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Steps to Writing a Good Essay

published by Wang Zheng

tags: toefl essay, toefl tests, toefl writing, (all tags)

origin: Steps to Writing a Good Essay (

So, predictably enough, many readers have written to me about my sample TOEFL essays, asking, “How are you such a genius? Your essays moved me to tears, brought a smile to my face, and changed my life forever with their simple but profound wisdom.”
OK, I’m exaggerating a little bit. Actually they were closer to: “You idiot! These sample essays are ok, but can’t you tell us how the heck to write an essay ourselves? What steps do we have to follow to get a good essay?”
It’s a good question. A lot of students just sit down and write and write and when they run out of ideas, they stop. Then they see that they forgot to add an important detail in the middle of the essay. On the iBT, that’s not a big deal because you write on the computer so you can add things, move text, even cut-and-paste to your heart’s content. But it’s a pain for the paper-based TOEFL. And in general you want to have a clear plan to make sure your essay includes all the right information, addresses the question clearly, and doesn’t go off track.
So what are the steps to writing a good essay for the TOEFL (or even for school or university?)
Read and understand the question
Sounds obvious but make sure you understand: What is the topic of the essay? Is it education in your country, or primary school education in the world? Is it problems in your school? Or recommendations to improve your school? Each of these topics is slightly different. For the TOEFL you must stay on topic, so make sure you understand the exact specific topic they give you?
Also make sure you understand what you are being asked to do. Compare? Discuss? Describe? Give your opinion? You must fulfill all tasks in the question.
Brainstorm for Ideas
Take 3-5 minutes to think of ideas. What will you write about?
Evaluate your Ideas
Pick only ideas that you can write about in detail, that are relevant to the topic and that are serious!
Draw a brief plan of your essay. What will the main idea of paragraph 1 be? What examples or support will I give? What about paragraph 2? 3? How will I conclude? Just a brief plan with words or phrases to keep you on track.
Write your Thesis Statement
Come up with one sentence that clearly expresses the main idea of this essay. If you had to answer the question in one sentence, What would you say?
Write your Intro
It should include your thesis statement, any information your readers need to know, and it should try to make the essay interesting for the reader.
Write your Body Paragraphs
Using your outline as a guide, write each main paragraph–one idea per paragraph
Write your Conclusion
Summarize the main point of the essay–hint: it should be very close to your thesis statement. Any other remarks you want to make so the reader will agree with you.
Reread your essay and look for mistakes you make a lot. You should know by now what areas of English are hard for you. Also look for any place that is confusing. Remember, the reader doesn’t know how you think so it has to be clear to them what you mean to say.That’s it. It’s pretty straightforward and this method is taught in any American school. We often call it process writing because it lays out a process for writing a good essay that includes planning and editing, as well as actually writing. It works well for a TOEFL essay, or any other writing you do under a time limit, as well as for a 500 page book. I even use it sometimes with these blog posts! And a good thing I proofread; I misspelled “Conclusion” the first time!

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