At http://quora.com, someone asked, “What was your strategy for scoring 30 in the TOEFL writing section?” One of my former Online TOEFL Course students reached a score of 29/30. His name is Rava, I will tell his story.
Scoring 30 in TOEFL writing: Background
When I initially met Rava by e-mail, he had the following overall score and subtotal scores: (99) R=28, L=24, S=26, and W=21. Obviously, he already had a great TOEFL score. However, his writing score was shy of the 24 points that he needed to clear his pharmacy credential. This was his initial motivation for joining my course. As a result, he had set specific goals when joining my course.
Scoring 30 in TOEFL writing: Initial feedback
The first thing I had him do was to complete a TOEFL integrated writing practice test. Here is what I found:
The second thing that Raza did was complete an independent writing practice test. Similarly, I found some areas of improvement that he needed to make:
I give Raza a specific list of writing lessons that I wanted him to learn. He started immediately to study these lessons.
Scoring 30 in TOEFL writing: Vocabulary and grammar practice
Furthermore, based on evaluation of his integrated and independent writing weaknesses, I recommended specific lessons to help him improve. He started to review them immediately
Vocabulary: To improve his vocabulary skills, Raza studied my vocabulary e-book so that he could expand his range of words. Therefore, it would make it easier for him to paraphrase other people’s ideas.
Grammar: Raza relied too much on the simple sentence structure. Hence, I had him practice my lessons. These lessons focused on adjective, noun, and adverb clauses. In addition, he practiced subject-verb inversions with fronted present and past participles, negative adverbs, and prepositional phrases of location.
Scoring 30 in TOEFL writing: Writing practice tests + feedback for 2.5 months
Of course, so far Rava had completed two writing practice tests. Moreover, he was reviewing specific writing, vocabulary, and grammar lessons to help him improve. However, Raza and I knew that he needed to practice his writing. Consequently, Raza began sending me independent and integrated writing practice tests almost every day. Each time, I would read, evaluate, and score his practice test. Then I would again point him to specific writing lessons in my course to help him improve. He was very diligent and studied all recommended lessons over and over. Over 2.5 months, Raza completed 35 writing practice tests.
Scoring 30 in TOEFL writing: Final TOEFL Score
It came time for Rava to retake the TOEFL exam, with his main goal of scoring 24+ on the writing section. A couple of week later, he got his results: (110 ) R=28, L=26, S=27, W=29. Rava and I were so excited that he had improved so much. From my perspective, over my 25 year teaching career, I do not think that I have ever seen anyone work so hard to reach 29/30 points on the writing section. Nor have I ever seen a student improve his/her writing score from 21 to 29 in only 2.5 months.
Scoring 30 in TOEFL writing: Lessons learned
Based on Rava’s story, here are some things for you to consider:
- Getting feedback from a writing mentor can be very helpful.
- Having a goal and being motivated to achieve that goal is critically important.
- Improving your writing comes not just from studying lessons and watching videos. You must practice writing a lot!
- It is useful using an Online TOEFL Course. However, you must practice your writing and send your practice tests to your writing mentor if you are serious about improving.
- You must not stop practicing until you have reached your goal.
- Writing improvement comes slow and steady. As a result, do not try to cram all your TOEFL study in a few days or a few weeks. Language learning does not work that way.
Michael Buckhoff, firstname.lastname@example.org