5 Types Of Toefl Essay

TOEFL Writing Tutorial | Kinds of EssaysPrevious   Up   

Kinds of Essays

Definition Essay

When you are writing a definition essay, you take a term or an idea and write about what it is. Often, definitions are combined with classification or other forms of organization in the essay. You need to give a careful definition of the key term before going on to discuss different types or examples.

Example question:Write an essay defining energy resources and discuss the different types.
Introduction:Define the key term energy resources.
Supporting paragraphs:1. Define one type of energy resources: renewable resources.
2. Define another type of energy resources: non-renewable resources.
Summary paragraph:Summarize energy resources.

Classification Essay

In a classification essay, you separate things or ideas into specific categories and discuss each of them. You organize the essay by defining each classification and by giving examples of each type.

Example question:Write an essay discussing the three types of government in Canada.
Introduction:Give background information about government in Canada.
Supporting paragraphs:1. Define and describe federal government.
2. Define and describe provincial governments.
3. Define and describe municipal governments.
Summary paragraph:Summarize government in Canada.

Description Essay

In a description essay, you write about what a person, place, or thing is like. You organize the essay by describing different parts or aspects of the main subject.

Example question:Write an essay describing the polar bear.
Introduction:Introduce what a polar bear is.
Supporting paragraphs:1. Describe where the polar bear lives.
2. Describe the body of the polar bear.
3. Describe what the polar eats.
Summary paragraph:Summarize what a polar bear is.

Compare and Contrast Essay

In a compare and contrast essay, you write about the similarities and differences between two or more people, places, or things. You can organize the essay by writing about one subject first and then comparing it with the second subject. A more effective way is to organize the essay by comparing each subject by category.

Example question:Write an essay comparing the weather in Vancouver and Halifax.
Introduction:Introduce weather in the cities of Vancouver and Halifax.
Supporting paragraphs:1. Compare weather in spring and summer for both cities. State how they are similar or different.
2. Compare weather in fall and winter for both cities. State how they are similar or different.
Summary paragraph:Summarize the similarities and differences.

Sequence Essay

In a sequence essay, you are writing to describe a series of events or a process in some sort of order. Usually, this order is based on time. You organize the essay by writing about each step of the process in the order it occurred.

Example question:Write an essay outlining the stages of the salmon life cycle.
Introduction:Describe what a salmon is like.
Supporting paragraphs:1. Describe young salmon.
2. Describe adult salmon.
3. Describe what salmon do before they die.
Summary paragraph:Summarize the main steps of the salmon life cycle.

Choice Essay

In a choice essay, you need to choose which object, idea, or action that you prefer. You organize the essay by describing each option and then giving your opinion.

Example question:Write an essay choosing between hockey in the 1890s and hockey today.
Introduction:Introduce the game of hockey.
Supporting paragraphs:1. Describe hockey in the 1890s.
2. Describe hockey today.
3. State which form of hockey you prefer and why.
Summary paragraph:Summarize the game of hockey.

Explanation Essay

In an explanation essay, you explain how or why something happens or has happened. You need to explain different causes and effects. You should organize the essay by explaining each individual cause or effect.

Example question:Write an essay explaining why so many Europeans moved to Canada during the early nineteenth century.
Introduction:Give background information on European immigration during this time.
Supporting paragraphs:1. Explain first reason: poor economy in Europe.
2. Explain second reason: better living conditions in Canada.
Summary paragraph:Summarize main reasons.

Evaluation Essay

In an evaluation essay, you make judgments about people, ideas, and possible actions. You make your evaluation based on certain criteria that you develop. Organize the essay by discussing the criteria you used to make your judgment.

Example question:Write an essay evaluating the importance of the House of Commons.
Introduction:Give your judgment on whether the House of Commons is important.
Supporting paragraphs:1. Explain first criteria: meeting place for government.
2. Explain second criteria: represent Canadians.
3. Explain third criteria: make laws for Canada.
Summary paragraph:Conclude with an overall judgment about the House of Commons.

TOEFL Writing Tutorial | Kinds of EssaysPrevious   Up   

Welcome to this week’s installment of TOEFL Tuesday! Today, you’ll learn about all the different types of TOEFL exams, and you will discover who takes each test.

Did you miss last week’s video? Don’t worry. You can see it here.


There are four different tests which get the “TOEFL” label. Two of them are very unimportant. I’ll introduce those first just to move on to the important information quickly.


Don’t confuse this with the IBT! The ITP is not a test that you take for admission to graduate school or college, generally. If you are taking the GRE, GMAT, SAT, or another test for university admissions, and they require the TOEFL, the school does not want a TOEFL ITP score.

The ITP is a test given in classes by teachers who want to evaluate the skills of their students. It is not given at a special test center, and you (the student) don’t usually choose to take it. The teacher decides, and the scores are for the teacher to use. So you can basically forget about this test, unless you have a teacher/professor who wants you to take the TOEFL ITP.


“CBT” means “computer-based test.” This test is not used today, because it has been replaced by the IBT (internet-based test). If you have material for the CBT, they won’t be useful to prepare for the IBT. And if your target university lists required CBT scores, ignore them. This test doesn’t exist today.


This is the main form of the TOEFL, the internet-based test Around 97% of TOEFL takers go for the IBT. All of Magoosh TOEFL material is about the IBT—in fact, most resources you will find anywhere are about the IBT, because it has been the standard for almost ten years. (Have you seen our free Guide to the TOEFL iBT eBook yet?)

The IBT is made of four sections: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. All four sections are completed at a computer, with a microphone—test takers do not talk to anybody during the IBT nor complete any paper exercises. There is no grammar section (although grammar is important for speaking and writing), and no vocabulary section, unlike many other English tests.

The IBT is given anywhere that ETS (the company who makes the TOEFL) has a test center with internet access. If your country or area has internet access, then you will take the IBT. Very, very few people have the choice to take the PBT (below).


The paper-based test is for students who live in areas that don’t have an internet-based test center. It still exists, but soon ETS will completely replace it with the IBT.

If your area has the PBT, then it probably does not have the IBT.

Interestingly, the PBT is a very different test from the IBT. It does not have the same four sections. Instead, there is reading, grammar/writing, listening, and a separate essay. The reading and listening sections as similar to the IBT, but not the same. For example, the listening recordings are shorter on the PBT. Meanwhile, the PBT grammar section is completely unlike anything on the IBT. The scoring is also different. Whereas the IBT is scored from 0 to 120, the PBT is scored from 310 to 677 (I know it’s a strange maximum score!).

The Main Point

You will probably not have a choice in which TOEFL type you take. Almost all students take the IBT, which is most important and easiest to find information about and practice material for. A very small number of students take the PBT. If that includes you, then be sure to practice with PBT material, because the types of questions are quite different.


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