Writing Section of TOEFL - A Brief Overview

The TOEFL exam is broadly divided into four sections which are Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. The Writing section is quite different for iBT and PBT. In iBT, the essay section is called the Writing section. But in PBT, there is a separate writing test which is called TWE or Test of Written English. Essay Writing for both sections is explained separately below.


TWE or Test of Written English is a separately marked exam and the score of this section is not added to your official score. This section takes 30 minutes in which you have to attempt one essay, the length of which should be a minimum of 250-300 words. The topics of essay are general ones that you could relate with your daily life. Go to this link on ETS's official site so as to access over a 100 different sample essay topics that could appear in your exam:

Essay Writing aims to check how you organise your thoughts and how you form an argument on paper. It also checks your ability to justify your views and opinions on general topics with the help of reasons and examples.

TWE is scored on a scale of 0-6 where 4 is said to denote a minimum level of writing competence. Most universities demand at least a score of 4.5 or 5 in the writing test for a student to gain admission in that university.

Writing Section (TOEFL iBT):

The Writing section has a duration of 50 minutes in which you have to attempt two writing tasks. The essay is scored on a scale of 0-30. Let us discuss the two types of tasks now.

Task 1 of the Writing section is an integrated task which combines your Listening, Reading and Writing skills. You will be asked to read a given passage and then listen to a recording which is related to the passage. You are allowed to take notes while listening to the recording. You will be asked to summarise the information you have heard and read, relating both the reading passage and the recording. Please note that you are not asked for your opinion in this task. You will be given 20 minutes to frame a response which should ideally be around 150-225 words.

Task 2 will ask you to write an essay in a minimum of 300 words which asks you for your opinion on a general topic and this is similar to the task in TWE. You are not expected to have any special academic knowledge for attempting this essay. The question will ask you to support your opinion with relevant examples and reasons. You are given 30 minutes to complete this task.

Skills Assessed:

The following skills are assessed by the Writing Section:

  • Your ability to organise your ideas into a well structured essay.
  • Your knowledge of the traditional format of the essay wherein you are required to divide any essay into 3-5 paragraphs which should have an introduction, the main body with relevant examples and the conclusion.
  • Your grammatical accuracy and spellings along with your vocabulary skills.
  • Your ability to generate content relevant to the given topic. The essay should also display coherence and cohesion.

The Writing section is important for checking your writing skills in an academic context. Integrated writing is especially important in a classroom scenario where students have to take notes on the basis of their textbooks and the lecture delivered by the lecturer. This exam simulates that environment and checks a candidate's performance in that context.

You can improve your writing skills by practising writing essays on topics that repeatedly occur in TOEFL exams. Consult guidebooks and analyse the sample essays given to understand what is required of you. Read newspapers and varied books to develop a strong vocabulary. You can take the guidance of an expert for advice. All this should help you to do well in the Essay section.