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 2020.

 

 

  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 is 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 then 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 everyday 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 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 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 head first. 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 essay would earn a perfect score on the TOEFL.

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 call 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.

There is a table here. Please rotate your phone to landscape in order to see it.
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 the 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 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 essay.

Stop reading.

Start writing.

Seriously.

Write your essay before you look at this 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 because 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 as these emissions will still be released to negatively affect 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 are similar to the 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 2020, 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).

93 Comments

  1. Uttara

    Hi, thank you so much for tips. I have my TOEFL tomorrow. Can you tell me if it is okay to take middle ground in independent writing task or one needs to strictly either agree/disagree?

    Reply
    • Josh

      Good question and I’m sure that will be fine. The most important thing is that you sounded comfortable and natural.

      Reply
  2. rubina

    It is very informative. It really helped me.

    Reply
    • Josh MacPherson

      Great to hear. Thank you!

      Reply
  3. Vaamika Khanna

    This was really helpful !!

    Reply
    • Josh MacPherson

      Nice! Happy to help.

      Reply
  4. Ricard

    I have my TOEFL exam tomorrow and I am way more confident than I was a week ago, thanks to you Josh! Your materials are very useful and very clear to understand. Thank you very much!

    Reply
    • Josh MacPherson

      Happy to help, Ricard. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

      Reply
  5. Pradyumn

    Thank you very much, Josh! For everything about the TOEFL!

    I have the exam tomorrow and I am using every template of yours!

    I am very confident about the exam and you would be the reason for the confidence

    Thank you very much again!

    Reply
    • Josh MacPherson

      Good luck Pradyumn and let me know how it goes.

      Reply
  6. Dev

    Hey Josh!! I have a TOEFL exam tomorrow and it is you because of whom I will score good marks!! U have been such a great tutor and a mentor!!
    Thank you so much 🙂

    Reply
    • Josh MacPherson

      Thanks for the compliment! Good luck and let me know how it goes.

      Reply
      • Pascal

        Hey, Josh you are incredible tutor.I am to write my TOEFL exam. You have been of great help to me

        Reply
        • Josh MacPherson

          Thank you Pascal! I appreciate it 🙂

          Reply
  7. Mary

    Josh it is funny how you change your voice in the listening files sometimes !!haha
    I really enjoyed the material ! extremely helpful ~ thanks ^_^

    Reply
    • Josh MacPherson

      Glad you found it helpful and let me know if you have any questions 🙂

      Reply
  8. MARIFAT

    Thanks for your amazing job! I have been watching your videos for a month already. Have my exam soon. Wish me luck 🙂

    Reply
    • Josh MacPherson

      Happy to hear they helped. Good luck on the test!

      Reply
  9. Nelly

    Hello Josh, I’m from Kenya, Africa. Thank you so much for helping me on my TOEFL studies. You’ve been of great help. However, I have a disturbing question on writing part. How do I start a writing question that starts with “describe”. For instance “Describe your worst fear”. I look forward to hearing from you Sir☺️

    Reply
    • Josh MacPherson

      It is hard for me to answer this since it depends on the question. or the “describe your worst fear” question, you could use a phrase like, “There are many different opinions on what is the worst fear to have.” or “People around the world have (different ways to describe their worst fear).” You could use those phrases for a lot of different types of independent questions, including description.

      Reply
  10. xu

    Great!

    Reply
    • Josh MacPherson

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

      Reply
  11. Sumin Lee

    Hi! I found your youtube videos and it was awesome!! I bet it would help me when I take TOEFL, especially for the writing section. I can come up with more useful and precise ideas than before!!!
    I have one question about the writing section. Are 380-400 words in independent section enough?

    Reply
    • Josh MacPherson

      Hi Sumin and yes that is enough. Basically, we usually recommend at least 350 -500 words. Give yourself a wide range so you don’t limit your writing. I hope that helps!

      Reply
      • Sumin Lee

        Thanks!!!

        Reply
    • Swati

      I am going to take my test tomorrow. Wish me luck. I have used your teachings, methods and tips during my preparation. Those were very handy and useful. I hope to give my best tomorrow.

      Reply
      • Josh MacPherson

        Good luck on the test Swati! Let me know how it goes.

        Reply
  12. yara

    this is awesome thank you so so so so mucho 🙂

    Reply
    • Josh MacPherson

      Thanks for commenting! Glad you found it helpful 🙂

      Reply
    • Mahbob

      I thought TOEFL was so tough, but with these strategies i truly feel comfortable.

      I would appreciate if you you can send me some tips over inference and vocabulary questions in addition to Stance questions of listening portion.

      Thanks TST,

      Reply
  13. Keny

    You are a great teacher Josh. I watched your videos and I have TOEFL next week.

    Reply
    • Josh MacPherson

      Happy to hear they helped. Good luck on the test!

      Reply
  14. Nadine

    Hi Josh! Thank you for both amazing advice and material. I enjoy watching your videos as well while preparing for the exam I am taking in a week. You are a great teacher, no doubt about that! I would highly recommend your website and videos for my friends as well 🙂

    Reply
    • Josh MacPherson

      Thanks for the compliment! TOEFL can get pretty dry sometimes so I try to keep it light. Good luck on the test!

      Reply
  15. Binh Phan

    Thank you for your materials. It’s amazingg!

    Reply
    • Josh MacPherson

      Thank you for saying that Binh Phan! Happy to help 🙂

      Reply
  16. Luis

    HI Josh!!, thank you so much for making all this great material, however I have one paticular question regarding the way you write some of your Independent eassay examples.
    How accurate, ( High grated ) it´s to write an essay ussing first-person pronouns . ej: ¨ I heard a story on the news once that illustrates my point quite well.¨
    I have read in other sites, that it is best not to use 1st -person nouns if you want to achive a high score, and now im confused. Please HELP !!

    Reply
    • Josh MacPherson

      Hi Luis and great question. It is always best to look at the source first. ETS Official TOEFL Guide book includes a few example essays and there is actually a mix of high-level responses, some that use “I” and some that don’t. So, actually, either way will work. If you have a copy of the ETS guide handy, you can take a look at page 547 for a high-scoring example that uses first-person pronouns often.

      Reply
  17. Akshata

    Hi Josh,
    I am going through your videos and all are excellent. My concern is in writing type – 1. even though am good at taking notes, am unable to put the points from reading and listening. May be am not good at paraphrasing. am not able to achieve it. Please guide me on how I write and elaborate for writing type – 1 considering the points from both ends.

    Reply
    • Josh MacPherson

      Hi Akshata and thank you for your question. It is hard for me to give you specific advice because much depends on your individual writing style. Also, I can’t really teach you “how to paraphrase” because what you paraphrase will change depending on the situation.

      For the most part, in the listening passage, trust your notes and memory and don’t worry too much about repeating the same vocabulary, just write based on memory.

      For the information from the reading passage, it is more important to paraphrase. Read the passage and try not to look at it when you write and instead write based on your memory of the reading, that way you will naturally paraphrase since your memory and reality will be different.

      I hope that makes sense, but for your situation, I do strongly recommend a writing evaluation so you can get feedback from a professional. This way you can KNOW your weaknesses, instead of wondering about them – https://tstprep.com/toefl-store/toefl-writing-evaluations/

      Reply
  18. Anand Pandya

    The lectures delivered by you are both interesting and amazing. I have my TOEFL exam tomorrow and I have prepared mainly watching your videos. Have learned a lot. Thanks 🙂

    Reply
    • Josh MacPherson

      Thanks for the support and happy to hear that you found some of these lessons helpful.

      Good luck tomorrow!

      Reply
    • Josh MacPherson

      Anand thank you so much for your kind words 🙂

      Good luck on your test!

      Reply
  19. Priyanshi

    Firstly, I am very thankful for providing such a great material for TOEFL. Can I use writing templates in the exam which is you provide?

    Reply
    • Josh MacPherson

      Yes, of course. That’s why we give the templates out. I hope you find them helpful on test day!

      Reply
  20. Parvaneh

    You are the best. I love the way you speak… thanks for every thing

    Reply
    • Josh MacPherson

      Thank you for your kind words Parvaneh. Much appreciated 🙂

      Reply

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