On the TOEFL Writing section, you’ll be expected to plan and write two essays. But what are those supposed to be about? What types of TOEFL Writing topics will you see?
In order to be well prepared and confident on test day, you’ll need thorough understanding of the types of TOEFL essay topics you could see on the exam. This guide gives in-depth explanations of every type of TOEFL Writing topic you might see, how to approach different types of prompts, and what your essays are expected to include. We end with a set of 13 unique sample essay prompts, including both TOEFL Independent Writing prompts and Integrated Writing prompts so that you can prepare with high-quality practice problems.
An Introduction to the TOEFL Writing Topics
The TOEFL Writing section is 50 minutes long and contains two tasks: Integrated Writing and Independent Writing. It’s the fourth and final section of the exam. After this you’re done! You’ll type both essays on the computer, but you can use scratch paper to jot down notes and plan out your essays.
In the next two sections, we’ll explain the format of the two Writing tasks and give an official sample question, along with an analysis of the common types of topics and strategies for doing well on each task.
TOEFL Integrated Writing Topics
The Integrated Writing task requires you to use listening, reading, and writing skills. For this task, you’ll have three minutes to read a short passage, then you will listen to a short (approximately two-minute long) audio clip of a speaker discussing the same topic the written passage covers. You’ll need to write an essay that references both of these sources in order to answer the question. You won’t discuss your own opinion for this essay.
During the writing time, you’ll be able to look at the written passage again, but you won’t be able to re-hear the audio clip. You’ll be able to take notes while you listen to it though.
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- Writing Time: 20 minutes
- Suggested Essay Length: 150-225 words
Official Integrated Writing Prompt Sample
Reading Time: 3 minutes
In an effort to encourage ecologically sustainable forestry practices, an international organization started issuing certificates to wood companies that meet high ecological standards by conserving resources and recycling materials. Companies that receive this certification can attract customers by advertising their products as “ecocertified.” However, it is unlikely that wood companies in the United States will do the same, for several reasons.
First, American consumers are exposed to so much advertising that they would not value or even pay attention to the ecocertification label. Because so many mediocre products are labelled as “new” or “improved,” American consumers do not place much trust in advertising claims in general.
Second, ecocertified wood will be more expensive than uncertified wood because in order to earn ecocertification, a wood company must pay to have its business examined by a certification agency. This additional cost gets passed on to consumers. American consumers tend to be strongly motivated by price, and therefore they are likely to choose cheaper uncertified wood products. Accordingly, American wood companies will prefer to keep their prices low rather than obtain ecocertification.
Third, although some people claim that it always makes good business sense for American companies to keep up with the developments in the rest of the world, this argument is not convincing. Pursuing certification would make sense for American wood companies only if they marketed most of their products abroad. But this is not the case– American wood businesses sell most of their products in the United States, catering to a very large customer base that is satisfied with the merchandise.
Directions: Below is the transcript.
Narrator: Now listen to part of a lecture on the topic you just read about.
Professor: Well, despite what many people say, there’s good reason to think that many American wood companies will eventually seek ecocertification for their wood products. First off, consumers in the United States don’t treat all advertising the same. They distinguish between advertising claims that companies make about their own products and claims made by independent certification agencies. Americans have a lot of confidence in independent consumer agencies. Thus, ecologically minded Americans are likely to react very favorably to wood products ecologically certified by an independent organization with an international reputation for trustworthiness.
Second point–of course it’s true that American consumers care a lot about price– who doesn’t? But studies of how consumers make decisions show that price alone determines consumers’ decisions only when the price of one competing product is much higher or lower than another. When the price difference between the two products is small–say, less than five percent, as is the case with certified wood– Americans often do choose on factors other than price. And Americans are becoming increasingly convinced of the value of preserving and protecting the environment.
And third, US wood companies should definitely pay attention to what’s going on in the wood business internationally, not because of foreign consumers, but because of foreign competition. As I just told you, there’s a good chance that many American consumers will be interested in ecocertified products. And guess what, if American companies are slow at capturing those customers, you can be sure that foreign companies will soon start crowding into the American market, offering ecocertified wood that domestic companies don’t.
Directions: Give yourself 20 minutes to plan and write your response. Your response is judged on the quality of the writing and how well it presents the points in the lecture and their relationship to the reading passage. Typically, an effective response will be 150 to 225 words. You may view the reading passage while you respond.
RESPONSE TIME: 20 minutes
Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to explain how they cast doubt on specific points made in the reading passage.
What to Expect From TOEFL Integrated Writing Topics
The written passage and audio recording can be on pretty much any subject, but the good news is that all the prompts for the Integrated Writing Task are pretty similar. They usually ask you to summarize the points made in the lecture and compare/contrast them to points made in the reading passage.
You won’t be discussing your own opinion during this essay, instead you’ll be taking information from both the lecture and reading and analyzing it.
How to Approach the Integrated Writing Task
Before you even begin the essay, you should take good notes on the key points of the reading passage and the audio clip. Your notes should be especially good for the audio clip since you won’t be able to hear it again. Using your notes as reference, your essay should recap each of the main points made in the audio clip. For each point you should clearly describe how it contrasts with or challenges points from the reading passage.
Also, remember to