5 Tips to Get a High Score on the TOEFL Academic Discussion Board Task

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a widely recognized assessment of English language proficiency. For those aspiring to study in English-speaking countries, a high score on the TOEFL can open doors to prestigious institutions and better career opportunities. 

One of the most critical sections of the TOEFL iBT is the Academic Writing Discussion Board Task.  You have only 10 minutes to write 100+ words.  In this blog post, we will delve into five essential tips that will help you achieve a high score in this demanding task.

Tip 1: Provide a General Statement about the Topic

The first step in completing the TOEFL Academic Discussion Board task is to start with a clear and concise general statement about the given topic. This statement sets the stage for your response and helps the reader understand the context of your argument. Your general statement should be well-constructed and relevant to the topic at hand. 

Here’s an example:

“Global warming is a complex and pressing issue that affects our planet on multiple levels, including the environment, economy, and public health.”

By beginning your response with a well-crafted general statement like this, you provide a strong foundation for your argument, which is crucial for scoring well on this task.

Tip 2: Write a Variety of Kinds of Sentences to Support Your Opinion

Variety is the spice of life, and it’s no different in the world of academic writing. In the TOEFL Academic Discussion Board task, it’s essential to exhibit a range of sentence structures to demonstrate your command of the English language. Mix simple, compound, and complex sentences to keep your writing engaging and effective. 

Here’s an example of how to incorporate variety in sentence structure:

“While some argue that stricter environmental regulations may hinder economic growth, I contend that they are essential for preserving our planet for future generations. Furthermore, the long-term benefits of sustainable practices far outweigh the short-term costs.”

By employing different sentence structures, you not only showcase your language skills but also make your response more engaging and convincing.

Consider writing sentences using the following structures:

Opinion+ example

Opinion + reasons

Listing (Firstly…secondly…)

Argument + counter argument

Tip 3: Show Contrast to What Others Have Said and Provide a Counterargument

In the TOEFL Academic Discussion Board task, you are often presented with a topic that the professor introduces along with two different student viewpoints on a topic. To score well, you need to demonstrate your ability to critically analyze and synthesize these perspectives, but most importantly, defend a unique and new argument. One effective way to do this is by showing contrast and providing a counterargument.

For example, if Samuel suggests that environmental regulations are crucial for protecting the planet, you can incorporate this contrast into your response:

“While Samuel emphasizes the importance of stringent environmental regulations for safeguarding our planet, I firmly believe that it is essential that each citizen take small actions to recycle and plant trees.”

By acknowledging the differing viewpoints and providing a counterargument, you showcase your ability to critically assess complex issues—a skill highly valued in academic settings. 

Even so, it isn’t at all necessary to cite what others have said to get a high score.  In fact, you can simply be persuasive and argue your own point without mentioning what the others have said.  The key point is to back up your ideas with reasons and examples and provide a strong argument to ADD to the discussion. 

Tip 4: Work with a Teacher for Feedback

One of the most effective ways to improve your TOEFL Academic Discussion Board task performance is to seek feedback from a knowledgeable source. Engaging a teacher or tutor can provide invaluable insights into your writing skills and help you identify areas that need improvement. They can evaluate your responses, provide guidance on structure, grammar, and content, and suggest ways to enhance your writing.

Additionally, working with a teacher can help you understand the TOEFL scoring criteria and how to meet them effectively. They can also help you fine-tune your timing and test-taking strategies. Having a mentor or teacher is like having a personal coach to guide you toward success in the TOEFL.

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argument and counterargument

Tip 5: Improve Your Grammar

Grammar is the backbone of effective communication in any language. In the TOEFL Academic Discussion Board task, grammatical errors can be a major roadblock to achieving a high score. Your writing should be clear, coherent, and error-free.

To improve your grammar, it’s essential to practice regularly. You can start by identifying common grammatical mistakes you make and working on them. Online resources, grammar books, and grammar-checking tools can be immensely helpful. 

Additionally, consider taking English courses or workshops specifically designed for TOEFL preparation. These resources can provide you with targeted grammar exercises and assessments to strengthen your skills.

Remember to proofread your response before submitting it. Correcting grammatical errors not only improves your score but also makes your writing more precise and persuasive.

In conclusion, the TOEFL Academic Discussion Board task is a critical component of the TOEFL iBT, and mastering it requires practice, strategy, and dedication. By following these five tips—providing a general statement, using a variety of sentence structures, showing contrast, seeking feedback, and improving your grammar—you can significantly enhance your performance in this task and work towards achieving a high score on the TOEFL. With persistence and the right approach, you can open doors to a world of opportunities for academic and professional success. Good luck!

Resources for self-study:

TOEFL IBT Writing Guide by Michael Goodine

TOEFL Resources blog and website with sample essays

toefl writing guide
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Watch Josh McPherson’s latest Youtube video about the new Writing task

Practice the Academic Discussion Board tasks on the ETS website

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Practice Paraphrasing

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