TOEFL Essay Writing Lesson: Introductory Paragraphs

Michael Uncategorized 2 Comments

Writing the introductory paragraph is key to a good essay!

The TOEFL exam presents you with many situations that you can not control. However, did you realize that the independent essay is one of two sections of the exam that you have complete control over? In this section of the exam, you are asked to write an essay giving your opinion on a particular topic. The topics are general, and require no previous knowledge. In other words, they might ask you if you prefer living in a big city or in the countryside. They will not ask you to explain how photosynthesis works. You have complete control here. You can choose the vocabulary and grammar! And if you can answer the question in a clear, coherent way using good English, you will get a great score on this part of the exam.

A good essay for this section of the exam will have an introductory paragraph, a body containing two or perhaps three paragraphs which provide reasons and support for your opinion, and a conclusion. Today, we will look at the introductory paragraph, so let’s begin by studying a sample question:

Some people prefer living in a big city. Others may prefer to live in the countryside. Which area would you prefer to live in? Give specific reasons and examples to support your opinion.

When you read the question carefully, you’ll see that it is giving you two options. You’ll need to choose one option and state why you chose it. Let’s say you prefer living in the countryside. In the introductory paragraph, you need to do two things. First, you have to restate the question in your own words. I suggest that you write at least two sentences about each of the options you are given. For example:

Some people feel that living in a big city is exciting and comfortable. Big cities have all of the conveniences of life in one small area. Others may think that life in the countryside is ideal, because the air is clean and it is generally quiet.

In the above sentences, I have restated the question by presenting opinions on both options. The next step is to write your thesis statement. Your thesis statement is your opinion and it will become the basis on which you will write the rest of your essay. Here is an example of a thesis statement:

I believe that living in the countryside is better than living in a big city.While city life might be more convenient and provide opportunities for enjoyment and recreation, cities can be uncomfortable places to live because of noise, poor air quality, and congestion.

Here, I state my opinion and provided some detailed arguments for and against living in a city. I will then focus the body of my essay on the noise, poor air quality, and congestion of a big city, and how life in the country is quieter, had cleaner air, and fewer people. Here is the whole introductory paragraph:

Some people feel that living in a big city is exciting and comfortable. Big cities have all of the conveniences of life in one small area. Others may think that life in the countryside is ideal, because the air is clean and it is generally quiet. I believe that living in the countryside is better than living in a big city.While city life might be more convenient and provide opportunities for enjoyment and recreation, cities can be uncomfortable places to live because of noise, poor air quality, and congestion.

Now it is your turn. Try writing an introductory paragraph for this sample question: Some people believe learning by experience is better than learning from books. Which do you think is better? Give specific reasons and examples to support your opinion.

How about studying English or preparing for the TOEFL with me? I am available for private English lessons in New York, and online via Skype. Also, check out my newest book & audio podcasts, 109 Phrasal Verbs

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