Learn about the TOEFL test for English as a Foreign Language, TOEFL preparation, sample questions, & TOEFL writing topics and tips for high school & beyond.
The TOEFL exam, also known as the Test of English as a Foreign Language, is typically taken by international students who want to study abroad in the United States. While students must pass the test to be admitted to the school of their choice, acceptable scores differ between educational institutions. If you are interested in learning more, check out our essay writing tips.
- What Are TOEFL Tests?
- Types of TOEFL Tests
- TOEFL Resources
- TOEFL Question Types, Sample Essays & Specific Examples
- Description or Explanation
- Compare & Contrast
- If & Imaginary
- FAQs About TOEFL Writing Topics
What Are TOEFL Tests?
TOEFL iBT exams are considered the most thorough assessment of understanding and communicating in English. It is essential for those who wish to study in America to achieve a high score so that they can be accepted into most colleges and universities. The test is also essential for those who want to work in an English-speaking country, either now or in the future.
The exam structure is as follows:
- 10-minute break
The reading and speaking portions of the assessment are essential and count for a large portion of the overall test score. These exam sections are designed to assess how well a student can read and speak English in a classroom setting, both essential for acceptance to many colleges and universities. You might also be interested in our list of the best report writing topics.
Types of TOEFL Tests
There are different TOEFL tests, including Paper-based Tests (PBT), Computer-based Tests, and Internet-based Tests (iBT). The most common type of TOEFL test is commonly the iBT. However, some universities require PBT testing to complete the application process successfully.
ETS courses, books, and other materials are available for purchase to help students study for their upcoming English exams. The TOEFL Go! app is also available for download on Android and iOS devices, allowing test takers to obtain access to sample questions, study guides, and more on the go.
Some other free TOEFL resources include:
- Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL)
For more TOEFL practice questions and a sample test, TOEFL Practice Online offers multiple options for exam prep, including integrated essay practice, speaking practice, independent writing question exercises, and more.
TOEFL Question Types, Sample Essays & Specific Examples
Test takers could be asked to write about five different types of TOEFL writing questions. We’ve included several TOEFL essay topics below, categorized by type, that can work as a practice test to help you prepare ahead of time to obtain a high score.
Agree or Disagree
The following test questions will make a statement and ask you to offer an opinion. In your response, discuss whether or not you agree with the statement and provide the reasoning behind your argument. Test takers will be assessed on their English language usage to articulate their points of view.
Do you agree with the following statement?
1. You can’t learn from books; true knowledge only comes from personal experience.
2. People from small towns have less life experience than those who grew up in big cities or larger metropolitan areas.
3. Children should be taught the value of hard work as early as possible.
4. The best teachers are the ones who discipline their students the most.
5. All countries need to make environmental protection a priority.
6. Issuing the death penalty to convicted criminals is sometimes necessary depending on the crime committed.
7. Making friends gets more difficult as people get older.
8. Eating meat, dairy, and egg products is morally wrong.
9. Movies are more enjoyable when watched at the theater than when watched on television at home.
10. Being good at math is much more important than being good at English.
11. Healthcare and prescription medicine should be free to everyone since it is necessary for life.
12. Reading is an excellent way to learn new words and how to use them in the proper context.
Description or Explanation
These questions require participants to write a description of something or an explanation of an event that happened in clear, concise language. Your reading passage should be concise and help paint a picture in the audience’s mind.
13. If you could invent new technology, what would it be, and why would you create it?
14. Public transportation is a cornerstone of metropolitan living. What public transportation problems might big cities face, and how could they solve them?
15. What do you think is the most important part of the human experience?
16. What do you think draws people to dangerous activities like skydiving or bungee jumping?
17. What are the potential negative impacts of a society that revolves almost solely around technology usage?
18. Will more gun control protect or harm citizens?
19. Are mobile phones and tablets beneficial or detrimental to our society?
20. Do you think growing and eating genetically modified foods will eventually cause health problems?
21. Would restricting experiments without consent impede scientific advancements or even cause harm to the public good?
22. Does violence in movies, television, and music harm young people?
23. Do people have the right to affordable shelter?
Preference questions can be some of the most difficult on the TOEFL exam, as they require test takers to form and articulate an opinion even if they don’t have one or can’t relate to the topic. Students will write their essays using logic, emotion, and fact to make their main points, and the ETS will judge answers based on clarity, conciseness, and English writing skills.
24. Some elementary schools take away recess as a punishment for disobedient students. Do you agree with this practice?
25. School dress codes are standard, but many disagree with how they are implemented. Do you agree with school dress codes, or should they be phased out?
26. Many people believe that putting family first is most important. Others think it’s best to put your own needs ahead of others. Which do you agree with?
27. Which is better – handmade or machine manufactured?
28. Is capital punishment preferable to being sentenced to life in prison?
29. Is the millennial generation more prone to violence than previous generations?
30. Do you think medicinal marijuana is helpful or harmful to society?
31. Is the growth of artificial intelligence a good or bad thing?
32. Do you think free internet access promotes cybercrime?
33. Do you think students should refrain from working a job until they are out of school?
34. Is prison overcrowding an issue in America?
35. Has the war on drugs been effective?
Compare & Contrast
A compare-and-contrast writing prompt allows the student to find two or more topics, ideas, or situations that can be compared and contrasted. This question requires the writer to explore the pros and cons of a particular topic or situation and give specific reasons why each might be beneficial or problematic.
36. Compare the benefits and drawbacks of becoming close friends with a coworker. Give examples of good and bad things that might come from forming such a friendship.
37. Discuss the pros and cons of online learning compared to traditional in-classroom instruction. Give specific examples of times when you disliked or enjoyed each and why.
38. Compare the risks of plane travel to the risks of car travel. Demonstrate the benefits and drawbacks of each with specific examples.
39. Which makes a better pet, a dog or a cat?
40. Is it better to listen to music while studying or not?
41. Is it better for parents to have kids at a younger or older age?
42. Explain the benefits and drawbacks of exercising first thing in the morning and at night.
43. Discuss the pros and cons of driving a car versus riding the bus.
44. Compare and contrast the similarities and differences between the two religions.
45. How are local and international tourism different, and why?
46. Do you think a four or five-day workweek is better?
47. Compare and contrast the similarities and differences between socialism and communism.
If & Imaginary
If & imaginary writing prompts require the reader to use their imagination and a strong command of the English language to describe a hypothetical situation or event and how they might respond. These questions typically start with phrases like “Imagine you were…” or “If you had….” Test takers are assessed for sentence structure, syntax, word choice, and other critical factors. Check out our guide packed full of transition words for essays.
48. Imagine you could have dinner with anyone from history, alive or dead. Who would it be, and why would you choose them?
49. If you were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, what would it be for, and what would you say in your acceptance speech?
50. Imagine you are on a small boat in the ocean when a storm suddenly begins to approach. How does this make you feel, and what is your response to the potential danger ahead?
51. If you were stranded on a desert island but could only take three things with you, what would they be and why?
52. If you could live to be 150 years old, would you and why?
53. If you could change one thing about your appearance, what would you choose to change and why?
54. Imagine you can completely cure one disease for free with no consequences. Which disease or medical condition would you choose and why?
55. If you could go back in time and relive a moment with someone from your past, who would it be, and what would you share with them again?
56. What would you do if you woke up one morning and no one else was left on earth?
57. Imagine you could be famous for any reason. What would you want to be remembered for and why?
58. If you found a way to get rich quickly without any consequences but knew it was illegal, would you still do it, and why?
59. What would you do, and how might you feel if you woke up tomorrow as the opposite gender from what you wanted to be?
60. If you could decide how you would die, would you choose, and if so, what would you do?
If you still need help, our guide to grammar and syntax explains more.
FAQs About TOEFL Writing Topics
What is a good score in TOEFL writing?
A good TOEFL score is above 100. The average TOEFL score ranges between 85 and 95.
How many words should you have in TOEFL writing?
Your TOEFL independent writing question answer should be around 150 words. The integrated essay should be around 300 words.
Which is better, the TOEFL or the IELTS?
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an exam that tests international students for their proficiency in English as a foreign language.
The TOEFL better assesses the full scope of English academic proficiency, while the IELTS is divided between academic and conversational English.
The IELTS test is usually taken by students who want to study at universities in English-speaking countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, or Canada.
What is the ETS?
The ETS, or the Educational Testing Service, is the organization that oversees the administration and scoring of TOEFL tests across the United States. The nonprofit organization works to advance quality and equity in education, providing opportunities for all people, regardless of their background or circumstances.