How your TOEFL Essay is Scored

Body Paragraphs in your TOEFL Independent Essay

Let’s talk about writing essays and the structure of the body paragraph. In my HS English classes, I teach the idea of an “argument sandwich” for the body paragraph…they make a claim (topic sentence), provide data (examples are fine), and provide a warrant (explanation).

Nonetheless, the TOEFL independent essay doesn’t necessarily follow that model. In a high-scoring TOEFL essay, the personal example dominates the body paragraph and the paragraph could even end with the example rather than a concluding sentence that explains the example. Is anyone else bothered by this?

How the E-Rater Scores TOEFL Essays

Michael Goodine clarifies how the independent essays are scored by an e-rater software and that human raters spend very little time reading them. Therefore, he mentions that the sophisticated features and nuances that are rewarded in IELTS essays aren’t necessarily rewarded in TOEFL essays. He shows how language and grammar are more important than an eloquent style, perhaps.

The Essay Structure

Of course, you need an introduction, two body paragraphs, and a conclusion. A thesis statement is vital and arguments that correspond with the thesis statement in a logical manner also are key. Additionally, it is helpful to include transitional phrases and sentences that introduce personal examples.

Check out this fascinating series of blogposts where Michael Goodine explains how the TOEFL independent writing task is graded by the e-rater: He does state that adverb conjunctions could increase the essay score, which is why I’ve included the visuals in this post.  Also, he mentions that collocations also help increase the essay score.  Here is a link so some verb collocations and here is a link to a list of collocations.  What is your opinion about the e-rater?