TOEFL Independent Writing- Argument vs Description

توضیح مختصر: To do well on the TOEFL Independent Writing Task, you need to support your opinions. Don't fall into the trap of just describing the topic or restating your opinion over and over again!

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TOEFL Independent Writing

Do you know the difference between making an argument and describing an issue? It could make all the difference for your TOEFL Writing score, especially on the independent task! The TOEFL Independent Writing Task is a 30-minute essay where you have to state your position on an issue and then support it with reasons and evidence. You’ll get a question that anyone can answer. You won’t need any special knowledge to answer the prompt. Then, you’ll have half an hour to pick one side and convince the reader.

The graders don’t care which side of the prompt you pick: there’s no right or wrong answer. All that matters is your ability to effectively support your position. Many students get hung up with this because they just talk about the issue without giving a clear opinion and an argument to support it. Don’t let this be you! In this lesson, you’ll learn how to state and support your opinion, not just describe the issue.

Stating Your Opinion

On the TOEFL Independent Writing Task, you’ll have to state and support your opinion. We’ll start with stating it. The TOEFL graders are looking for you to pick one side of the prompt and support it. This is not the time to get caught up in shades of gray or carefully consider both sides of the argument. If you write an essay explaining how both sides of the issue have their pros and cons, you’ll get marked down because you didn’t respond to the prompt.

Here’s an example. Let’s say the prompt is: ‘Are cats better pets than dogs, or are dogs better pets than cats?’ For the sake of this example, you’re going to argue that cats are better pets than dogs.

This sentence clearly states an opinion:

In my opinion, cats are better pets than dogs, because they are quieter, cleaner, and more pleasant to spend time with.

These sentences get caught up in description and shades of gray.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both kinds of pet. Cats are quieter and cleaner, but dogs are more fun to play with, and playing with a dog can help you stay in shape.

Argument vs. Description

After stating your opinion, you’ll have to make an argument in support of it. Don’t just reiterate your position and don’t waste time discussing the subject in general. As an example, let’s take the same sample prompt: ‘Are cats better pets than dogs, or are dogs better pets than cats?’ Again, you’re going to argue that cats are better pets than dogs.

To start off with, here’s a paragraph that doesn’t make an argument; it simply restates the author’s position without offering any evidence or reasons:

Cats are better pets than dogs. I much prefer owning a cat to owning a dog. I hope to adopt a cat someday, but I never want to adopt a dog.

This paragraph states the author’s opinion but doesn’t support it.

Now, here’s a paragraph that clearly states the position but just discusses the topic of the essay in general, instead of making an argument.

I think cats make better pets than dogs. When I was growing up, my family had dogs and cats, and I always liked playing with the cats better. One day, I discovered that my favorite cat was pregnant, and we were all excited when she had a healthy litter of adorable kittens! It was so much fun to name them and play with them all.

This excerpt tells us a lot about the author’s experiences with cats, but it doesn’t offer any reasons why cats are better than dogs, so it doesn’t respond to the prompt. It’s too descriptive and doesn’t focus on supporting the author’s opinion.

Finally, for contrast, here’s an example of an essay that offers a position and reasons:

I think cats are better pets than dogs. For one thing, cats are cleaner. When I was growing up, my family had both cats and dogs, and the dogs tracked mud all over the house, but the cats were always very clean. Cats are also quieter: I was often distracted from doing my homework by the dogs’ barking, but I never got distracted by our cats.

This essay discusses the author’s childhood experiences, but it integrates them into a comparison of dogs and cats that effectively answers the prompt in the essay.

Try it Yourself

Now it’s time for you to try your hand at answering a sample TOEFL Writing question in a way that states and supports your opinion, instead of just describing the issue. Let’s take another example prompt:

Consider the following statement: ‘Memorizing multiplication tables is pointless, and schools should stop requiring children to do it.’ Do you agree or disagree? Support your answer with reasons and evidence.

Now, pick a position on the issue and quickly write down 3-4 reasons in support of your position.

Do you have your reasons ready? The chart below shows some sample responses. On the left column are some potentially good reasons that you could use in a high-scoring essay. In the center column are some examples of statements that restate the author’s opinion without supporting it. On the right is an example of description without any opinion or argument at all. Compare your list of reasons to the chart to see how you stack up.

Chart of Sample Responses Chart of Sample Responses

Lesson Summary

In this lesson, you learned how to state and support your opinion, instead of just describing the issue on the TOEFL Independent Writing Task.

  • Pick one side of the issue and stick with it. Don’t waffle back and forth, or try to describe the pros and cons of both.
  • Provide reasons that justify your choice. Don’t just restate your position and don’t just write a few paragraphs about the overall topic. Remember that you’re making an argument, not just talking about the issue.

When you write sample essays from now on, evaluate them to see if you’re really stating and supporting your opinion, or if you’re just describing the topic. But first, use the quiz questions to test yourself.