TOEFL Independent Writing

The TOEFL independent writing task requires you to explain and defend a position.

Response format

Your answer should look like a balanced essay. You should write a four or five paragraph essay with an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Choosing the number of body paragraphs will depend on your ability to write fluently and develop your ideas. Typically, it is easier for students to develop their ideas if they choose to write two body paragraphs. Writing two developed body paragraphs is better than writing three underdeveloped body paragraphs. An effective response is usually around 300 words.


This is the biggest difference between TOEFL timed writing and the others discussed in the previous section. Because the TOEFL is a language test, the emphasis in the grading will be on your language use. Your actual ideas are a secondary to the language you use to express the ideas. Therefore, while the TOEFL is imitating the type of writing you will do in a college setting, the task itself is different because of the rubric. 

Exercise 9.1: TOEFL Rubric

Take some time to look over the TOEFL Independent Writing Rubric.

  • What will the test raters be focusing on as they assign a score to your essay?
  • How is this rubric similar or different from the rubrics your UP Writing teacher has used this semester?
  • Imagine a writing rubric for a class in your anticipated major. What similarities or differences would you expect there to be? Why would you see those differences?

Example: Independent Question

What is the most important skill for students to develop before they attend college?


Example: Answer

       There are many skills that college students need to have if they want to be successful. students need to learn many things, including how to study effectively, manage stress, budge their money, and manage their time. Perhaps the most important skill that students need to develop to be successful in college is managing their time.

       The principal reason that time management is of supreme importance is that college is such a busy time of life. Students have school, work, family, and social obligations that leave students with a tight schedule. In order to meet all of these obligations, students need to plan their time carefully and follow their plan. If they don't learn how to manage their time, they will perform worse in school, and other aspects of their life will suffer. For example, they may not get enough sleep because they stay up too late studying, or they might neglect their family in order to finish everything else.

       Another reason that time management is the most important skill to develop before college is that proper time management will help eliminate and deal with stress. If college is one of the busiest times, it is also one of the most stressful, so knowing how to deal with that stress will help students be more successful. Rather than procrastinating assignments, when students have a clear schedule they follow, they don't get as overwhelmed by the tasks that they need to finish. Managing time will thus help alleviate other problems that most stu- dents experience in college.

       In conclusion, time management is the most important skill that students need to learn before college because college is a very busy time and because time management will help students deal with stress. Students that have this essential skill will be more successful than students who don't have it. While other skills should not be ignored, starting with time management will be foundational to having enough time to learn them.

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