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Five Writing Tips for IELTS

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Peter Max Winkler

12 Feb. 2020. When I get questions from some students, I often receive questions about tips and tricks regarding writing for IELTS, the International English Language Testing System. It may seem somewhat disappointing for some of my students, but the best tips for learning HOW to write for the IELTS, whether this is academic or general, is to understand the band scores that the examiner will be comparing your right to.

Tip 1: Understand your band score

To first understand how IELTS is graded, understand that your writing is measured in 4 areas. Each area counts for 25% of your Band Score. We will look into each area and talk about its main points so we know how to write for the test, shaping our writing to the “IELTS Standard.”

When you look at the band scores online you will see that the scores are organized into 4 sections, Task Response, Coherence and Cohesion, Lexical Resource and Grammatical Range and Accuracy. A lot of students get confused by the lack of explanation and advanced vocabulary in this sheet, however, it’s truly the key to understand what it is that you are expected to do in order to pass the writing section of the test.

Tip 2: Learn complex sentences

Sometimes I get students who come from finance or engineering backgrounds and were taught in school to write simple and easy-to-understand sentences for their work or career. This, of course, makes sense, however, the IELTS test usually wants you to write in complex sentences for you to achieve a 7 band or higher. Complex sentences follow this structure, subordinate clause + main clause.

Here’s an example: If I had the time and money, I would take the bus. The first half of the sentence “If I had the time and money…” is the subordinate clause, meaning, there is not enough information for this part of the sentence to be a complete sentence. The other half of the sentence “…I would take the bus.” is the main clause, meaning, it is the main idea and the main message in this sentence. If the subordinate clause comes FIRST in the sentence, you HALF TO put a comma before the main clause, BUT if it comes second in the sentence like, “I would take the bus if I had the time and money” there is NO COMMA between commas.

Tip 3: Use formal language

I cannot tell you how many times I have sat with a student and told them to stop using simple words like, “but, to, so, because and however” as they are “simple” connecting words that will lower your vocabulary score. The band score you receive is a combination of scores that take place, so for instance, the formal language you’re using here could affect your grammar score and your lexical score. Please use formal words such as, although, in order to, therefore and in addition.

Exclamation point sign

Tip 4: Use correct punctuation

Comma rules in English can be confusing and are often the cause of a poor band score. They help with the flow of your writing and give the reader the idea of how your writing should be and is intended to be read. So, it is very important to use the correct punctuation in your writing by following a few comma rules.

  1. Place a comma after the subordinate clause and before the main clause in a sentence.
  2. Place a comma between words when making a list of three.
  3. Place a comma to separate a non-defining relative clause (which / who / when).
  4. Place a comma to separate linking words and phrases (In addition, this is the correct…)

Tip 5: Use consistent writing structures

A common issue for most students is the struggle to find writing samples online that have a high band score and are consistent in the structure. The idea here is to study a structure and on test day, use a similar structure. However, finding a structure is difficult as they are often not laid out in a simple way or there are not enough samples that will show these structures enough times for the students to understand it. This is why SSEDS created an e-book and online course that helps with these issues specifically. Please take some time to view what has helped many students pass their exams and see if it works for you.

Here is our e-book: it takes you through the academic and general IELTS writing structure and shows sample answers to help you achieve a high band score.

The online course does this as well but in video format, and comes with a free copy of the e-book as well. Happy studying!

IELTS book cover

(Peter Max Winkler)

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