While the TOEFL is generally a very different type of test from the GRE, the GMAT, and the SAT, there are a few similarities, and the writing section is one of them.
As with most standardized tests, the TOEFL asks you to write an essay. There are a couple of different approaches to writing this type of essay, but the simplest form is the “five paragraph essay.” Usually this is actually only four paragraphs, because you don’t have that much time—the test only gives you 30 minutes to complete your independent essay.
Type 1: Agree or Disagree
This is by far the most common type of independent writing question. These TOEFL prompts ask you to choose A or B then explain your decision.
They might give you a quotations or statements, such as, “Parents are the best teachers. Do you agree or disagree? Give reasons or examples to substantiate your answer.”
Type 2: Preference
“Some people prefer to study alone, while others prefer to study with a group. Which do you prefer? Give reasons or details to explain your answer. “
They provide you with two different situations and you have to tell which you prefer. You have to choose one and write your essay on that.
Type 3: If or Imaginary Question
“If you could visit any country in the world, which country would you like to visit?”
This is a sort of hypothetical situation which they are asking you about. Students are asked to imagine a particular situation and write the essay.
Type 4: Description or Explanation
“What are the characteristics of a good neighbor?” Or “What are the characteristics of a good parent?”
This type of question is where you are asked to describe or explain whatever is asked of you. In a way, this is the most difficult type of independent essay question because it doesn’t give you an A or B situation. Instead, you have to think of your own subject from a very big pool of possibilities.
Type 5: Comparison & Contrast
“When people move to another country, some of them decide to follow the customs of the new country. Others prefer to keep their own customs. Compare these two choices. Which one do you prefer? Support your answer with specific details.”
It’s a little bit more complicated topic because you have to think from two different standpoints. It’s different because you need to follow a different pattern for writing this essay where you have to mention the pros and cons of both situations and then mention your preference and the reasons for that preference.
Rather than give you one long confusing list of topics, the essay topics have been divided into five categories. This is not an exhaustive list, but only a representative sample of essay topics. When practicing for your exam, make sure to write essays from each of the five categories so you will be ready for any kind of essay on exam day.
Best of luck!