Resources - take the TOEFL iBT - 6 - Independent writing

General tips


See TOEFL Independent essay

Suggested timing

Suggested Arrangement/Style

5 paragraph example

  1. Introduction
      1. e.g. "When I was a child, I"
      2. e.g. "Recently, I.
      1. (Give the topic. Use keywords from the question)
      2. PARAPHRASE, don't quote. See here: quote and paraphrase
      1. e.g. "I prefer X for three reasons - A,B, and C"
      2. e.g. "I think it's best to X, for three reasons - A, B, and C"
      3. e.g. "This essay looks at the advantages X and Y in three areas - A, B, and C"
      4. e.g. "This essay compares the advantages of A and B.
  2. Paragraph 2
    1. Topic sentence: Keyword A + main idea
    2. point 1
      1. (details/reason/examples)
      2. (details/reason/examples)
    3. point 2
      1. (details/reason/examples)
      2. (details/reason/examples)
    4. point 3
      1. (details/reason/examples)
      2. (details/reason/examples)
  3. Paragraph 3 - Same as Paragraph 2
  4. Paragraph 4 - Same as Paragraph 2
  5. Para 5: Conclusion
    1. Personal Opening Comment -
    2. (Mention alternate, for choices) (e.g. “I understand why some people X, but...”)
    3. Summarise paragraph 1, 2 & 3 in one sentence
    4. Give your choice e.g. “For these reasons, I prefer X”
    5. Final Comment (Your personal concrete plan)

1 paragraph example

It's possible to get a perfect score with one 300 word paragraph - check the ETS example answers in the official textbook.

That might look like this:

  2. BACKGROUND (see above)
  3. THESIS STATEMENT (see above)
  4. Keyword A link ("Firstly, A")
    1. (details/reason/examples)
    2. Keyword B ("Another X is B")
    3. (details/reason/examples)
    4. (details/reason/examples)
  5. Keyword B ("In addition, C")
    1. (details/reason/examples)
    2. (details/reason/examples)
  6. Conclusion sentence ("In conclusion, I can see why some people X, but I Y, becuase Z")



Some people like to live in the mountains, while others would prefer to live near the sea. Which would you prefer? Give reasons to support your response

When I was young, my family lived near the sea, however we always used to spend some time each summer with my grandmother, and her home was in the mountains. Each place - mountains and sea - has its advantages, but I would prefer to live near the mountain for three reasons - the mountain herbs, the seasons, and the quiet. Firstly, in the mountains, we can enjoy a lot of mountain herbs such as warabi, udo, takenoko, kinoko, and so on. We can pick, cook, and eat them all the time if we live near the mountains. These herbs are very good for health, which also makes living near the mountains healthier than living near the sea. Secondly, if you live near the mountains, you can enjoy the seasons changing more. In spring, you can see some beautiful flowers or cherry trees, while in summer time, you can enjoy a lot of great green trees and not only these, insects such as beetles, cicada, and dragonflies appear. In fall, the green leaves change to red, yellow, and orange - you can see these process happening every day if you live in the mountains. Then in Fall, you can try hiking. If you go, you can take these scenery, and some delicious foods. In Winter, the beautiful leaves are all gone, but the snow-covered trees are very beautiful. The third reason I want to live in the mountains is that it is very quiet there, so you relax and unwind. When I was visiting my grandmother in summer, I often just sat for hours listening to the wind in the trees, with no cars or trains or noises of people. I can understand why some people would prefer to live in the sea - it does have good sports and I do like eating fish - but for the reasons above, I would prefer to live in the mountains. Next holidays I will be taking my driving test in Yamagata, and I hope I can take some time to visit the mountains there. (338 words- Thanks to MY for original)

Another Example Conclusion for this topic (Hook-“I understand”-However-Comment)

I still remember the holidays I took in the mountains as a teenager. I can understand why some people would like to live near the sea, as it does have some good food. However the mountain air is clean, the food is good and the hills offer a good place to exercise, which is why I prefer the mountains. Next week, I have a long weekend and I plan to go to the mountains and have a BBQ.

Another example intro for this topic

When I was young, I lived near the sea because my home town was a fishing port. Some people like living near the sea like I did, however others prefer to live in the mountains. In this essay I will argue that living near the mountains is best for three reasons - air, food and activities.

iBT TOEFL: Independent Writing Example


Some people like to travel without a plan. Others prefer to plan everything before they leave. Which do you prefer? Give reasons and examples.

I have gone on several trips with my school, family and friends. Sometimes we travelled with no plan, and other times we had a complete plan. In this essay I will look at planned and unplanned trips, and show that each has advantages.

Some people like to travel with no plan, and this does have some advantages. The first benefit is that you can decide yourself when you start and stop something when you visit somewhere. You do not need to worry about managing your time, so you can relax without worrying about having to catch a bus. The second benefit is that you can explore freely and find things you did not expect. For example, when I walked around the streets in Kyoto on a school trip, I found a small but good tea shop on a street. If I had had a plan, I might have walked past it without going in. In short, if you have not made a plan then you are more likely to see and hear new things.

While some people travel without a plan, others prefer to have a detailed schedule before they leave home. The main advantage of this is that you can be efficient and visit all the places you want to see. For example, when I visited Nikko with my family we were able to see all the main sights, and we had extra time to buy souvenirs. Secondly, since you do not have to book hotels or find places, you have more energy to just enjoy your trip.

I have travelled both with and without making plans and booking things before I leave. I can understand why some people like to travel without a plan because of the freedom it gives. However my holidays are short and I want to make the most of them. For this reason, I prefer to make a careful schedule before I go. This summer I will visit Korea and I am already reading guidebooks and making my plan for the trip. If you are going somewhere this summer, perhaps you should start making plans too.