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1. Choose a point of view and support that view.
Example: Some people believe that university students should be required to attend classes. Others
believe that going to classes should be optional for students. Which point of view do you agree with? Use
specific reasons and details to explain your answer.
This type of question asks you to look at only ONE side of the issue…the side you agree with. DON’T
write about both sides. You tell which side you agree with and support your ideas with details and
2. Describe something.
Example: If you could invent something NEW, what product would you develop? Use specific details to
explain why this invention is needed?
In answering this type of question, you MUST be creative. It asks you to describe something NEW,
something that does not exist. You must describe it in detail AND tell why it is necessary.
3. Compare two points of view and tell which one you agree with.
Example: Some people think that children should begin their formal education at a very early age and
should spend most of their time on school studies. Others believe that young children should spend most
of their time playing. Compare these two views. Which view do you agree with? Why?
In this type of question, you must write about BOTH sides of this issue and then tell which side you agree
with. You may NOT say that you agree with both sides. You MUST make a choice. First, give support,
details and examples of both sides of the issue. Then, tell which side you agree with and why.
4. Agree or disagree with something.
Example: Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ONLY people who earn a lot of money
are successful. Do you agree or disagree with this definition of success? Use specific reasons and
examples to support your opinion.
In this type of question, you MUST agree or disagree. You cannot be unsure or indecisive. After you have
said whether you agree or disagree, you must give convincing reasons and examples for your choice.
5. Explain why something is true.
Example: People remember special gifts or presents that they have received. Why? Give specific reasons
and examples to support your answer.
In this question, you should use lots of examples. (For this question, you would use examples of gifts one
might receive and tell why those gifts are memorable). Do not write in the first person, “I.” Write in more
6. Support an idea or plan.
Example: It has recently been announced that a new restaurant may be built in your neighborhood. Do
you support or oppose this plan? Why? Use specific reasons and details to support your answer.
In this question, first tell whether you support or oppose the plan and then tell why. Since this question is
somewhat personal, it is ok to use personal pronouns such as: “I, me, my” in your answer.
III. The parts of an essay:
In every essay, there should be an introduction, a body and conclusion.
A. The introduction:
The introduction restates the question using different vocabulary and/or sentence structure. The
introduction also includes your thesis statement…the most important sentence in your essay.
B. The body:
The body of your essay is also the “heart” of your essay. It will include your main ideas and details and
examples to support those ideas. Each new idea should be a new paragraph. Typically, a TOEFL essay
will have 3 – 4 body paragraphs.
C. The conclusion:
The conclusion will be your final paragraph. It will summarize all the main ideas in your essay and it may
also include your opinion.
IV. How to write a good introduction:
Let’s look at some more essay questions to see how to restate the question and how to write your thesis
TOEFL essay question #1:
Some people prefer to eat at food stands or restaurants. Other people prefer to prepare and eat food at
home. Which do you prefer? Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.
Restatement & Thesis:
People have two options when deciding where to eat. They can prepare meals and eat at home or they
can go out to stands or restaurants. I prefer to go out to eat because the food is more varied and
interesting, it is less work for me and it saves time.
The restatement mentions the two types of options people have for eating and tells which one the author
prefers. In addition, it gives three reasons for that preference. These three reasons will make up the three
main idea paragraphs in the body of the essay.
Your essay has to follow the English essay structure. In fact, even native speakers of
English have to use this essay structure when they write-if they don't use it, then their essay
won't be a very good one! Fortunately, the essay structure is easy to learn. There are only
three main parts:
Without this basic structure, your thoughts will not be organized and it will be very difficult
for the TOEFL assessors to understand your writing. This is not an exaggeration. The
essay structure puts your thoughts and ideas in a logical order. It arranges your ideas in a
way that is natural to native speakers of English.
Your introduction must have a thesis statement. This is the last sentence in the first
paragraph. It is also the most important sentence in your essay because it tells the reader
exactly what your opinion is. It should be simple and direct. Here are some examples:
1. Violence on television contributes to violence in society.
2. In my opinion, studying with a group of people is always better than to studying alone.
3. My favorite room in the house has always been my bedroom.
Every paragraph in the essay body begins with a topic sentence. A good topic sentence
does two things. First, it gives one reason why your thesis statement is true. Second, it tells
the reader what the paragraph is about. In other words, the topic sentence looks forward
and backwards: it refers to the rest of the paragraph and it refers back to the thesis
Supporting ideas and statements
This is what comes after a topic sentence. Supporting ideas give specific details and
examples related to the topic sentence. These details and examples could be almost
anything: a personal experience, something you've read, an example from history, a
statistical finding, or a philosophical or scientific argument. Basically, whatever supports
your topic sentence can be in the paragraph.
This is the last paragraph in the essay. It is also a very important paragraph. Put simply, it
is a summary of the main points of your essay: thesis statement + topic sentences. Of
course, you shouldn't copy your thesis and topic sentences exactly.
If you organize your writing by following this essay structure, you will see a big
improvement. All of the essay parts (introduction, thesis statement, topic sentences,
supporting ideas, conclusion) work together and not only make your writing stronger, but
also make your ideas easier to understand.
and, again, and then, besides, equally important, finally, further, furthermore, nor, too, next, lastly,
what's more, moreover, in addition, first (second, etc.)
whereas, but, yet, on the other hand, however, nevertheless, on the contrary, by comparison, where,
compared to, up against, balanced against, vis a vis, but, although, conversely, meanwhile, after all,
in contrast, although this may be true
because, for, since, for the same reason, obviously, evidently, furthermore, moreover, besides,
indeed, in fact, in addition, in any case, that is
To Show Exception:
yet, still, however, nevertheless, in spite of, despite, of course, once in a while, sometimes
To Show Time:
immediately, thereafter, soon, after a few hours, finally, then, later, previously, formerly, first
(second, etc.), next, and then
in brief, as I have said, as I have noted, as has been noted
definitely, extremely, obviously, in fact, indeed, in any case, absolutely, positively, naturally,
surprisingly, always, forever, perennially, eternally, never, emphatically, unquestionably, without a
doubt, certainly, undeniably, without reservation
To Show Sequence:
first, second, third, and so forth. A, B, C, and so forth. next, then, following this, at this time, now, at
this point, after, afterward, subsequently, finally, consequently, previously, before this,
simultaneously, concurrently, thus, therefore, hence, next, and then, soon
To Give an Example:
for example, for instance, in this case, in another case, on this occasion, in this situation, take the
case of, to demonstrate, to illustrate, as an illustration, to illustrate
To Summarize or Conclude:
in brief, on the whole, summing up, to conclude, in conclusion, as I have shown, as I have said,
hence, therefore, accordingly, thus, as a result, consequently
again, also, and, and then, besides, equally important,
finally, first, further, furthermore, in addition, in the
first place, last, moreover, next, second, still, too
also, in the same way, likewise, similarly
granted, naturally, of course
although, and yet, at the same time, but at the same
time, despite that, even so, even though, for all that,
however, in contrast, in spite of, instead,
nevertheless, notwithstanding, on the contrary, on the
other hand, otherwise, regardless, still, though, yet
certainly, indeed, in fact, of course
after all, as an illustration, even, for example, for
instance, in conclusion, indeed, in fact, in other
words, in short, it is true, of course, namely,
specifically, that is, to illustrate, thus, truly
all in all, altogether, as has been said, finally, in brief,
in conclusion, in other words, in particular, in short,
in simpler terms, in summary, on the whole, that is,
therefore, to put it differently, to summarize
after a while, afterward, again, also, and then, as long
as, at last, at length, at that time, before, besides,
earlier, eventually, finally, formerly, further,
furthermore, in addition, in the first place, in the past,
last, lately, meanwhile, moreover, next, now,
presently, second, shortly, simultaneously, since, so
far, soon, still, subsequently, then, thereafter, too,
until, until now, when
Some transitional words are used to
indicate similarity or addition. These
include, but are not limited to:
As well as
Other transitional words can show
dissimilarity or contradiction. These are:
On the contrary
On the other hand
Another type of transitional word shows
consequence or a result. Examples of
As a result
These transitional words help to put
thoughts or events in an essay into
chronological order or into some sort of
sequence. These include:
In the beginning
To begin with
When the essay writer is trying to show an
example of something, they will often use
exemplifying transitions such as:
These transitional words help to show the
reader the priority of the writer's
thoughts. Some examples are:
In the first place
Of less/greater importance
For one reason
In addition to
Often used in the conclusions of essays,
summary-style transitional words include:
All in all
All things considered
By and large
In any case
To sum up
1. Narrative Essays: Telling a Story
In a narrative essay, the writer tells a story about a real-life experience. While telling a story may sound easy to do,
the narrative essay challenges students to think and write about themselves. When writing a narrative essay, writers
should try to involve the reader by making the story as vivid as possible. The fact that narrative essays are usually
written in the first person helps engage the reader. “I” sentences give readers a feeling of being part of the story. A
well-crafted narrative essay will also build towards drawing a conclusion or making a personal statement.
2. Descriptive Essays: Painting a Picture
A cousin of the narrative essay, a descriptive essay paints a picture with words. A writer might describe a person,
place, object, or even memory of special significance. However, this type of essay is not description for description’s
sake. The descriptive essay strives to communicate a deeper meaning through the description. In a descriptive
essay, the writer should show, not tell, through the use of colorful words and sensory details. The best descriptive
essays appeal to the reader’s emotions, with a result that is highly evocative.
3. Expository Essays: Just the Facts
The expository essay is an informative piece of writing that presents a balanced analysis of a topic. In an expository
essay, the writer explains or defines a topic, using facts, statistics, and examples. Expository writing encompasses a
wide range of essay variations, such as the comparison and contrast essay, the cause and effect essay, and the
“how to” or process essay. Because expository essays are based on facts and not personal feelings, writers don’t
reveal their emotions or write in the first person.
4. Persuasive Essays: Convince Me
While like an expository essay in its presentation of facts, the goal of the persuasive essay is to convince the reader
to accept the writer’s point of view or recommendation. The writer must build a case using facts and logic, as well as
examples, expert opinion, and sound reasoning. The writer should present all sides of the argument, but must be
able to communicate clearly and without equivocation why a certain position is correct.
Examples: A descriptive essay could describe . . .
* a tree in my backyard;
* a visit to the children's ward of a hospital;
* a hot fudge sundae;
* what an athlete did in order to make it to the Olympics.
The descriptive essay provides details about how something looks, feels, tastes, smells, makes one feel,
or sounds. It can also describe what something is, or how something happened. These essays generally
use a lot of sensory details. The essay could be a list-like description that provides point by point details.
Or, it could function as a story, keeping the reader interested in the plot and theme of the event
Examples: A definition essay may try and define . . .
* the meaning of an abstract concept, like love;
* the true meaning and importance of honesty;
* how the meaning of family goes deeper than just your blood relatives.
A definition essay attempts to define a specific term. It could try to pin down the meaning of a specific
word, or define an abstract concept. The analysis goes deeper than a simple dictionary definition; it
should attempt to explain why the term is defined as such. It could define the term directly, giving no
information other than the explanation of the term. Or, it could imply the definition of the term, telling a
story that requires the reader to infer the meaning.
Examples:Acompare/contrast essay may discuss . . .
* the likenesses and differences between two places, like New York City and Los Angeles;
* the similarities and differences between two religions, like Christianity and Judaism;
* two people, like my brother and myself.
The compare/contrast essay discusses the similarities and differences between two things, people,
concepts, places, etc. The essay could be an unbiased discussion, or an attempt to convince the reader
of the benefits of one thing, person, or concept. It could also be written simply to entertain the reader, or
to arrive at an insight into human nature. The essay could discuss both similarities and differences, or it
could just focus on one or the other. Acomparison essay usually discusses the similarities between two
things, while the contrast essay discusses the differences.
Examples:A cause/effect essay may explain . . .
* why a volcano erupts, and what happens afterwards;
* what happens after a loved one's death.
The cause/effect essay explains why or how some event happened, and what resulted from the event.
This essay is a study of the relationship between two or more events or experiences. The essay could
discuss both causesand effects, or it could simply address one or the other. A cause essay usually discusses
the reasons why something happened. An effect essay discusses what happens after a specific event or
The below example shows a cause essay, one that would explain how and why an event happened.
If this cause essay were about a volcanic eruption, it might go something like:
"Pressure and heat built up beneath the earth's surface; theeffect of this was an enormous volcanic
The next example shows an effect essay, one that would explain all the effects that happened after a
specific event, like a volcanic eruption.
If this effect essay were about a volcanic eruption again, it might go something like:
"The eruption caused many terrible things to happen; it destroyed homes, forests, and polluted the
Examples:A narrative essay could tell of . . .
* my brother's and my fishing trips;
* a boring trip to the grocery store;
* my near-death experience at the beach.
The narrative essay tells a story. It can also be called a "short story." Generally the narrative essay is
conversational in style, and tells of a personal experience. It is most commonly written in the first person
(uses I). This essay could tell of a single, life-shaping event, or simply a mundane daily experience.
Examples: A process essay may explain . . .
* how to properly re-pot a plant;
* how an individual came to appreciate hard work.
A process essay describes how something is done. It generally explains actions that should be
performed in a series. It can explain in detail how to accomplish a specific task, or it can show how an
individual came to a certain personal awareness. The essay could be in the form of step-by-step
instructions, or in story form, with the instructions/explanations subtly given along the way.
Examples: An argumentative essay may persuade a reader that . . .
* he or she should use public transportation instead of driving.
* cats are better than dogs.
An argumentative essay is one that attempts to persuade the reader to the writer's point of view. The
writer can either be serious or funny, but always tries to convince the reader of the validity of his or her
opinion. The essay may argue openly, or it may attempt to subtly persuade the reader by using irony or
Examples: A critical essaymay analyze . . .
* how Shakespeare presents the character, Othello, in his play, Othello;
* the strengths and weaknesses of the movie,Children of a Lesser God;
* the use of color in Monet's painting, Sunflowers.
A critical essay analyzes the strengths, weaknesses and methods of someone else's work. Generally
these essays begin with a brief overview of the main points of the text, movie, or piece of art, followed by
an analysis of the work's meaning. It should then discuss how well the author/creator accomplishes
his/her goals and makes his/her points. A critical essay can be written about another essay, story, book,
poem, movie, or work of art.