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TOEFL Help Center

What is the TOEFL writing section?

The TOEFL writing section presents you with a question that you must answer.  There is no choice of questions.  You think of and organize your ideas, use supportive evidence and examples, and write the essay in 30 minutes.  This is an important section whose score is included when your final TOEFL score is sent to the universities you want to apply to.  This is why we offer practice tests.

What is on the TOEFL writing section?

The writing section of the TOEFL gives you a question which is clear and is not based on a particular cultural background.  You will not be asked to read a short story and comment on it.  The writing section is not a test of reading skills.  Again, after being given the question, you will have 30 minutes to organize your ideas, support your ideas with evidence or examples, and to demonstrate proper and grammatically correct use of English.

How is the TOEFL writing section scored?

Your writing is scored using a scale of 1-6; 6 is the highest and 1 is the lowest.  The average score is approximately 3.75.

How do they determine my grade?

The following is the scoring guide that the TOEFL and TWE makers use:

score       reason for the score
6 Demonstrates clear competence in writing on both the rhetorical and syntactic levels, though it may have occasional errors.

A paper in this category

  • effectively addresses the writing task
  • is well organized and well developed
  • uses clearly appropriate details to support a thesis or illustrate ideas
  • displays consistent facility in the use of language
  • demonstrates syntactic variety and appropriate word choice
5 Demonstrates competence in writing on both the rhetorical and syntactic levels, though it will probably have occasional errors.

A paper in this category

  • may address some parts of the task more effectively than others
  • is generally well organized and developed
  • uses details to support a thesis or illustrate an idea
  • displays facility in the use of language
  • demonstrates some syntactic variety and range of vocabulary
4 Demonstrates minimal competence in writing on both the rhetorical and syntactic levels.

A paper in this category

  • addresses the writing topic adequately but may slight parts of the task
  • is adequately organized and developed
  • uses some details to support a thesis or illustrate an idea
  • demonstrates adequate but possibly inconsistent facility with syntax and usage
  • may contain some errors that occasionally obscure meaning
3 Demonstrates some developing competence in writing, but it remains flawed on either the rhetorical or syntactic level, or both.

A paper in this category may reveal one or more of the following weaknesses:

  • inadequate organization or development
  • inappropriate or insufficient details to support or illustrate generalizations
  • a noticeably inappropriate choice of words or word forms
  • an accumulation of errors in sentence structure and/or usage
2 Suggests incompetence in writing.

A paper in this category is seriously flawed by one or more of the following weaknesses:

  • serious disorganization or underdevelopment
  • little or no detail, or irrelevant specifics
  • serious and frequent errors in sentence structure or usage
  • serious problems with focus
1 Demonstrates incompetence in writing.

A paper in this category

  • may be incoherent
  • may be undeveloped
  • may contain severe and persistent writing errors

The above chart is from the TOEFL.org Web site,  page http://www.toefl.org/educator/edtwegui.html#guide, Educational Testing Service, Princeton, New Jersey, USA, copyright 2001.  

*TOEFL and TWE are registered trademarks of Educational Testing Service.  Educational Testing Service is not associated with and does not endorse MyEnglishTeacher.net or this Web site.  For more information about the TOEFL, TWE, and Educational Testing Service, please visit their Web site at http://www.TOEFL.org

To find out more about our practice TOEFL writing tests, click here.

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