An Introduction to the IELTS Test

The International Language Testing System, or IELTS Test, is a test of your English abilities.

It has 4 parts to test the 4 skills of Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing.

Watch this video for more information about the IELTS Test.

 

An Introduction to the Writing Test

Watch this video for more information about the IELTS Writing Test!

Overview of the Writing test


The Writing test makes up one quarter of your overall IELTS score
The test can be paper-based or computer delivered
The test is 60 minutes long, and is divided into 2 parts or 'tasks': Task 1 and Task 2.
Task 2 is worth double the marks of Task 1 - but both parts are important! 

Task 1 overview
 

In Task 1 for the Academic IELTS, you must write about: 
   graphs or tables (the most common type of diagram)
   processes or cycles
   maps or floorplans
   a diagram of an object

 

In Task 1 for the General Training IELTs, you must write a letter in response to a given situation.

You should spend 20 minutes on Task 1 and write about 150 words.

 

Do Task 1 second, as you will lose a  lot more marks if you do not finish Task 2 than if you do not finish Task 1.

 

4 paragraphs:

   introduction

   overview

   detail 1

   detail 2

Task 2 overview


In Task 2 for both the Academic and General Training Writing tests, you must write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem.
 

You should spend 40 minutes on Task 2 and write about 250 words.
 

Do Task 1 first as you will lose a lot more marks if you do not finish it.
 

4 paragraphs - introduction, main body 1, main body 2, and conclusion

Marking criteria


For the Writing Test, you are given a Band score for 4 different areas, or 'criteria'.  

Your overall Writing test score will be the average of these 4 criteria:


Task Response or Task Achievement

Did you do everything you were asked to do?  
Many people misread or misunderstand the question and write an essay that is not answering the question asked.

Did you give your opinion if asked to do so?  You are usually asked to state what YOU think about the topic in question, so make sure that you do.
Did you give reasons to explain WHY your opinion is what it is? And do you use examples to help explain and strengthen these reasons?
If your answer to all of these questions is 'yes', you will get a high score for Task Response.

 

Coherence and Cohesion

Is it easy to read and in a logical order?
Did you structure your writing, using paragraphs and sentences well
Are your ideas presented in a clear and logical way that is easy to follow?
Do you use linking words to guide the reader?
Again, if you can answer yes to all of these questions, you will get a high score for Coherence and Cohesion

  

Lexical Resource

Do you use a wide range of vocabulary well?

Do you use lots of different words, including some less common words, and spell them correctly?
Can you show an awareness of 'collocation', meaning do you know which words go together and which don't.
Do you avoid repeating the same word again and again by using synonyms, pronouns and other tricks?

 

Grammatical Range & Accuracy

Do you use lots of grammatical structures, such as conditionals, relative clauses and participle clauses, and use them correctly?

Do you use a mix of simple and complex sentences?
Do you use punctuation such as commas and full stops correctly?
If yes, you're going to score highly for this criterion

To achieve a high Band score for the Writing Test, you need to score highly in all 4 criteria.

 

IELTS Writing Task 2

In Writing Task 2, there are 5 stages you should follow:

   Plan

   Organise

   Write

   Edit

   Review

In this first video, we look at the marking criteria for Task 2, and the first stage: Plan.

TRANSCRIPT

 

PLAN

This is, in my experience, where most people go wrong: they read the question and start writing without really thinking about what they're going to say.

Analyse the question

Read the question carefully - many people don't answer a different question (Task Achievement!)

Be careful of negative words.

If you are agreeing or disagreeing with something, get it the right way round!

Do not form an opinion yet (it's easier to fit your given opinion around your essay than vice versa and you need to be objective in your writing)

Brainstorm

Questions can usually be divided into 2 parts:

   Agree / Disagree

   Advantages / Disadvantages

   Problems/Solutions

   Causes/Effects

   Opinion 1 / Opinion 2

   Sub-question 1 / Sub-question 2

 

In a table, try to think of 3 things to write in each column

What these 3 things are depends on the question type (refer to previous list)

 

Opinion (if asked)

Now look at the list and decide which side is the strongest. THAT should be your opinion side.

 

In this video, we look at the second stage: Organise.

We also talk about linking words.

 

 

 

TRANSCRIPT

ORGANISE

 

Essay Structure

The essay is divided into 4 or 5 paragraphs:

  • The first paragraph is the Introduction paragraph - this is where you tell the reader what you are going to say.

  • You then have what we call the Main body paragraphs  - these are where you say it.

  • Finally, you have the Conclusion paragraph - this is where you remind the reader what you have just said.


 

Introduction Paragraph

 

In the introduction paragraph, you need to do the following:

  • Firstly, you Introduce the topic  - DO NOT copy from the question!  You need to say it in your own words, which we call 'paraphrasing'.  I did this when analysing the question, although we can say this in more academic English, as I will discuss later.

  • If you are asked to give an opinion, you should state it in the introduction. 
    In this essay, I already know what my opinion is: I disagree with the statement that children don't need school because they can study at online.

  • Then say what you are going to write:
    if it's an opinion essay, explain that you will give reasons for your opinion, and maybe reasons why you people might disagree.
    If it's NOT an opinion essay, explain that you are going to discuss this topic: for example, discussing the problems and solutions of the topic you're writing about.  In this essay, I need to say that I am going to explain WHY I disagree with the statement but also look at the reasons to agree with it.  I could ONLY discuss the reasons why I disagree, but I think it's a better, more balanced essay if I discuss both sides of the argument.  I also have more to write about if I do this!

Main Body Paragraphs

If the introduction and conclusion are the bread in a sandwich, the main body paragraphs are the filling.
 

2 main body paragraphs are enough but you could have 3. 
Just remember: Quality not quantity!  250 words of really good writing is better than 350 words of not very good writing

 

Here are 2 ways to structure your main body paragraphs:

  • The first way is to group together all the reasons to agree in one paragraph and the reasons to disagree in another paragraph.  If I want to have 3 main body paras, I could have 2 for disagree and 1 for agree to make it clear that there are more reasons to disagree.

  • The other possible way to structure it is to group together similarly themed reasons to agree and disagree into each paragraph.
    If we look at my brainstormed ideas, we can see that the first reason to agree and the 2nd reason to disagree are both about the information available on the internet.
    The 2nd reason to agree and 3rd reason to disagree are both about teaching methods in schools.
    The 3rd reason to agree and 1st reason to disagree are both about other children at schools.We could therefore put these ideas together in paragraphs and 'weigh up' which of the 2 reasons in each paragraph is stronger (for me, it will be the reasons to disagree, because that's my stated opinion!).

We can apply these 2 structures to all types of essay.  For example, in a problems & solutions essay, we could group all the problems together in 1 paragraph and the solutions in another or we could have 1 problem and its solution in one paragraph, and the same again in the 2nd and maybe 3rd main body paragraphs.

Main Body Paragraph Structure

 

The basic structure of a main body paragraph should be as follows:

  • The first sentence of the paragraph is called the 'topic sentence'.  This tells the reader what this paragraph is about. EVERYTHING in this paragraph should be connected to the topic sentence!

  • The next sentences should be supporting sentences, for example reasons to disagree or agree, together with examples to back up the reasons.
    So if I group all my reasons to agree together in one paragraph, the topic sentence would say that there are several reasons to agree with the point.  The first supporting sentences would be one of the reasons with examples.  The next supporting sentences would be a different reason and example.
    If I am going to put one reason to disagree with one reason to agree in a paragraph, the topic sentence would introduce the topic of, for example, the amount of information on the internet.  The supporting sentences would then be the reason to disagree with an example and a reason to agree with example.

Conclusion Paragraph

The final paragraph is the conclusion
In this paragraph, you should summarise the main points of your essay.  In this case, it would be the reasons to disagree and agree.
You should then state your opinion again if an opinion is required.
If you are not required to give an opinion, have a closing sentence that ensures you have fully answered the question and shows that you have finished.  


 

 

In this video, we begin the third stage, Write, by writing the Introduction paragraph.

TRANSCRIPT

By planning and organising our ideas, we should score highly for 'Task Response' and 'Coherence & Cohesion'.

We can now focus on getting high scores for Lexical Resource and Grammatical Range & Accuracy as we write.

Will continue to answer the same question we've been looking at, and write the introduction.

We will then practise writing introductions with a different question.

Remember that we first need to introduce the topic by paraphrasing the question.  I've already paraphrased it simply above, so we can build on that.    


We are discussing whether we agree or disagree with a statement, but we don't know or care who made this statement    
 

Therefore, a good way to start your essay when discussing an opinion or statement is to use a phrase such as:

 

'It has been said that'.   
 

Here we have a present perfect passive clause to introduce reported speech.  3 big pluses in terms of G.R.A.
 

We could improve the lexical resource score by changing the word 'said' to 'stated', or even 'asserted'!
    
Let's take the next part of my rough paraphrase: 'children don't need school'.


They don't use the word 'children' in the question, so that's good.    
 

We can't use 'don't need' because you should not use contractions in formal writing.  So 'don't' should be 'do not', or we could use 'have no need'.  We could also change 'go' to 'attend' to show our awareness of collocation ('attend school' is a collocation).  Or we could use a modal verb and 'no longer required to', a nice passive phrase which also collocates with 'attend school'.
    
'because they can study everything online' is fine, but we could formalize it a little;

    

  • we can change 'can' to 'are able to';

  • It's better to avoid the word 'thing' in formal writing, so let's change that;

  • We can also expand 'at home';

  • We can change 'because' to 'for the reason that'

    
So, we have gone from 'children don't need school because they can study everything at home online'    
to 'It has been asserted that children should no longer be required to attend school, for the reason that they are able to study the necessary materials online in their homes.'    
We have not copied form the question, but have said the same thing (paraphrasing), and we have used a variety of grammatical structures and some nice vocabulary...    
We're off to a good start!    
    
The next thing we need to do is state our opinion.    
Many people use phrases like these to state their opinion    
However, in academic writing, you should avoid using words like 'I', 'me', 'my' or 'you'.    
A much better way to introduce your opinion is using the Passive again:    


By using 'it is argued that', you can avoid using 'I' or 'my' but still make it clear what your opinion is.    
Of course, we need to state that opinion, which is we disagree.  In other words, we think that 'schools are necessary'    
You could add 'indeed' to add emphasis    
If you don't feel comfortable using 'necessary' because it appears in the question, you could change it to 'a necessity' or something else    
    
We then need to tell the reader that we are going to give reasons why we disagree but also look at the reasons to agree    
We can make this a bit more formal as follows    
We can avoid repeating the word 'reasons' by using the pronoun 'those' and use a word like 'contradict' or 'refute' to increase our 'lexical range' score    
    
And now we have a strong introduction paragraph.    
We have introduced the topic by paraphrasing the question and we have shown off our grammar and vocab in the process    
and we have stated our opinion and stated that we will explain why we think this... using formal, academic English    
Now the examiner is thinking that you are a good writer and is already considering giving you a high score.    
    

 

 

Let's now practise everything we've covered so far with a different question.    
I will now show you the question, and you should:    

  • Consider what type of question it is and what the topic is;

  • Begin to paraphrase it for the first sentence of your introduction    

 

Brainstorm some ideas    
Decide your opinion if it's needed.    
Organise your ideas and decide on the structure of your essay    
You can then write your introduction paragraph    
    
I would say that you should allow about 5 minutes for the Planning and Organising stages, and approximately 5 to 10 minutes to write the introduction    

 

Answers

This is a 'discuss both views' type question, and they specifically ask for your opinion, so you must make sure that you give one    
The 2 views to discuss are:

1) parents should teach children to be good members of society    
2) schools should do this    
    
I have brainstormed some ideas here    
    
    
With 3 reasons why parents should do it and only 2 reasons why schools should, my opinion will be that parents should (but schools can help)    
    
So, to write the introduction, we first need to paraphrase the 2 points of view.    
    
Some people think' could be rephrased as 'It is thought by some that...'    
We can paraphrase 'parents should' to the more formal 'it is the responsibility of parents to'    
teach children how to be good members of society' could be said as 'raise children to be decent members of society'    
We now need to introduce the other view.  We could do this as a new sentence...    
but it would be more cohesive it we continued the sentence with a linking verb such as 'whereas' or 'while' to show that we're now introducing a different opinion    
We now need to paraphrase 'others believe that school is the place to learn this'    
We could say, 'it is the belief of others that this should be taught at school'.    
    
We now need to state our opinion and say what we're about to write:    
We can use the same phrase as before to begin.    
My opinion is that both parents and schools should do it, but it's mostly the job of the parents.... so I need to say this in formal English:    
Notice that I've used another linking word, 'while' to contrast the 2 ideas.  I've also used the word 'predominantly' to improve my Lexical Resource score.    
I also used 'duty' to avoid repeating the word 'responsibility'.    

 

Linking Words

Please click here to download lists of linking words.

 

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