TOEFL Independent Writing - Sample 2

Sample Question

Unhealthy food should not be allowed to be advertised to children. Do you agree? Write an essay expressing your views using a minimum 300 words.


Sample Answer

The increased over-consumption of ‘junk food’ and unhealthy treats is contributing to a number of health risks across the globe. A huge proportion of our youngest generation is overweight by the time they reach 5 years of age. In addition to obesity, a junk food diet can also lead to poor nutrition, diabetes and dental problems. In short, junk food consumption can lead to serious health problems and has substantial economic and social impact. While some people believe advertising is a huge contributor to the problem, others see it as a parent's responsibility to monitor their children's diets. In this essay, I argue that addressing both issues is needed to reduce the final impact of the adverts, i.e. consumption.

Children today are exposed to a variety of different media, and much of their day involves using a tablet, computer, TV and games. Children therefore encounter hundreds, even thousands of advertisements every day. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that this advertising has a direct effect on children’s health.

Children remember ads very easily as their young minds absorb new information extremely quickly. In fact, many advertisements aimed at children are designed to look like a cartoon or children's TV program. Children cannot tell the difference between this kind of advertising and normal programming. Marketers and advertisers exploit this fact in order to encourage children to ask for and recognise their products. They even use the term ‘pester power’ to describe this ability that children have to influence their parents' purchasing decisions.

When we watch images of delicious and beautifully prepared food, or a refreshing drink on TV or online, it stimulates a response in our brains as if the food were really there in front of us. This response can cause us to feel hungry and reach for a snack. If children are watching these kinds of images on TV, they will complain of feeling hungry. In addition to this, children's willpower is not sufficiently developed for them to resist. It just takes a few extra calories each day to lead to a weight problem later on.

Despite these facts, it is up to parents to teach their children what it means to have a healthy diet and to make good food choices. The onus is ultimately on the caregiver to say ‘No’ when children ask for unhealthy snacks; and not to buy them in the first place.

In conclusion, I feel that a combined approach of i) reducing the amount of advertising to which children are exposed; and ii) encouraging parents to say 'No' to their children when it comes to craving for these items, is what is needed to tackle this global problem. Completely blocking children from viewing advertisements promoting unhealthy food or drinks may not be feasible, however, education and awareness is definitely possible.


The above essay has been analysed using basic techniques that are characteristic of a well-written essay. These categories are also a part of the IELTS marking system, just as they are used by examiners of TOEFL for scoring. The analysis gives an in-depth perspective to candidates regarding the essay, and these can be used by them for evaluating their own version written on the same topic.




  • The candidate builds the essay with realistic arguments and reaches the conclusion which offers and answer to his/her opinion and also proposes alternative solution to the issue presented in the premise.

  • The essay explores various aspects of child psychology in simple language to show vulnerability to impressions that may be caused by adverts.

  • The essay has been written with direct approach and stays consistent in developing the arguments.


  • The candidate begins by highlighting the health consequences of a poor diet, and then introducing the options concerning advertising and parental responsibility. They then specify their intended approach to the issue. It is of the utmost importance in an academic essay to state from the beginning how you intend to approach the matter at hand.

  • addressing both issues is needed - awkwardly written. We would suggest, ‘it is necessary to address both issues’

Language Use


  • Note the correct placement of the apostrophe in “…a parent’s responsibility…” and “…their parents' purchasing decisions…”. In both examples, the apostrophe is used to indicate ownership or attachment/association.

    • In the first example, the article 'a' directly before the noun signifies a single (1) parent, so the 's (apostrophe + s) indicates ownership by a singular subject.

    • In the second example, the plural noun ‘parents’ is the subject of ownership, ‘owning’ the purchasing decisions, so the apostrophe goes immediately after the ‘s' (which is already part of the word). There is no need to add another 's’ after the apostrophe. For further clarification, see our page on How to Use the Apostrophe. For more on Nouns and Articles, visit How to Use Articles in English Grammar.

  • Note how the candidate forms a list using the semicolon (final paragraph). For more on this process, see How to Use the Semicolon.


  • onus - responsibility or burden

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