6 Most Common TOEFL Writing Mistakes: How to Avoid Them?


Are you struggling with your writing practice for the TOEFL test? Take a note of the information below and ace the writing test.

Understand the TOEFL Writing Section

The test has two writing tasks. In the first task, you will read a passage, listen to audio on the same topic, and answer based on what you have read and heard. For the second task, you will answer an essay question based on your knowledge and experience.

Most common mistakes in the TOEFL writing section

The TOEFL exam pattern is an integrated testing method. This is a challenge to most students especially task 1 wherein the reading, listening impact the writing part. In task 2, organizing their ideas on the given question is also challenging.

The following are a few common mistakes TOEFL students make

  1. Students tend to copy words and phrases from the text. This accounts for plagiarism and the evaluators notice this. Paraphrasing would be the best solution to avoid this. Try and use synonyms or similar words in the essay.
  2. Paraphrasing accurately is another issue. While using different words sometimes students change the meaning of the sentence. This may alter the source information, which would be marked incorrect. Students need to proofread and ensure that they have not changed the core meaning of a given sentence.
  3. Students often fail to identify the three key points in the integrated writing task (reading part) which in turn impacts the three counter-arguments provided in the audio. Thus leading to an incomplete essay. Keep a tab and mark the three key points in the passage and related audio. Always make notes for both reading and listening. This will help write an effective essay.
  4. In the Independent writing task, students fail to organize their ideas coherently. Prewriting or preplanning is the best way to organize ideas and then write the essay.
  5. An effective essay should have an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Structured essays can help students score better. During TOEFL prep they can practice writing a structured essay.
  6. Students make a lot of grammatical mistakes. Few of them are as follows
    • Run-on sentences: Run-on sentences happen when a student includes more number of clauses in a sentence. To avoid this practice writing simple or complex sentences. A few compound sentences will be acceptable too.
    • Tenses: Students usually get confused with tenses. It is recommended to use appropriate tense while elaborating on a point. Past, present, or future tense should be used appropriately.
    • Using transition words– Students often provide excellent information in their essays but fail to connect them. Ideas can be effectively connected using transition words. Use words like ‘additionally’, ‘furthermore’, ‘similarly’ to connect ideas; ‘however’, ‘despite’, ‘but’ for contrast ideas; ‘thus’, ‘hence’, ‘therefore’ for a conclusion.
    • Writing style and tone– Formal and consistent style of writing helps get better scores. Students can avoid using abbreviations and informal words.
    • Punctuation errors – These errors can be avoided by proofreading the essay a few minutes before the submission.
    • Many other errors like subject-verb agreement, use of pronouns, articles are also common errors noted in TOEFL essays.

To avoid such mistakes, use quality prep material and practice a sufficient number of essays. Further, use online grammar tools to identify grammatical errors. Still struggling, find a writing mentor or a TOEFL coaching program to help you through this.


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