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
It is claimed time and again that writing an essay is like building a house. The statement is rather clichéd, but that doesn’t nullify its truth. Both require a solid foundation to support additional components or ‘levels’, and each require something to reinforce or complete the structure. For a house, this finishing piece is a roof, and for an essay it is a conclusion. In order to ‘build’ that perfect essay, follow the structure below, making sure to ‘support’ your argument with textual evidence:
First, answer the question and then introduce your thesis statement. Remember, your thesis statement is your ‘big idea’ or ‘main argument’. After this, introduce the texts which you will use to support and elucidate your thesis. Provide a sentence or two that specifically explains their thematic or conceptual relevance to your thesis. Finish with a concluding sentence to links to your first body paragraph.
Always begin with a topic sentence which states what theme/concept/aspect of the text you will be discussing in the paragraph. After this, explain this theme/concept/aspect in further detail, drawing in contextual information if relevant to your argument. Then, introduce a textual example to support your argument and identify the techniques the composer uses to demonstrate their effect on meaning. Repeat as required. End with a concluding sentence that summarises your key point in the body paragraph. Follow this structure for however many body paragraphs you have.
Your conclusion should mirror your introduction by answering the question. You should also restate your thesis and in turn consider whether or not it holds up after your analyses of the texts. Finish your conclusion with a brief summary of the main concerns of your essay.
Revise, Revise, Revise!
After finishing your essay, remember to read over it a few times in order to correct grammatical inaccuracies and spelling errors. It’s important that you take time to revise your essay. See if you can find places where you can make your point more succinctly and where your argument is not properly supported by evidence from the text. Ultimately, revising your essay will help you to get extra marks, particularly if you are on the cusp of a band.
Hopefully, these tips will assist you in mastering the essay genre. If you’re still experiencing trouble with structuring your essays or need additional assistance with textual analysis, remember that you can always visit the Writing Centre at Chatswood and Strathfield. Our tutors have a wealth of experience among them and are more than happy to go over your essays with you. Good luck!
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