General essay writing strategies

Most standardized English tests include writing tasks. For example, the TOEFL writing section has two tasks. It takes about 50 minutes. The IELTS writing section, too, includes two tasks. It takes about 60 minutes.

Here are a few tips for success on the Writing section.

Organize your thoughts first

Do not start writing as soon the section begins. Instead, use one or two minutes for organizing your ideas. This is very important, because few people are capable of organizing their thoughts in their mind as they write. As a result they will have to edit more.

By organizing your ideas in the beginning itself, you will get an outline for your essay. Once you have got the outline ready, you only need to develop the ideas into paragraphs. However, do not spend more than 2 or 3 minutes on an outline. Remember that you will not get any marks for the outline.

Use familiar vocabulary

Some students try to impress the examiner with complex vocabulary. You must not try this stunt if you are not familiar with these words. Of course, you have to use academic words in your essay. However, they needn’t necessarily be obscure.

Instead use the vocabulary you would normally use. During the preparation stage itself try to incorporate new words into your writing. Make it a habit so that you learn their correct usage. You can then use these words while writing your TOEFL essays. However, avoid the temptation to use unfamiliar words on the actual TOEFL test. Remember that to add variety and sophistication to your writing you don’t have to use long, obscure words.

Use precise vocabulary

Most ideas can be expressed using more common words. You must still make a conscious effort to use precise vocabulary. For example, some English words are used to express a large number of ideas. A common example is the word ‘get’. It can be used to express ideas such as ‘acquire’, ‘catch, ‘earn’, ‘coax’, ‘become’, ‘score’ and so on.

While writing an academic essay, avoid words like get and good. The same idea can be expressed using more sophisticated words.