Sample TOEFL Essay: Favorite Sport
published by Markus Huber
This is another Sample TOEFL essay. Check out my first one on writing a persuasive TOEFL essay here.
Some students have issues with the description essay question. A description essay question looks like this:
Describe your favorite sport. Include details and examples to explain why you enjoy this sport
It’s a really simple question, which is probably what confuses students. There are two common mistakes that people make:
Writing randomly all sorts of facts and opinions about their favorite sport
The problem is that the TOEFL expects you to write an organized essay. That means an introduction, a conclusion and body paragraphs that have only one main idea each. That means choosing only the most important features of your sport. Most important, that means actually describing the sport. And telling in detail why you like it.
Faced with this kind of simple question, some students write something like:
My favorite sport is football.It is the most popular sport in the world. I like it because it is fun and interesting.
They have no idea what else to add. But the TOEFL demands concrete examples, reasons and details. So let’s look at an essay that hits the happy mean between writing too little and writing too much
Baseball is called America’s national pastime, and for good reason. It is an exciting sport in which anything can happen. I don’t play baseball very well but when it comes to watching sports, I am addicted to the ballpark. While the action is not as fast as in American football or hockey and the sport is not as popular worldwide as football, it is still my favorite sport because it is fun to watch live and because it is a very strategic and complex game.
Baseball is an unusual sport and the first thing you notice is that the field is different. On a baseball field, there are four bases or plates at each point of a diamond. The base at the bottom is called home base and the goal of the game is to run around the diamond, touch each base and return to home. This scores one point. In the game, a batter stands on home base with a bat. A pitcher, standing in the middle of the diamond, throws the ball. The batter should try to hit the ball and then run around the diamond. Meanwhile the pitcher’s team catches the ball and tries to touch the batter with it.
The game is a lot more complicated than that, with strikes and balls and fouls. For the first-time watcher, the game may seem far too complicated to understand. But it is also very exciting to watch. Every move changes the whole game. For example if there are men standing on every base (the bases are loaded), trying to go home, it is very important what happens with the batter and the pitcher. If the batter hits the ball very far, and gives every man a chance to run home, his team will score 4 points. Every time the batter misses the ball, it’s one less chance for his team to score. In such a situation, the fans are holding their breath to see if the batter will hit or miss. Unlike other sports where the action is ongoing, in baseball you have a lot of time to anticipate what will happen and process what has happened and how it changes the strategy. A good play in football lasts 30 seconds. A good play in baseball can take 2 minutes to set up, happen and then be realized.
But even if you are a first time watcher, going to a baseball game will be the best day of your life. First of all, ballparks are often smaller than other sports fields so you are closer to the action. Second baseball fans are the most energetic in the world, screaming for their favorite players and insulting the other team. But you won’t see hooligans at a ballpark. Fans are there to watch the game, not make trouble and baseball is the game of gentlemen still so fans try to be polite and considerate. In fact, it’s the only crowd in the world where you can ask, ‘What just happened?” and have a fan happily recap the action for you.
So baseball is the greatest spectator sport in the world because there is a lot of strategy in this complicated game and because it is simply fun to watch, especially live.
The strongest point of this essay, and what I really want you to pay attention to, is the second paragraph where I describe the game. Notice that I try to hit the most important details, without getting too complicated. Good descriptions should strike a balance between giving someone the outline of something without overloading them with information. It is often a good idea to use shorter sentences and to repeat the same word over and over. Notice how I repeat diamond so the reader can relate further details to my first description.
Now many of my readers are foreigners, so hopefully you aren’t familiar with baseball. Do an experiment: Close your eyes and try to imagine baseball from this description. Can you do it? If you can, I wrote a good essay. If you can’t, I suck!
For Americans, read the second paragraph. Do you find yourself saying, “Yeah, that’s about right.”? If so, good. If not, I need to rewrite.
The introduction is solid although I went back and inserted the word live into my thesis statement because I realized that I wrote about what it was like to watch live, not on TV. I would also reverse the order of that last sentence and make it: it is still my favorite sport because it is a very strategic and complex game and because it is fun to watch live. so it follows the order of my essay paragraphs. Notice that in the two paragraphs where I talk about why it is my favorite sport I try to give a lot of reasons and link those to concrete details, like when the bases are loaded.
So I hope this is useful for you. As usual I’m happy to take questions and comments in the comments section.
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