One of the ways in which you will be evaluated on your Writing tasks is how well your essays are organized. For this exclusive look inside the TOEFL® test, we’re going to talk about specific tips to help structure and organize your written responses.
First, let’s look at the three basic parts of an essay: the introduction, body and conclusion.
- First paragraph of essay – usually about three to five sentences in length
- Introduces the essay topic and includes a strong thesis statement that directly answers the essay question
- Main content of essay – usually about two paragraphs in length
- Each paragraph should directly support your thesis statement in the introduction
- Final paragraph of essay – usually three or four sentences in length
- Restates your thesis statement and summarizes the main ideas of your essay
- Before you start writing, make a brief outline or some notes on scratch paper to help you organize your thoughts. You can even type your outline and notes directly in the answer area on the computer and then replace your outline with sentences and paragraphs.
- Study the organization of good paragraphs and essays. A good paragraph discusses one main idea. This idea is usually written in the first sentence, which is called the topic sentence. In essay writing, each paragraph should discuss one aspect of the main idea of the essay.
- Try to use short sentences as much as possible, and break out different ideas into separate paragraphs with clear transitions.
Keep these tips in mind and keep practicing: You’ll find that your writing will improve, and you will be able to express your ideas more clearly in the Writing section of the test. Good luck!
--- Michael from ETS
For more writing tips, check out this short video
Parts of an Essay
What is an introduction paragraph?
The introduction paragraph is the first paragraph of your essay.
What does it do?
It introduces the main idea of your essay. A good opening paragraph captures the interest of your reader and tells why your topic is important.
How do I write one?
1. Write the thesis statement. The main idea of the essay is stated in a single sentence called the thesis statement. You must limit your entire essay to the topic you have introduced in your thesis statement.
2. Provide some background information about your topic. You can use interesting facts, quotations, or definitions of important terms you will use later in the essay.
Hockey has been a part of life in Canada for over 120 years. It has evolved into an extremely popular sport watched and played by millions of Canadians. The game has gone through several changes since hockey was first played in Canada.
What are supporting paragraphs?
Supporting paragraphs make up the main body of your essay.
What do they do?
They develop the main idea of your essay.
How do I write them?
1. List the points that develop the main idea of your essay.
2. Place each supporting point in its own paragraph.
3. Develop each supporting point with facts, details, and examples.
To connect your supporting paragraphs, you should use special transition words. Transition words link your paragraphs together and make your essay easier to read. Use them at the beginning and end of your paragraphs.
Examples of transition words that can help you to link your paragraphs together:
For listing different points
For counter examples
For additional ideas
To show cause and effect
Like all good paragraphs, each supporting paragraph should have a topic sentence, supporting sentences, and a summary sentence.
What is a summary paragraph?
The summary paragraph comes at the end of your essay after you have finished developing your ideas. The summary paragraph is often called a "conclusion."
What does it do?
It summarizes or restates the main idea of the essay. You want to leave the reader with a sense that your essay is complete.
How do I write one?
1. Restate the strongest points of your essay that support your main idea.
2. Conclude your essay by restating the main idea in different words.
3. Give your personal opinion or suggest a plan for action.
Overall, the changes that occurred in hockey have helped to improve the game. Hockey is faster and more exciting as a result of changes in the past 120 years. For these reasons, modern hockey is a better game than hockey in the 1890s.