Addressing the Prompt

One of the most essential steps of writing is ensuring that you fully understand what you are being asked to write about. 


The verb used in the prompt is an important signal to you. It will tell you how you need to write your essay. If you think carefully about the meaning of the verb, it will help you decide on an organizational structure. 

Verbs Often Used in Writing Prompts

      1. Popular tourist sites in the city (parks, restaurants, and beaches). 
      2. The types of people who live in your city (students, foreigners, and longtime residents). 
      3. Historical influence (colonial impact, indigenous roots)
      1. Population differences between Provo and Kinshasa
      2. The people that live in Provo and Kinshasa
      3. The similarities in the Provo and Kinshasa's histories.
      1. Provo has many interesting activities for young adults to do.
      2. Provo is only a fun city to visit if you like outdoor activities like hiking.
      3. Provo is a great city to live in as an international student because so many locals speak more than one language.
      1. What examples are there of government responses to internet access concerns?
      2. How many students are actually impacted by limited internet access in the United States?
      3. What are the strong opposing arguments that you need to address after choosing a position on this topic?


Next, you will need to know what content you are expected to include. In some cases, you will only be able to write about a limited number of things because the prompt may be very narrow. In other cases, the prompt may be very general and allow you space to make personal decisions about which supporting ideas to include as your write.

Always remember to review the prompt throughout the writing process to make sure that the focus of your essay matches the same scope as the prompt.

Example Content Breakdowns


Finally, you should also look at any limitations included in the prompt. Constraints could include


Exercise 1: Prompt Analysis

  1. Take a look at these TOEFL Writing practice items from ETS 
  2. Identify the prompt for each writing task.
  3. Discuss what the prompt verb requires the writer to do. How would a successful response be organized?

Exercise 2: Writing Prompts

  1. Choose a topic for your partner to write about.
  2. Choose a verb that identifies a specific task. You can use this resource (UARK Verb chart) to help select an appropriate verb for your prompt.
  3. Write a prompt and exchange it with a partner.
  4. Analyze your partner's prompt for the task and content that the writer should target.