TOEFL iBT Writing Practice: “Is content more important than grammar and sentence structure?”

TOEFL students,
D.P., one of my Online TOEFL Course students of “The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT,” has been working hard, particularly with TOEFL iBT writing practice. He has used several different online TOEFL services to improve his writing proficiency skills and has been instructed to increase his word count on the independent writing task. Currently, he is accustomed to writing 450 words but has a lot of typos in his practice tests.
Since he wants to score higher than 26 on the writing section of the exam, he knows that an essay with strong content will get a high score. However, if he develops his ideas to the 450+ self-imposed word requirement, he will have less time for error correction and proof reading.  Like other students who practice TOEFL iBT writing, he wants to know how many words he should write during the independent writing task in order to score higher than 26 points.
Specifically, he asked me, “How should I balance between these two aspects of Writing section in TOEFL? From your experience, what is a preferable word count that I should target for 26 + score in Writing? And how would you evaluate an essay with good content, but average grammar, sentence variety, and vocabulary versus an essay with average content, but better grammar, sentence variety, and vocabulary?”
Here is my response to him:


Michael Buckhoff, TOEFL iBT Writing Specialist

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