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Author Bio: Amanda Dudley holds a Ph.D. in History from Stanford. After earning her doctorate in 2001, Amanda continued to work in academia. She loves helping students, either through her work at EssayUSA or through developing educational resources for students with learning difficulties.
The opportunities that open up after successfully completing a TOEFL essay are lucrative and enjoyable. A neat combination. Achieving the highest mark, you can is easy when you practice, prepare, and stay calm. Here’s what prospective essay writers should consider when they’re coming up to their deadline date. Our TOEFL writing tips apply to all levels of learners.
- Practice makes perfect
An old saying, yes, but it doesn’t lie. Proper practice is essential to learning, and mastering, any skill. Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours dictum is well known, but in real-time, that’s around three and a half years of practicing eight hours a day. For your TOEFL exam, it’s unlikely you’re studying for that long. So learning how to practice properly is crucial. Imagine yourself fulfilling orders at an essay writing service. You need to deliver proofread, imperiously perfect grammar and punctuation.
Along with practicing the bread and butter of written language, that is, spelling and punctuation, also time yourself. Writing to a time limit isn’t something you will frequently do afterward. Except in the case of specific jobs, but even then, it’s uncommon to have an hour to compose something so crucial and to make it so perfect.
- Use the internet
Learning a language twenty years ago would mean hitting the library, reading and writing by hand, and all without the safety of a quality spelling and grammar checker. Nowadays, the internet, and computation in general, dominates education.
Use online tools and services for several purposes, but never to do the work for you. Lazily using grammar checkers or lazily passing easy toefl writing practice essay exams will only lull you into a false sense of security. Be rigorous in your self-critique and look hard at your blind spots.
A good writing skills test must match your level. Too easy and you will have the overconfidence mentioned above, and too hard might lead you to despair. Find the correct level; you should be aware of what that is for yourself, be it A1, B1, or C1. All the resources are out there for those who look hard enough.
- Listen to your teachers
Assuming that the test is part of a broader educational program and not a self-driven endeavor- kudos if that is the case – your teachers are fonts of wisdom and have seen it all before. If there are aspects of writing that are sloppy, seek their advice. Similarly, if you are confident of your skills and can’t seem to find a fault, swallow your pride and ask for some real critique. It may be that your toefl writing is imperious, and you have little to do but go and write, though this is unlikely.
- Check the mark scheme
The examiners are after quality writing, not a large quantity of drivel. Responses to questions that score highly, fours and fives, tend to only last one paragraph. More extended answers are almost always a sign of mediocrity and an attempt to shove undoubtedly excellent speaking skills into the written format.
Also, if your response is achingly long, you’re making more work for yourself when it comes to checking and correcting your answers. A well-wrought sentence can say just as much as a wall of text. In your practice, you should try practicing one answer, then look over your words and try to condense them. Brevity is the soul of wit, but it’s also the key to a good grade.
- Hack the language system
The point here is not to try and game the exam but to game the language structure and syntax. This idea relates to the earlier point of practicing correctly. Rather than learning by rote some answers, try and get to grips with the underlying structure of the sentences used. In some sense, a sentence is unique, but when approached from a linguistics and grammatical point of view, all sentences have a shared core. By cracking this core, you will be able to express yourself more fluidly and fluently.
- Hack the exam system
This point does refer to the exam system. While you won’t know what is specifically going to be on the paper when you turn it over, you can know the general range of topics. Find already written papers, talk to your teachers and tutors to gauge what your exam board tends to do. Do they repeat topics often, or do they produce novel questions every time?
If we drill down further into the system’s function, questions will contain keywords that indicate the style and tone of the response. Watchwords such as “prefer,” “oppose,” “support,” and “argue against” often crop up. Remember that this is an essay testing your writing skills, not your ability to discuss the finer points of a particular issue. That is to say, you don’t have to support or oppose the statement in question. You should write for the mark, not your conscience or personal beliefs. If it is easier to argue for something you have complex views about, take the easy route and save that battle for later.