TOEFL or IELTS Essay Sample

An IELTS essay is the second (and most important) part of the IELTS academic writing test. The TOEFL exam requires a similar second essay.

This page explains what the examiners are looking for in an  IELTS or TOEFL writing sample (essay.) Then it gives an example of the quick essay planning you need to do, and then shows a sample essay that would fit either TOEFL or IELTS requirements.

A clock & IELTS essay hints: 
1 Know what test examiners are looking for.
2 Plan your essay points & examples.
3 Write clearly.
4 Check: Did you support your arguments & use appropriate, varied words?

Either test may ask for various kinds of essays:

  • comparing and contrasting two ideas or positions, 
  • arguing in defense of one side of an issue, 
  • evaluating the advantages and disadvantages (or positive and negative aspects) of a situation, or 
  • discussing causes and possible solutions of a problem.

IELTS and TOEFL examiners evaluate the essays using similar criteria: good organization and writing, clear development of ideas, and varied, appropriate word choices.

They require a minimum of 250 (IELTS)- 300 (TOEFL) words. IELTS allows about 40 minutes for its essay; the TOEFL, 30 minutes.

For both essays it's important to take a few minutes to plan, even though your time is so limited.

Planning will save you more time than it costs, as well as allow you to organize it better and think out your main points or arguments before starting to write (and possibly discovering half-way through thst you need to change direction.)  See the hints and sample outlines below.

The sample essay at the bottom of the page a also fits the requirements for either exam with the given writing prompt.

Planning your TOEFL or IELTS Essay

It’s worth taking a few minutes to roughly outline your paragraphs and main points.

(Save a few minutes at the end for proofreading as well. Check your spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Also make sure that you have clearly supported your thesis or main idea.)

Below are two demonstrations of essay planning/outlining in response to two different writing prompts.

(Your own notes can be even briefer, of course. Use any abbreviations you’ll recognize as you write.) 

I developed the outline for writing prompt 2 into the sample IELTS essay below the outlines. (If you’re interested, the plan outlined for Prompt 1 became the gap-fill essay in Transition Words Practice. See Tony Hillerman's Navajo Detectives for an example of an essay analyzing a literary work.)

Two Example Outlines 

TOEFL or IELTS Essay Outline, Example 1: “Online learning has more advantages than disadvantages.” To what extent do you agree or disagree? Give your reasons and specific examples to support them.

1. There are both advantages and disadvantages to O.L., but benefits outweigh drawbacks. 

2. Disad. A: No face to face interaction.

    Disad. B: Less opportunity to really know fellow students.

3. Mitigating the disadvantages:

     A. Videos of lectures, Skype, & online chat.

     B. Can be reduced with icebreakers, self-intros, & time to socialize and introduce oneself into the class schedule.

4. Advantages:

     A. Avail to almost anyone who has a computer. Can be less expensive, esp in terms of overhead and texts/materials.

     B. Can be designed to meet the needs of ss of varying learning styles and abilities [unlimited opportunities for review; types of presentation ltd only by tchr. imagination]; accessible to students w/ physical disabilities that can be limiting in regular classrooms, due to the adaptability of computers [TTS & vice versa, lg. print]

5. Summary. Add that it’s also possible to combine best aspects of both in many cases with occasional physical meetings (or even gatherings of classmates in several cities for video conferencing), flipped classrooms, taped live lectures, etc.

Essay Outline Example 2 (see also the essay below): The Internet provides enormous amounts of information, good and bad. What are some ways Internet users can identify reliable information and avoid using poor-quality information to make decisions? Support your answer with relevant examples.

1. State the problem: lg. amts. of info. of varying value

2. Background of the problem

3. Possible solutions

     A. Look for authoritative sites  

     B. Check for possible bias

     C. Compare information from several sites

4. Summary

Sample Essay: Evaluating Internet Information 

The Internet has made information available to anyone who can type in a few simple search terms, but it also provides large amounts of biased, outdated, or simply false “information.” 

Fifty years ago, finding facts about an uncommon medical condition or the economy of another country required a visit to a research library.  Now almost any kind of information can be found online, usually free.  However, some of that information is not trustworthy.  The old Roman warning “let the buyer beware” is more relevant than ever, even if no money is involved.

How can people ensure that the material they find is accurate and up-to-date?  First, they can choose reputable websites. For example, for health advice, government sites like the NIMH and professional medical association sites like Web MD are authoritative.  There are trustworthy sites for alternative or less orthodox ideas, but the authors’ credentials and arguments should be carefully examined.

Information hunters also need to watch for evidence of bias and possible self-interest.  Is the site pushing its own products or point of view, or selling for someone?  Both are certainly legitimate, but searchers need to be aware of the interests involved.

In addition, they should check the opinions or facts of several different authorities. If two or three authoritative sites agree, the data is probably trustworthy. On the other hand, if material seems controversial or contradicts common sense, it ought to be investigated further.  Once the major points of view or arguments on the subject are clear, searchers can compare the evidence, arguments, and credentials of the opposing sides to decide which (if any) they can believe.   

These simple steps, along with basic common sense, can help researchers determine the value of the internet information they find. Examining the authority or research credentials of the site, searching for possible bias or ulterior motives, and comparing with other sources will give clear indications of the reliability of a site.  

Keys to TOEFL or IELTS Essay Prep  

Remember, your most important preparation for any exam is to study the guidelines and criteria for the test you plan to take and practice, repeatedly, with similar questions. (Study the samples they give, as well.)

Practice will help you get comfortable with organizing your thoughts, writing, and proofreading your work within the time limits given.

If you check your word count for each practice essay, you will also begin to recognize what 250 words (IELTS, or 300 for the TOEFL writing sample) looks like in your handwriting (or on a typed page for the TOEFL ibt.)

You should definitely study the official guidelines and samples for the IELTS essay (see the section on Academic Writing Task 2.) You might also want to check out Academic Writing for more ideas on what American or British universities expect.

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