The TOEFL iBT® Test: Improving Your Writing Skills

Advice for Writing
Skill: Writing based on Knowledge and Experience
Performance Level: Fair
Score Range: 17–23

  1. Pay attention to how ideas support a position and practice generating ideas to support a position.
    • Read articles and essays that express opinions about an issue (for example, a social, environmental or educational issue).
      • Identify the writer's opinion or opinions.
      • Notice how the writer addresses possible objections to the opinion, if they are present.
      • Outline the article and note the ways the writer supports the ideas.
    • Write a response to the article or essay in English, taking the opposite viewpoint.
      • Outline your response.
      • Note the methods you use to support your ideas.
    • Reread what you have written.
      • Make sure your supporting ideas are clearly related to your main point.
      • Note what method you use to develop each of your supporting points.
      • Make sure you have developed each of your points in detail. Is there anything more you could have said to strengthen your points?
  2. Pay attention to how you organize ideas and think about how a reader who isn’t familiar with your topic is going to be able to follow the information you want to present.
    • Spend time planning and thinking about how to organize your ideas. Your reader should be able to understand how your essay is organized.
    • Have a friend or a teacher outline your essay so that you can see if others can recognize your method of organization.
    • Make sure you are using the right words to connect your ideas and supporting information in the way you want your reader to understand them.
      • Remember that your reader doesn’t know what you know or what you intend. Is there any way your reader might misunderstand? If so, consider revising how you present and explain your ideas.
      • Ask your teacher to check your use of topic sentences, paragraphs, and connecting words, phrases, and sentences. Did you use these correctly and effectively?
  3. Think about who will be reading your writing. In some situations you need to write in a formal manner and your sentence structure, vocabulary use and general style should reflect that.
  4. Work to expand the types of sentences you write and increase your vocabulary.
    • Write paragraphs in English that contain several complete sentences.
      • Study the basics of English grammar.
      • Develop your vocabulary.
      • Practice writing correct sentences in English.
      • Ask your teacher to review your sentences for correctness.
    • Create your own dictionary of English words.
    • Use those words in your own writing.
    • Try writing longer and more complex sentences instead of short, simple sentences.
    • Focus on appropriate sentence formation and accurate word choice.
    • Read short but interesting academic articles in magazines and on websites in your own language each day.
      • As you feel comfortable, write the ideas from what you read in complex, accurate sentences in English.
      • Ask your teacher to review what you have written for accuracy of content, vocabulary, and grammar.
  5. Make your writing clear by avoiding grammatical mistakes.
    • Avoid using vague words and phrases.
    • Focus on a different aspect of English grammar each week and complete grammatical exercises that reinforce this aspect.
    • Read an article or essay in English in a magazine or on a website each day.
      • Summarize and respond to it in English.
      • Proofread and revise your work.
      • Ask your teacher to review your writing to see if your sentences are grammatically correct and if your sentences and word choice express ideas clearly.
  6. Read a lot in English. This will help you recognize good writing styles.