Is there a quick and easy way to improve your IELTS Writing Score?
Well, it might not happen overnight, but there are certainly a few things that could make a difference.
Do you do all of these?
Task 1 – Academic Test
1. Paraphrase the introduction
Don’t try to change every word in the introduction – that makes it sound unnatural. Use simple synonyms (e.g. the chart shows = illustrates) as well as more complex structures (e.g. change nouns into verbs: the production of oil/how much oil was produced).
You can often group countries into regions e.g. in Italy, France, Spain, Poland and Germany = in 5 European countries or use the adjective form e.g. a university in the UK = a British University.
And try to vary the way you describe the time period e.g. from 1995 to 2015/ between 1995 and 2015/ over a 10-year period/ over two decades.
2. Write a clear overview
Don’t confuse the overview with the introduction. An overview is absolutely crucial for a minimum score of 6 in Task Achievement. It can be very general and does not need to include data/numbers/figures.
Try to see the ‘big picture’ (but don’t be afraid to say that there was no significant change, or no significant differences, or ‘no correlation between…’ if that is the big picture).
Start your overview with ‘Overall….’ so that the examiner can see you’ve written an overview!
3. Analyze the information and don’t give your opinion
Do NOT give any opinion about why you think something happened – this will lose points in Task Achievement because it is considered to be subjective rather than objective
e.g. if you notice that sales fell dramatically in 2008, DON’T say ‘this was probably due to the global financial crisis’. Just report the facts.
4. Analyze graphs vertically and horizontally
Many graphs show changes over time, so you look at them horizontally (e.g. sales increased/decreased over a 10-year period).
But you also need to compare who had the highest/lowest sales over the period – this is comparing vertically.
Draw on the graph to help you see these key features.
5. Avoid giving too much ‘mechanical detail’
Don’t describe every detail e.g. ‘It went up in 1982, then it went down in 1985, then it went up again in 1990 and then it fell again in 1995’.
There is no point describing everything that you see – the examiners can see this information for themselves, so why do they need you to describe it for them? It also makes your writing very boring and not ‘analytical’.
6. Don’t describe, analyse
Try to find quick ways of ANALYSING the numbers.
Look for numbers that halved, doubled, tripled, etc.
Look for places where you can show complex analysis – e.g. there were four times as many visitors in 2005 as there were in 2000/ tourist numbers increased fourfold’.
Add some extra data if necessary e.g. with 2 million people visiting the town.
7. Write enough words
Don’t be afraid to go OVER the word count.
In Task 1, some words from the paper are not included in the word count, so make sure you are well over the limit.
Practise this at home so that you don’t waste time counting words in the exam.
Task 2 – Academic and General Training
8. Write a General Statement
Get your first line right. You need a sentence that tells the reader something about the issue and why it’s important. The following three starting points work for most situations:
- a comparison with the past (e.g. ‘In the past, children used to play outside’)
- a recent development (‘Recent research has shown that childhood obesity is on the rise’)
- a general opinion (‘Many people believe that children spend too much time on the computer’).
You can then lead in to your answer
- ‘but nowadays there is a tendency for children to spend their free time on the computer’.
- ‘However, there are several measures that can be taken to reverse this trend’.
- ‘Others argue that computer skills are essential for the future’.
9. Make your opinion clear throughout
Don’t wait until the conclusion to give your opinion – for a higher score, your opinion needs to be clear throughout the essay, so why not say it in the introduction?
10. Answer the question
You already know this. The main reason why people do not get the score they were expecting is because they didn’t answer the question.
Write a plan and make sure every point in the plan answers the question. Stick to the plan.
11. Don’t use whole sentences of memorised language
It’s good to learn short phrases and collocations (words that go together like ‘a worrying trend’) that you can use in many situations, but don’t use whole sentences that look impressive but say nothing – ‘In this essay I will discuss the advantages and disadvantages and then give my own opinion’ – er, yes, that’s what the question asks you to do! Thanks for that!
12. Use a wide range of vocabulary
In my opinion this is what usually holds people back from a higher score. It is difficult to demonstrate ‘flexibility and precision’ and use ‘less common items’ when you are under pressure.
This is where preparation is crucial. You need the right words at your fingertips.
This takes time, effort and motivation. You have to read widely and keep vocabulary lists for each topic.
13. Use clear paragraphs
This is a simple fix.
If you don’t use paragraphs you will stay at a 5 for Coherence and Cohesion.
Don’t overuse linking words either. Although they are important, they can be annoying. In addition, they’re not always used correctly. Besides there are many other ways of linking sentences. Moreover it makes your writing sound unnatural (do you see what I’m saying?).
14. Do a course!
Check out the Members Academy Writing course for both General Training and Advanced Writing.
It includes (but I’m always adding new courses)
- 28 days of videos and worksheets (Task 1 and Task 2 Essentials and Advanced) to help you see what the examiners are looking for.
- 28 days of essential vocabulary-boosting lessons
- Feedback videos so you can see where students have made changes that got them a higher score
- Weekly live lessons based on samples that members submit
- A Bank of 40 Model Task 2 and 20 GT Task 1 essays
- Access to me when you need help.
If you have any questions about the Members Academy study programme, please get in touch.
Need more help?
Read more about Task 2 structures here.
Find more examples and advice about IELTS Writing here.