In this post, I want to highlight for you 3 critical factors that will determine your success in the IELTS Academic Writing test:
- Keep it (mostly) simple – This links back to the marking criteria we discussed in the previous lesson. Remember, in terms of vocabulary and grammar scores, students who use mainly simple, accurate language with a few less common / more complex examples will get higher scores in IELTS writing.
- The Importance of the Introduction – The introduction for both Task 1 and Task 2 is short but very important – it’s the first impression you make on the examiner – so make it count!
- Follow the Structure – Both Task 1 and Task 2 answers follow a simple, effective structure that help students to write high-scoring essays quickly.
Keep it (mostly) Simple
The number one mistake students make with writing is trying to make it too complex, both in terms of vocabulary and grammar. They try to include lots of exotic, uncommon words and long, complex sentences – BUT – they use the wrong words and/or their sentences become too long and the meaning unclear. This seriously lowers lots of students’ scores.
As mentioned in the last lesson, it is important to include some uncommon words and a range of different grammar structures but these should be accurate and appropriate. Every sentence does not have to be complex – a range of different sentence structures is more important. Every word does not have to be academic or uncommon – it is more important to use vocabulary accurately and write clearly. Here is an example to help you understand what I mean:
- Which is better, A or B?
A. Nowadays many people have claimed that energy from nuclear power is a cheap and clean source of energy but I do not agree, I think that their claim is false.
B. It is also claimed that nuclear power is a cheap and clean energy source. I believe this is simply false.
A) is a long, complex sentence but B) is simple, accurate and easy to read, so B) is a better example of writing.
The Importance of the Introduction
The introductions for both Task 1 and Task 2 are very short. However, they are also very important – use them to make a good impression on the examiner. Use simple, accurate sentences and clearly address the task / directly answer the question(s).
For Task 1: By the time the examiner has finished reading your introduction he or she should know what the graph/chart/etc shows and what the overall trend / big picture is. They should be able to imagine the graph/chart you are describing in their head without having seen it.
The chart shows how many male and female students were studying full-time or part-time in further education between 1970/71 and 1990/91. Overall, the vast majority of students were part-time and there were more students in 1990/91 than in 1970/71, especially women.’
For Task 2: By the time the examiner has finished reading your introduction he or she should know what the topic of the essay is and what your opinion is. They should be able to predict the contents of the rest of your essay before they read it.
Some people suggest that nuclear technology has had more positive than negative impacts on the world. In this essay, I will outline both the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear technology and say why I disagree that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.’
Follow the Structure
In the writing test, it is very important to produce clear, easy to read answers within a short time limit. In order to do this, the easiest way is to follow the same simple structure every time you write a Task 1 or a Task 2 essay.
For Task 1, follow this structure: 2 or 3 paragraphs
- Paragraph 1 – Introduction and overview: The first sentence is the introduction, which states what is shown in the graph/chart. The second sentence is called the overview. The overview gives the overall trend or ‘big picture’ shown in graph/chart.
- Paragraphs 2 and 3 – Key Features and Details: Write pairs of sentences, the first of which highlights a key feature and the second gives data or details in support. For example, ‘The number of part-time female students rose significantly during the period shown. For instance, there were around 750,000 part-time female students in 1970/71, yet this number had risen to about 1.1 million by 1990/91’. Keep repeating pairs of sentences like this for all the key features.
For Task 2, follow this structure: 4 paragraphs
- Paragraph 1 – Short introduction. This should be 2 or 3 sentences only. In the first sentence, clearly show the topic of the essay. In the second sentence, directly state your opinion.
- Paragraphs 2 and 3 – Main Body Paragraphs. Write your main ideas / opinions and support them with reasons and/or examples.
- Paragraph 4 – Short conclusion. This should be 1 or 2 sentences only. Restate your opinion / summarise the contents of your essay. Do not give any new ideas in the conclusion.
More Keys to Success
In this lesson, we covered 3 keys to success in IELTS writing. If you are able to do these 3 things well, then you will be likely to get a high band score.
However, I do not want to give you the impression that that is all you need to do. You are marked on the complete tasks using the IELTS Academic Writing marking criteria, so every sentence you write and every word you choose count towards your final score.
If you want to get a high-score in the IELTS Academic Writing test, then check out IELTS Academic Writing Masterclass, which includes your essays marked and corrected by a former IELTS Writing Examiner, with feedback to show you exactly how to improve your writing.