Strategies and Tips for writing from Barron’s how to prepare for the TOEFL essay

Strategies and Tips for improving TOEFL iBT writing skill

Writing is a skill like playing sport. Practice is essential. There is a lot of activities you can do on your own to help you become a better writer. Follow the tips below, you’ll practice your writing, practice your penmanship, and practice forming opinions.

  1. Pay attention to your reading materials.
    Notice how the author of your book organizes thoughts and expresses ideas. Gone with the Wind is a famous American novel by Margaret Mitchell. Many years after she died, a sequel was published. The author of that sequel wrote out, by hand, the entire 1037 pages of Gone with the Wind three times! She wanted to mimic the style of Margaret Mitchell: She wanted to get a feel for the way Mitchell put sentences together. You can do the same thing.Take the model essays in our writing category and write them out by hand. Write them several times until you get a feel for the use of transition phrases and other cohesive devices. Try to understand how the details support the topic sentences. Pay attention to the introductions and conclusions. Once you have copied the model essay several times, think about whether you agree or disagree with the opinion of the author. Then create your own essay on the same topic. Compare your essay with the model essay. Show your essay to a friend or teacher.
  2. Write even something simple.
    An essay is made up of sentences. If you have some extra time, for example, while waiting for someone, don’t just stare at the wall. Write! You don’t have to write an essay; write just a sentence or two. Look around you. What do you see? Write what you see: The wall ispain ted a light yellow. Write what you think about it: Yellow is too colorful for me; I’d prefer gray. Write why you think so: Yellow is too bright a color; it’s hard to relax in a yellow room. (We would recommend using your mobile phone’s Note feature for convenience)
  3. Keep a journal.
    Record the events of the day. Tell what happened and what you felt about the event. Record what you thought about the events and what conclusions you reached. This will give you practice in writing about your opinions. Review these notes periodically to see if any of these opinions can be used in your essays. Date every entry. Put the time of day you are writing. Dates will help you remember the event more clearly later on. A date is a detail,and details are important to good writing. Keep every other page blank. If you want to rewrite an entry or to expand on one, you will have the space. This will give you practice in revision. The journal does not have to be serious. It can be anything from words, to poems, to jokes, to a complete essay. It can be about  your school, your family, or you. The important thing is to write.
  4. Go back over your writing frequently.
    The more you write, the better writer you will become. You may think of a better, or a different, way of expressing a thought. Use the blank page to experimentwith different ways of expressing the same idea.
  5. Use your imagination.
    When you rewrite, imagine you are writing for a different audience. The first time you wrote for yourself. How would you change your writing if your friends were to read it? Your teacher? Your mother? A stranger?
  6. Make your own dictionary.
    You will always find out new interesting vocabulary while reading a book or watching a movie. Note them down, make example sentences using the words, draw or make a signal, or anything that produces strong impression on you so that you will remember longer. Another way is to make a collection (just like stamps collection) of different types of word, such as adverbs, linking words and phrases,  idioms, or synonyms of “good”.

You can choose any of the above activities you find suitable to boost your writing in general. How about practising to achieve higher score in TOEFL iBT writing in particular? Make plan to follow the steps below everyday!

  1. Every day choose one TOEFL essay top.ic, study the concept map, and read the model essay
  2. Think about the essay topics you read. You may have never thought about a particular subject. After you read an essay topic, form an opinion about that subject. You need an opinion before you can write about one. The general writing improvement strategies below will help you learn to think about a topic.
  3. Once you have thought about a topic, write an essay on that topic. Follow the proposed time schedule to finish your essay in thirty minutes.
Time Activities
30:00 – 25:00 1. Plan Read the topic and write your thesis statement.
Create your concept map with supporting details.
25:00 – 5:00 2. Write Write draft topic sentences for each of the supporting details on your scratch paper.
Write your essay using your concept map as a guide.
5:00 – 0:00 3. Revise Reread and revise your essay

Revise your writing with a proofing checklist.

Is there a thesis statement or introduction?
Is there a topic sentence for each paragraph?
Are there supporting ideas for each topic sentence?
Is there a conclusion?
Are there run-on sentences or sentence fragments?
Are there misplaced modifiers or dangling modifiers?
Are there structure parallel?
Are there transition words?
Are the sentences and paragraphs cohesive?
Are the paragraphs indented?
Are there punctuation marks such as periods at the end of each sentence?
Do all sentences begin with capital letters?
Are all the words spelled correctly?

The strategies are clear but the difficult part is to keep practising everyday without delaying. Find a group of friends to study with or set an alarm to remind you of practising. If you have any other strategies and tips, feel free to share with us!