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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Two ways to improve your TOEFL essays

Several students have recently asked me how to improve their TOEFL writing scores. Here are two pieces of advice:

  1. Learn from your grammar mistakes and don't repeat them. Making a grammar mistake once is good, because it's an opportunity to learn. But I've seen many students repeat errors again and again.
  2. Use more examples and details. A student recently asked me to look at an essay that had this in it:

First, television gives me topics to talk about with my friends and family. Television provides lots of programs, such as news, movies, documentaries, etc. I like to talk about the programs I watched with my friends and family. 

There are NO examples of news, movies, or documentaries in this. It would be easy to add: "My friends and I like to watch baseball games together and talk about our favorite teams and athletes."

If you are using a copy & paste writing template, you are going to need around 500 words to get a top score because the copied & pasted words don't count. But if you don't use a template, like my strategy, 370 words is fine.