and professor hold conflicting views about (general topic). It’s clear that they will have trouble finding common ground on this issue.

And here’s our template for the independent TOEFL Writing question (question two):

And here’s our template for the independent TOEFL Writing question (question two)

There is no shortage of opinion on (paraphrase the question topic). In my opinion, (your stance on the topic). I feel this way for two main reasons, which I will explore in the following paragraphs.

First of all, (first reason for your opinion). (1-3 sentences further explaining your first reason) My personal experience is a good example of this. (3-5 sentences describing a personal example to support your reason).  As a result, (effect of your personal example). For this reason, (concluding sentence that connects your personal example back to your stance on the topic).

Secondly, (second reason for your opinion) (1-3 sentences further explaining your first reason). Drawing from my own experience, (3-5 sentences describing a personal example to support your reason). Moreover, (additional detail of your personal example). It’s certainly clear to see why (concluding sentence that connects your personal example back to your stance on the topic).

In conclusion, (restate your stance on the topic). This is because (restate the two reasons for your opinion).

You will notice that the sample essays in this article differ from the templates.

You do not have to use templates, it’s up to you. Some people prefer to write in their own unique fashion for the entire exam. However, you will notice that the structure of the templates is similar to the TOEFL example essays.

These templates follow the exact organization and structure you are expected to use on test day, so don’t hesitate to use them in your writing.

Again, check out Michael from Test Resources explaining the difference between the two questions, or if you have any doubts about the power of templates in the TOEFL Writing section.

Get the PDF version of this blog post with Speaking and Writing Topics for the TOEFL Test.

Oh, and if you are looking for a list of over 100 independent Speaking and Writing questions for the TOEFL, you can check out this freebie we just updated for , TOEFL Speaking and Writing Topics: Over 100 Independent Topics available right here and for free.

If you read this far, it means you are serious about your TOEFL studies. Don’t hesitate to send us an email and let us know how we can help you earn the TOEFL score of your dreams – [email protected]

Did we forget anything? Please comment and let us know how we can improve our TOEFL Writing advice (or if you want to just say hi that would be great too).

97 Comments

  1. Joud

    Hey Josh, I have a question. If the question is saying a good essay is between 200 and 300, and I wrote more than 300, is this okay? Or should I make it only as maximum as they are saying?

    Reply
    • Josh

      Hi Joud and great question. Definitely write MORE. There is a direct correlation between test scores and word count, so the more you write the better. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should write as much as possible as fast as possible, but anything between 350-450 words would be great.

      Reply
  2. Aziz

    Hey Josh, I think I do well in my writing section, but my score doesn’t improve. Is there anything that I can do to know my mistakes from the ETS?

    Reply
    • Josh

      Hi Aziz, good question, and unfortunately, no, they do not release that information. The best you can do is work with an experienced teacher who can point out your weaknesses and work on them at home before test day.

      Reply

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