You may be contemplating, “Why is critical thinking important on TOEFL? How are critical thinking skills evaluated in the scores? When do I need to employ logic on the test?”

On test day, TOEFL engages your critical thinking ability in different sections. It’s crucial because the way you use logic to analyze and reason in an answer will affect your results.


Writing Section: Independent Task

On the independent task of the writing section of the test, some questions require you to apply skills such as effective analyzing and reasoning. In those cases, you’ll need to think critically to develop your argument. For example, with the agree/disagree questions, your argument or opinion needs to try to persuade the audience you believe in something. To show you’ve thought through a critical response, simply express your opinion with clarity in response to the prompt.

Placement of Thesis

Where does your key argument statement need to be written? In the thesis statement. In the last sentence in your introductory paragraph, you’ll give your reasons to support your view(s.) As you continue writing the independent task essay, all your topic sentences, which start the body paragraphs are reason statements in support of your argument. The ability to create a strong argument with reasonable support leading to a conclusion shows the audience/evaluators whether or not you have skill to develop an essay.

Test Strategy: Careful Evaluation

A key strategy on other sections of the exam is to approach responses by evaluating the best answer. Why? TOEFL avoids answers that are definitely 100% (or contain words that are absolutes) as those don’t require much reasoning. TOEFL wants test-takers to consider questions carefully.




A good approach is to avoid selecting absolute answers. For instance, a typical absolute answer would be a response that has an answer with adverbs like always and never, which are absolutes of 100% definity.

Another fast tactic is to search answers for modal verbs to avoid selecting absolute answers like must. It will increase the possibility of selecting the right answer. Examples of modals are these types of helper verbs: can, could, may, might, must, ought, shall, should, will, would. Modals have varying degrees of possibility to indicate how likely something is to happen. Modals go from one extreme to the other–with absolute requisites on one end like will, must, ought, should, shall and suggestions on the other end of the scale of likelihood with can, could, may, might, would. Avoid responses that include the absolute modal verb must. If you see responses with the strongly suggestive modal verbs should and ought, consider carefully if the issue in the question is of enough importance to select that answer. On the other hand, if you see answers with the modal verbs might and could, those are potentially better answer choices as those are not absolute 100%.

Zone in on Success

Now that you understand why critical thinking is essential on the exam and how it’s assessed in responses, use your critical thinking skills and these strategies accordingly on your next exam for a higher rate of success.

Presenting a Story as an Example Stimulates


  • A Story as an Example in Writing

In the independent task essay of the TOEFL writing section, each reason to support the argument needs a strong example in each body paragraph. One way is to use a story as an example in the body paragraph(s) as a tool of persuasion in the argument and as a technique to develop a reason.

A story example is a connected set of events with a beginning, middle, and end. The story you tell is a journey that moves the reader (rater of your essay.) When the reader is reading your story, the reader feels differently than reading facts; consequently, the result is the reader feels persuaded by your story to understand your viewpoint.

When writing a story as an example in your body paragraph, remember that a story is not facts, figures, or lists. Yet, if you are able to integrate facts or figures as supporting details into your story example, these can stimulate the rater’s intellect and emotions to feel persuaded to your opinion, and ultimately it may lead to the rater give a certain score. Your story (the example and supporting details) can be short—140 characters (no spaces) such as in four short sentences–or if you write longer sentences about 140 words to develop the entire body paragraph.

Here are a few characteristics of an effective story as a solid example in the independent essay, task #2 of the TOEFL writing section.

  1. Objective: Why are you telling that story?

To support the reason

  1. Grab Attention: To catch the reader, the story must clearly exemplify support of the

                                            Reason in your topic sentence and main argument (your thesis)

  1. Engage: Why might the rater care about your story example?

For a high score, that example must develop the reason given in the first sentence of the                               body paragraph, and it needs to supply specific details

Keep these in mind when creating a story as an example in the body of your essay.