TOEFL Writing Tips: Transitional Words

Transitional words are crucial for a high score on the TOEFL writing section because raters are looking for smooth transitions from idea to idea and from paragraph to paragraph. Not only do transitional words help papers read more smoothly, they also provide organization and understandability, not to mention improve the connections and transitions between thoughts on the speaking section!

Indeed, when writing either your independent or integrated TOEFL essay, keep in mind there are certain words that will make your writing come across as more academic and intelligent. Coherence is essential for getting a high score on the writing section. Often times there are specific words you can try to incorporate in your essay that will make your essay easier to read.

Categories of Transitional Words

Think of transitional words as divided into categories. Here are several categories that will help you with both the integrated writing and independent writing.

Addition: also, again, as well as, besides, furthermore, in addition, moreover

Consequence: accordingly, as a result, consequently, for this purpose, hence, otherwise, so then, this, thereupon

Generalizing: as a rule, as usual, for the most part, generally, ordinarily, usually

Exemplifying: chiefly, especially, for instance, in particular, markedly, namely, specifically, such as

Illustration: for example, for instance, for one thing, as an illustration, in this case

Emphasis: above all, particularly, singularly

Similarity: comparatively, coupled with, identically, likewise, together with

Exception: aside from, barring, besides, excluding, outside of, save

Restatement: in essence, namely, that is to say, in short, to put it differently

Contrast: conversely, instead, on the other hand, on the contrary, rather, yet

Sequence: at first, to begin with, in the first place, for the time being, the next step, later on, in turn, with this in mind

Summarizing: after all, all in all, all things considered, by and large, in any case, in brief, in conclusion

How to Use Comma with Transition Words in TOEFL Writing

In regards to grammar with transition words, if the transition begins the sentence then a comma must follow it. If the transition word comes in the middle of a sentence, it's proceeded by a comma or a semi colon and followed by a comma. When written at the end of a sentence, a transition word is preceded by just a comma.


Therefore, I decided not to join the hockey team.

The tryouts took longer than anticipated; therefore, I decided not to join the hockey team.

I couldn't come near to respecting him, however.

How to Integrate Transitional Words into Writing

Perhaps the most difficult thing on the integrated essay is connecting ideas. After all, you are connecting ideas from both a reading passage and an academic lecture. As we know, sometimes the information from both sources is contradictory and sometimes similar. Several hints and corresponding words for your integrated essay would be:

1) Always tell the reader where your information is coming from. For instance, is the information you are comparing or contrasting from the reading or listening? It's important the grader knows that you know which is which. When presenting information from either, keep in mind you should add some variety to your citations.

"According to the lecture..."

"The reading states..."

"According to the speaker/lecturer...."

"The reading made the point that...."

Remember to alternate how you quote your sources. Otherwise your essays can get repetitive and come across as not very sophisticated.

2) When showing examples, keep in mind variety is also key. After all, examples are the bulk of your information. So when presenting them in your essay, don't forget to "mix it up." Here are some ways you can do so, with many more options out there.

"For instance..."

"As an example..."

"In addition..."


Transition words can also come in handy for the speaking section and can add coherence to your ideas. 

Memorize several that stick out at you by their category and keep them in mind when it comes down to test day.

Remember: Transition words become ineffective when used repetitively: Use a variety of them when speaking and writing in order to effectively transition one idea to the next. Varying the way you cite your sources and give your examples will make for more interesting reading and can only help you attain the highest TOEFL score possible.