The Do's and the Don't's of IELTS Writing


The Do's and the Don't's of IELTS Writing
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Today, I want to share some insights on how we can get high score in IELTS writing. By following some basic principles that I explained below, some test takers have managed to improve their score at least by 0.5. Let’s see if these principles can also work for you. I had previously explained the template of both Writing Task 1 and Writing Task 2, and today I’d like to focus more on the do’s and the don’ts of IELTS Writing.



The Do’s of IELTS Essay

Be Concise!
An effective sentence should consist of 8 to 15 words, not more. If you write a stringy sentence, there is a higher possibility that you will make a grammatical error (such as using double Verbs). You have two save options here.

First, you can separate it into two clauses. For example:
The exam is very difficult that no one can even get a C-

Second, if you think that your sentence is getting too long, you can separate them into two different sentences. For example:

I was tired at that time, so I decided to take a rest at Ron’s place where my friends were watching a football match which seems to be quite exciting


This sentence is simply just too much, so you might want to separate it into two sentences:

I was tired at that time, so I decided to take a rest at Ron’s place. My friends were watching a football match which seems to be quite exciting

You can also use commas, but remember that too many commas will make your writing more difficult to understand. So, I would suggest you to use maximum two commas in every sentence.

To avoid confusion which is usually caused by excessive use of Adjective Clause, you can use Gerund or Past Participle instead. 

Take a look at these examples!

He claimed to see the guy who stole a dog which was reported stolen yesterday

There are two Adjective clauses in that sentence, and one of them can actually be turned into a Past Participle so that it becomes:
  • He claimed to see the guy who stole a dog reported stolen yesterday
You can also turned the first Adjective Clause into a Gerund so that it becomes:
  • He claimed to see the guy stealing a dog which was reported stolen yesterday
You can combine Adjective clauses with Gerund and comma to avoid repetition. Take a look at an example below!

The person whom I talked to yesterday is the guy who saw Andy stealing a book from the library, and then selling it to a small store near his house.

We have two Adjective Clauses, one reduced form (in form Gerund) and one comma. I personally think that sentence can easily be understood as long as it has no more than two clauses, two commas, and two reduced form. If you have exceeded this limit, then you might want to make two different sentences instead.


Cohesion

The idea is that you have to link ideas, paragraphs, and sentences so that they become logically connected. Cohesion works at sentence level and it focuses on the grammatical aspect. Sometimes, we manage to write four paragraphs, but the first paragraph is not logically connected to the second paragraph, the second paragraph is not connected to the third paragraph, and the third paragraph is not logically connected to the last paragraphs. It seems like individual paragraphs being stuffed in a piece of writing. The writing is not cohesive, and this is ugly. Take a look at an
example below.

I bought a gaming laptop yesterday. The laptop is very powerful. It is quite expensive. I have saved money for almost three years. The laptop is a reward for my hard work.

Those are just a bunch of sentences that are being put together. It has no cohesive device whatsoever that you might find it hard (or simply annoying) to understand the story. By using some cohesive devices to link those sentences, you will be able to tell a more interesting story, like the one below:


I bought a gaming laptop yesterday. It is a very powerful laptop, although the price is quite expensive. I managed to buy this laptop after saving money for three years, so it becomes some kind of reward for all my hard work.

This story sounds so much better, since the sentences are logically connected by cohesive device like “although” and “so”.

Here are some other cohesive devices that you might find useful for your writing:
Comparison
Also, equally, similarly, likewise, compared to
Addition

And, also, furthermore, too, in addition, moreover, besides
Exemplification
For example, for instance, to illustrate, such as, namely
Sequencing
First, second, next, after that, then, lastly
Result
So, therefore, as a result, thus, because, since, consequently
Contrast
In comparison, in contrast, in contrary, instead, on the contrary, conversely
Qualifying
But, although, except, unless, regardless, despite, in spite of, however
Reformulation
In other words, that is to say, rather, in simple terms
Highlighting

In particular, especially, mainly, particularly, above all
Transition
With regard to, in terms of, with reference to, as far as



Coherence

This means that your ideas should be easily understood by the readers. If Cohesion makes your writing easily understood on sentence level, then Coherence focuses more on idea level. Your idea has to be logically connected one another. Do not explain something and then jump to a completely different discussion which has no relevancy at all. 

For example, you explain the importance of reading books. You give an example of how you should read a lot of books at school, but you concentrate too much on what kind of book you have to read instead of why it is important. The example that you give does not elaborate your explanation and is not relevant to the previous discussion.



Composition

In writing, it is always important to use the correct essay structure. We have a template for both Writing Task 1 and Writing Task 2. Correct essay structure will help you organize your ideas better. You can also write a good essay from moving to a more general explanation in the overview to a more detailed explanation in second and third paragraph. 

In some cases of IELTS Writing Task 1, there is a tendency that the test takers do not give introduction by explaining the topic in a more general way, but rather jump to specific explanation. Sometimes, they don’t pay attention to the pattern of the data (for example, separating the constant increase and decrease from fluctuating percentage). You should move from general to specific, because it makes your writing more understandable.  Imagine you read a writing which explains data in constant-fluctuating-constant-fluctuating structure, without any general introduction, and then you just find out that you read a Writing Task 1 which explains a bar graph. Confusing, isn’t it? Take a look at this example!

The number of people who use cars increases over years. It used to have 200 passengers in the year of 1960. The number witnessed a constant growth. By the end of the period, the number of car users almost quintupled. Train, on the other hand, indicates an ups downs trend. It had around 600 passengers in the year of 1960. Twenty years later, the number was reduced by a half, although it slightly increased in the last period. Bus is the mode of transport with the most significant decline. Despite the fact that it had around 1500 passengers in the year of 1960, the number fell to its lowest point representing only 120 passengers at the end of the period. Overall, the number of passengers of bus, car and train in the year of 1960, 1980 and 2000 which is explained in the bar graph was either increase, decrease, or fluctuating.

This is an example of Writing Task 1 which is not well-ordered. It only has one paragraph, and the idea is not well organized. It moves from specific to general, making it difficult to understand. In fact, you barely know that it explains a bar graph until you read the last sentence. Imagine how irritating it is to read this kind of writing. Now, let’s try to fix the writing by using the correct writing structure.

The bar graph presents the proportion transportation users in the year of 1960, 1980 and 2000. Overall, the number of passengers of bus, car and train which is explained in the bar graph was either increase, decrease, or fluctuating.

The graph indicates that the number of people who use cars increases over years. It used to have 200 passengers in the year of 1960. The number witnessed a constant growth and by the end of the period, the number of car users almost quintupled. Bus illustrates the opposite trend. It is the mode of transport with the most significant decline. Despite the fact that it had around 1500 passengers in the year of 1960, the number fell to its lowest point representing only 120 passengers at the end of the period.

Train, on the other hand, indicates an ups downs trend. It had around 600 passengers in the year of 1960.
Twenty years later, the number was reduced by a half, although it slightly increased in the last period.


Task Achievement

In IELTS Writing, you have to answer the question fully and cover all points asked in the task statement. It applies for both Writing Task 1 and Writing Task 2. Let’s take the previous bar graph as an example. In the graph, there are three main features that you have to explain, namely the transport, the year, and the number of users. You have to explain the three main features. If you miss one of them (year, for example), then the information included in your writing will be incomplete, and this will significantly reduce your writing score. You also need to remember that you have to write at least 150 words. Never write less than that!


The Don’t’s of IELTS Essay

Avoid Repetition
Do not repeat the use of certain words, because it will significantly reduce your writing score. Always paraphrase the words. If the word is not paraphrase-able, you can change the arrangement of the words. Take a look at an example below!


The bar graph shows the increase in population in several European countries in the year of 2000, 2005 and 2010.
The paraphrased sentence would probably look like this:
  • The bar graph outlines the population growth taking place in some countries in Europe in fifteen year period starting in the year 2000.

As you can see, I paraphrased the words shows, increase as well as the phrase European countries, and the way the year is explained. See how I just re-arranged the phrase European countries so that it becomes countries in Europe! I did this because it is hard (if not impossible) to find their equivalent words.

Using the Same Sentence Structure

This is another thing that you need to avoid in your writing. The complexity of your sentences is another thing that IELTS would take into account and so,
make sure you use a range of sentence structure like:

  • Active Voice
  • Passive Voice
  • Multiple Clause Sentence
  • Gerund Phrase
  • To Infinitive Phrase

and in some cases,

  • Conditional Sentence

Avoid Contraction

It might look life it’s fine to write: I’m Tim. But apparently, it is not. Using contraction is not advisable in IELTS writing. Expressions like I’m, I’ve, She’s, They’ve, We’re Won’t and Can’t must be avoided. I know that we naturally use contraction in our writing, but I suggest you to allocate some time to review your writing before submitting it, and replace all the contracted forms with the long form.


Avoid Lazy Expression

Another thing we commonly do when writing something is using expressions like e.g., i.e., etc., so and so forth, and many other lazy expressions. It is not a good idea to use this kind of expression in IELTS writing. Always writes anything in full. Use such as instead of e.g., outline all the points instead of using using and so on or etc.


Bad Time Management


Spending Time on Writing Task 1, Forgetting that You Still Have Writing Task 2 is quite common among test takers. When this happens, they often get only half of the actual score they desire, because they spend like 55 minutes on one writing and when they realize they only have 5 minutes left to do the other one, they write 120 words per minute like a psycho. If you aim high score, like 7.0 or above, this is one thing that you really want to avoid. Remember, time is crucial in IELTS!



Illegible Handwriting


I’m not going to judge anyone on this cause believe me, I myself have a terrible terrible handwriting. Handwriting is another factor that we rarely take into account, despite its importance. When I took the test and do the Writing Section, I was aware that I’m not going to use my usual handwriting because I didn’t think I would get a good score writing a hieroglyph. So, I end up spending most of my time trying to give my best handwriting (instead of focusing on my writing).


When it comes to handwriting, you may want to have a little practice.


Those are some of the do’s and the don’t’s of IELTS Writing. If you have some suggestions on how IELTS writing should be done, write them down on the comment section!


Best luck!


😎 😎 😎

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