A monthly peek at test content from Michael, a TOEFL® test expert.

Writing Section Tips: How to Structure Your Essay

Aug 17, 2015

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. 

Introduction

  • 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

Body

  • Main content of essay – usually about two paragraphs in length
  • Each paragraph should directly support your thesis statement in the introduction 

Conclusion

  • Final paragraph of essay – usually three or four sentences in length
  • Restates your thesis statement and summarizes the main ideas of your essay 

Now that you have the basic structure of your essay, you want to practice organizing your ideas as you write in English. Here are a few quick tips to help organize your responses on test day:

  • 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