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TOEFL Tip #101: Be Direct

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on May 27, 2011

Many students make the mistake of making their answers too complicated on the Writing or Speaking sections of the TOEFL. They think that they need to show the progression of supporting details which build up to the main idea. Instead of getting right to the point that directly addresses the essay question, they provide an elaborate story that leads into it.

Don’t do this. Instead, focus on making sure that you directly answer the question, and all of your details support the main idea. For the Independent Essay, you only have 300 words, and in the Speaking section, you have short amounts of time to give your answer. Both of these limits are too short for a long build-up to a point that has a lot of concrete details. So skip the build-up and get right to the point.

Let’s look at an example.

Independent essay question: Who is someone in your life that you admire, and why?

You’ve decided to write about your sister, because you admire the fact that she has a job that makes her happy. An indirect paragraph about your sister’s job might look like this:

I admire my sister because she has a job that makes her happy. She used to have a terrible job because she didn’t go to college. She cried every day. Then she decided to go to nursing school. She took a lot of courses and studied hard. After she graduated, she got a job at a hospital near her home. Now, she loves her job, and she is happy all of the time.

Even though the parts about your sister’s old job and going to nursing school lead up to your point about how she’s happy in her job now, only the last sentence of the paragraph actually answers the question.

Compare the indirect paragraph with a direct one:

I admire my sister because she has an important job that also makes her happy. She is a nurse who works in a hospital close to her home, and she runs a teddy bear clinic for kids. I think it is a good idea that my sister does a pretend examination on the children’s stuffed animals. This helps kids feel less afraid when they go for a doctor’s appointment, because they understand what happens there. She loves helping the people of her community, and I think her work is very valuable.

This paragraph is approximately the same length as the indirect paragraph, but notice two things that are different about it. One, it’s much more detailed than the indirect paragraph, and two, those details are all specific about why you admire your sister and her work.

When preparing for the TOEFL, practice giving direct answers. You will be surprised how much more you can say when you get right to the point.


Categories: Speaking,Writing

2 comments so far. Leave a comment.

  1. StrictlyEnglish | Blog » Keep It Simple

    wrote on July 8, 2011 at 7:01 am

    [...] we discussed several weeks ago, an important key for doing well on the Writing and Speaking sections of the [...]

  2. Luu, Kim

    wrote on July 4, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    I like this blog. I think that it is right. After reading it, I will practice to answer in a direct way. So, I will provide more supported points. Otherwise, I can not often complete my responses

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