In this article, we will be looking at the TOEFL Integrated Writing section and tips to increase your score. We hope that this will help you prepare for your upcoming TOEFL exam!

Overview of TOEFL Integrated Writing

The TOEFL Integrated Writing exercise is the first part of the TOEFL writing exam.  You will have a few minutes to read an academic passage of around 300 words. This passage will have 4 paragraphs.  After this, you will hear a lecture where the speaker opposes the points made in the passage.  You will then be asked to summarize what you have just read, contrasting it with what you heard in the lecture.  Sounds difficult?  Don’t worry!  Follow these steps to successfully complete this exercise.

Tips & Techniques to Increase Your TOEFL Integrated Writing Score

Tip 1: Practice

You have 50 minutes for the entire paper and should plan on leaving 30 minutes to write the independent essay.  Accordingly, you will have 20 minutes to complete the integrated writing exercise, where you are expected to write 280 to 300 words.  You need to practice in order to develop your ability to process the information that you have been given and write a high-quality essay in that period of time. Educational Testing Services (ETS), one that administers TOEFL, has sample questions on its website and there are many other websites and books that contain TOEFL Integrated Writing.  Use these resources as much as possible.

Tip 2: Plan

Your task in TOEFL Integrated Writing is made considerably easier by the fact that the reading passage, lecture, and question that you will be asked will follow a rigid format.  In the reading passage, the writer will clearly state his or her point of view.  The remaining paragraphs will each make an argument in support of this stance.  The lecturer will invariably disagree with the academic passage and make opposing arguments.  The questions will ask you to give a summary of the contrasting points of view.

Tip 3: Improve Your Note-Taking Ability

A key challenge of TOEFL Integrated Writing is that you will only be able to hear the passage once.  Therefore, you must be ready to note down all relevant information.  The lecturer will make his opposing arguments in the same order that the points were made in the reading passage.  Therefore, you should note the key points made in the passage and be ready to write down the rebuttal points when you hear them. Having an idea of what to expect is an important part of completing this successfully.

Tip 4: Structure Your Response

You should now have a rough outline containing the central argument, the three main points made in the passage, and the three opposing points together with the opposing arguments made by the speaker.  You should state the main thesis of the passage and mention the opposing point of view in your introduction. This will be followed by three short paragraphs, each being devoted to a point that has been made along with the counterargument. Since the passage and the lecture will always be opposed to each other, you only have to concentrate on contrasting the points made.

Tip 5: Use Your Own Words

Under no circumstances should you use the same words used by the writer or speaker.  This is considered plagiarism and is very poorly looked upon by examiners. Rather than simply copying, you must always paraphrase or restate the ideas in your words in TOEFL Integrated Writing.  Develop your vocabulary so that you are able to use alternate words and phrases to express the same meaning.  The best way to do this is to read as much as possible and practice whenever you can.

Tip 6: Memorize

Focus your vocabulary learning on words that you will have to use when you are writing this essay.  For example, you don’t always have to write “the author says”.  Try to use alternate phrases like “the author notes”, “the writer maintains”, “the writer states” etc. Alternatively, you could write “The article explains” or “the passage asserts”.  You could start your introduction with “The reading and lecture is about …” or “the lecturer disagrees with the author. These are just some of the phrases that you can work on incorporating into your essay.  In your studies, try to expand on the phrases that you can use for this exercise. The advantage of this exercise is that you have a good idea of how you will have to structure your essay and you know what words will typically have to be included, so use that to your benefit.

Tip 7: Give Your Essay a Natural Flow

A common mistake made by beginners of English is writing sentences of the same length and structure.  This will make your essay very unappealing in TOEFL Integrated Writing.  Vary sentence length and structure in order to give your writing a more natural feeling and make it more appealing.  Try to use the active voice where possible, only occasionally using the passive voice to give emphasis and change the sentence structure.

Tip 8: Use transition words

You can give your essay a good sense of flow by using transition words and phrases such as therefore, firstly, however, additionally, secondly, finally, etc.  These words help to direct your reader’s attention and give your paragraphs a logical structure. The examiners will be looking for coherence, so it’s important that you present your points in a logical manner and connect them to the essay as a whole.

Tip 9: Spelling and Grammar

As with the rest of the TOEFL Integrated Writing, you will be marked on your spelling and grammar.  If your English is weak, make sure that you work on improving your language skills to an acceptable standard.  Try to read as many sample essays as you can, keeping a dictionary with you.  Note the spelling and meaning of words that you are not familiar with.  Try to read academic magazines, which will help you become accustomed to the type of passages you will encounter for this test.

Tip 10: Leave Time for Revision

Even the best writers make mistakes, so you should make sure that you have a couple of minutes, in the end, to go over your work. This will ensure that you catch any careless spelling and grammatical errors that could cost you valuable marks.  It is surprising how many mistakes you can catch by doing this, so make sure you have a few moments to do this at the end.


We hope that this article on TOEFL Integrated Writing was helpful. Make sure to also check out our Scholarships Page for different information on scholarships and universities across the globe!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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