How much is too much? Everybody knows that writing an essay that’s too short is a problem. But sometimes, students ask about the maximum essay length, thinking that either the graders will take off points or that the essay will simply be cut off, not able to continue.
But I can say in short, there is no maximum. You can write an enormous essay and get a perfect score.
Official recommendations from ETS
ETS (the company that makes the TOEFL) gives specific numbers for essay length in all their preparation material and during the actual test. The recommendations are simple:
- Integrated essay: 150 – 225 words
- Independent essay: 300 words
These aren’t maximum scores, nor are they minimums. But to be honest, an essay that’s shorter than these recommended lengths may not get a perfect score. Usually, top scoring essays are longer.
Still, writing much more does not mean a higher score.
Quantity and quality
There’s a clear reason why shorter essays might have lower scores—they don’t have enough room to include details. That means the essay is not just shorter, but also lower quality. A longer essay gives enough room to add those important details.
Still, a long essay can cause a problem. Imagine trying to write 1000 words in 30 minutes for the independent essay. How much will you be able to focus on grammar, vocabulary, structure, and clarity? Not much. The more you write, the less attention you can pay to each word and sentence.
In other words, it’s possible to write too much, but only because you’re not focusing on the more important aspects of your essay. It’s possible to write a 1000 word essay and get a perfect score, but I don’t recommend trying it. It’s much easier to write a 400 or 500 word essay with a perfect score.
So first, try to reach the recommended lengths from ETS. If you can write more, that’s best. But don’t worry about writing two times the recommended length—it’s better to focus on quality at that point, not quantity.
Hi everyone. This is Joseph from the NoteFull team. This is our team's first post on the GMAT Club! The purpose of this post from us is to help you answer a question we hear a lot and clear up any confusion you may have about word count. The goal, of course, is to make sure you know exactly what to do to earn the highest TOEFL writing question 2 rating possible to earn your dream TOEFL score.
Let's explain the answer "Yes" in more detail.
All things being equal--meaning if two essays with similar grammar, clarity, content, etc. were scored--the essay with greater word count will get a higher score.
So, what word count is going to get you the highest score possible? Around 450+ words. That is how you get to 30 out of 30 on the writing, as long as the quality of your essay is strong too. With good content, grammar, and structure:
450+ words ---> score of 28+.
We know this from experience because we've tested this while taking the TOEFL as have our students. We have experimented a lot over the years and I want you to trust us on this. With good content, grammar, and structure:
375+ words ---> score of 25+.
300+ words ---> score of 20+.
Below 300 words ---> score of below 20.
Now I want to also mention that your word count comes from the development of your ideas. So what that means is that it doesn't come from repetition or making a small, basic idea much bigger than it needs to be. Those are things that are going to hurt your score. You can have an essay with 500 words and earn a score of 15 out of 30 if your grammar and content are poor. A 30 out of 30 comes from details and explanations along with a word count of 450+.
A high word-count of around 450+ is necessary to get a high score, but it won’t guarantee a high score (remember that the content of your essay is most important; you need good content with high word count).
To drive the point home: think about rain. You can't have rain without clouds in the sky, just like you can't have a perfect score without a word count of around 450+. But, just because you have clouds, doesn't mean it's going to rain. In other words, high word count doesn't guarantee a high score. Other factors are equally important too.
Does this make sense? Let us know if you have any questions about it. We're here to help you earn your TOEFL dream score 100%.
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