We Analyzed Every Sample Task-2 Answers Given in the Cambridge IELTS Student Book 1 to 12. Here’s What We Learned about Writing at Band 7, 8 and 9 Level.

Monday, January 08, 2018

IELTS writing band 7-8-9 tips

We recently analyzed sample Cambridge IELTS task-2 answers to ans wer the question:

Which factors are responsible behind band 7, 8, and 9 IELTS writing gradings?

We looked at examiner comments. We looked at answers. We even match comments with the answers.

We learned a lot about high band IELTS writing . And I’m sure you will too.

Here is a Summary of What We Discovered:

  • Grammar is an extremely important IELTS writing grading factor.
  • Our finding also shows that a coherent answer`s with well connected ideas triumph.
  • We observed that answers rated as fully "task relevant" significantly outperformed answer that covers just a single part of the prompt.
  • Based on our analysis, we found that argumentative writing strategies scored higher.
  • Signaled conclusion doesn’t correlate with higher grading.
  • Bad spelling and punctuation lowered the band score.
  • Word choice matters. Based on high band samples, answers contained common and uncommon vocabulary with flexibility and accuracy performed better.
  • Despite paragraphing is most common in answers, more logically paragraphed ones scored very well.
Yes, you can`t drive deep from the above list. So, here we present the detail information from our findings:

Grading Are Closely Tied with Addressing Different Part of The Prompt

You may probably heard about the proverb “What goes around comes around” or “as you sow, so shall you reap”.

Similarly, listen to this new proverb:”As the Question, So the Answer”.

In other words, write as the question asks you to write.

Don`t write about a single view of the task when it ask you to discuss both views.. plus give opinion- so that your answer don`t miss single or multiple requirement of the task.

That`s so simple and so overlooked.

However, hierarchal coverage of all parts of a prompt in different band goes like this:

  • Band 9: Fully address all part of the task.
  • Band 8: Sufficiently address all part of the task.
  • Band 7: Moderately address all part of the task.
A graphical presentation of this range of task achievement in different band would look something like this:


Key Learning: Address all part of the task as fully as possible in your answer to achieve band 7 or above.

Expansion of Ideas to Address the Prompt Significantly Correlates with the Band Score

We found that comprehensive argumentative strategies to expand main points of the essay significantly outperformed the low band answers.

You may know that a good paragraph contains one idea at a time. The writer places this single idea at the beginning and develops it in the next sentences of the paragraph.

The question is:

Do the next sentences (after topic) agree with the main idea?

This is interesting-a writer develops main ideas differently across band 7 to 9 answers.

Well, from our research you`ve found following facts:

  • Band 7 answers: Main ideas are expended and supported throughout the response although the relevancy is questionable in some cases.
  • Band 8 answers: Main ideas are well developed with Relevant, extended and supported ideas.
  • Band 9 answers: Main topics of paragraphs are well supported with proper reasoning and examples.
Look at this paragraph excerpt that is taken from a band 9 answer about- introducing foreign language learning in primary schools rather than high schools:

There are, however, some disadvantages. Primary school teachers are generaiists, and may not have the necessary language skills themselves. If specialists have to be brought in to deliver these sessions, the flexibility referred to above is diminished. If primary language teaching is not standardized, secondary schools could be faced with a great variety of levels in different languages within their intake, resulting in a classroom experience which undoes the earlier gains. There is no advantage if enthusiastic primary pupils become demotivated as soon as they change schools. However, these issues can be addressed strategically within the policy adopted.
This paragraph focus on the disadvantages of foreign language learning in primary level. The sentences next to topic covers the odds of language teaching in primary schools and imply the significance of making primary level language teaching standardized with appropriate policies.

Part of the explanation for that paragraph having an outstanding grading is that the argument left no room for biasness.

Here`s is another example of a very good argument with proper reasoning. This is taken from the recent radio speech of Barack Obama with Prince Harry- about irresponsible internet media use.

One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be just cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases. The question has to do with how do we harness this technology in a way that allows a multiplicity of voices, allows a diversity of views, but doesn’t lead to a balkanization of our society, but rather continues to promote ways of finding common ground.
Bottom-line: Hone your academic argument skills to dominate the pinnacle of band score.

There is NO Correlation Between Signaled Conclusions and Band Score

There’s been a lot of buzz about ending markup and score. Even in the Cambridge IELTS 7 students book-an examiner comment about a band 7.5 essay exactly as "signaled conclusion- make him achieve more than band 7".

The theory goes something like this:

Signaled conclusion gives examiner a better understanding of your essay. Moreover, an ending signal as `in conclusion`, `in the end` gives a better coherence to an essay.

However, according to our analysis, the presence of signaled conclusion had no relationship with band scores.

Here are some examples..

  • This is a band 9 conclusion about opinion based task : 
“In my opinion, focusing on sports facilities is too narrow an approach and would not have the desired results. People should be encouraged not only to be more physically active but also to adopt a healthier lifestyle in general.”

  • And this excerpt of  conclusion is from a band 8 essay: 
“In conclusion, I think this is a very good idea, and I hope this program will be put into action for high schools/colleges shortly”.

  • And this one is from a band 7 essay:
“In conclusion, nuclear power is good, it can be safe, and we will all benefit. It is up to our leaders to see that t is handled well so that we can all benefit from it.”

  • And more, this one is from a band 6 answer:
“To sum up all above it is necessary to say that there are some spheres in which sharing information is a crime. In my opinion, in many cases information can be too important or sharing at all.”

  • And even more, this one is from a band 5 answer:
“Overall, when we listen our children that we make their future personally better, parents should respect children. Same like adults, when the parents try t refuse children something they should justify to them why they refuse explain to them the reasons.”

After reading all these examples from band 9 to band 5, do you notice any difference?

Key Insight: Feel free to write a signaled conclusion in your essay. But don’t expect it to have an impact on your band score.

Spelling & Punctuation Error are Closely Associated with Band Scores


Good spelling and punctuation is a necessity to achieve higher band.

Yes, there is no escape from this.

Our observation on such mistakes in examiner`s comments were like this:

Band 5 : Frequent Spelling & punctuation mistakes.

Band 6 : Occasional inaccuracy in spelling and punctuation.

Band 7 : Few Error.

Band 8 : No Error.

Band 9:  No error.

Why spelling and punctuation are important?

The answer is to convey the meaning precisely. Without punctuation nobody knows where to stop or where to start reading a sentence of your text-nobody knows what you actually mean in your text.

And bad spelling can overshadow the meaning a sentence. So, it may happens that the examiner think you mean one thing, when you really mean another.

Good Paragraphing = High Band Score

The purpose of an essay writing is to tell other people your ideas, To transfer your thought into examiner`s mind. You do this through words and sentences, through building supporting paragraphs from the introduction and then a short conclusion.

To do this most easily and effectively, you must separates different points into distinct paragraphs so that the organizational pattern of your essay is transparent to the reader, contributing to its readability.

A good paragraph is convincing with sufficient support and discussion, but at the same time, each one must develop around a single topic.

Saying all these imply that an essay with a good paragraph structure can boost clarity or readability, which should therefore improve band score.

To measure the impact of paragraphing on grading we looked at the presence or absence of good paragraphing in high band responses (in other words, in the answers of Cambridge IELTS books).

According to examiner comments, responses with good control over paragraphing are significantly better than having no control at all.

Because, when we looked at the comments, you can read something as below:

  • “Poor control of paragraphing confuses the reader to link across different sections”(Cambridge IELTS 7 , Test-2, Band 7.5)
  • “Each paragraph has a clear topic which is developed” (Cambridge IELTS 11 , Test-3, Band 7)
  • “Paragraphing used appropriately” (Cambridge IELTS 9 , Test-2, Band 8.0)
This suggests that there’s a point of good paragraphing when it comes to scoring.

Writing with a Mix of Simple and Complex Sentence Forms Improve Scoring

IELTS examiner doesn’t only look for clues that and essay responses the test question properly or not, but also they review the sentence structures contain in the text.

We`ve discovered the following observations in sentence structures of various Cambridge sample answers: 

  • Some answers below band 7 generally relies on a fixed approach to writing sentences, for example-simple or compound sentence structures.
  • Many low band answers are filled with set phrases used as a paragraph ‘template’, results in an answer that does not respond in the right way to the test question. 
  • It appears that high band answers (above 7)uses a wide range of English sentence forms covering simple to complex or a blend of complex-compound structures to show a very strong command over language in the essays.
Not only that, we`ve noticed following comments from the examiner in high scale answers:

  • "Mix of complex sentence forms with fair accuracy" (Cambridge IELTS 12 , Test-5, Band 6)
  • "A variety of complex structures is used with some flexibility and accuracy" (Cambridge IELTS 11 , Test-3, Band 7)
  • "A wide range of sentence structures used flexibly" (Cambridge IELTS 12 , Test-7, Band 7.5)
Knowing that, it`s likely that the IELTS candidate who demonstrates consistent control over complex and varied sentence structures, essentially error free, all over the response-scores more than band 7. Accuracy as the use of complex sentences, coordinating conjunctions play a crucial role here.

Accuracy in Word Choice to Convey Meaning with Flexibility and Skillful Use of Uncommon Lexis Push the Score Up

You may have heard that using synonym of repeated words has a good impression on the IELTS response.

According to our analysis, this appears to be the case. We found that lexical diversity has a substantial impact on grading.

In band 7 answers, we discovered that the range of vocabulary is adequate to convey the writer’s ideas clearly but is not always appropriately used. 

The essay has instances of successful use of lexical phrases (“it takes time and energy”) and others where vocabulary is awkward or incorrect (“extends his sight”).

There is a wide range of appropriately used vocabulary.

While in band 8 answers, there are a few cases of slightly awkward vocabulary use and these minor errors with lexical mechanics detract slightly from the overall impression created by those excellent essay.

On the other hand, the band 9 answers have a wide range of appropriately used vocabulary. In those responses a lot of prompt specific low-frequency vocabulary produced, where these uncommon lexis covey the meaning of sentences more precisely with sophistication.

For your kind information, low frequency words are words that uncommonly occur in English language, such as “diaphoretic,” and “equinox”.

Key Insight: Examiner wants to see different low and high frequency words covering your text. And the more accurately you use them, the more impression you have in the eyes of your examiner.

More Sophisticated Cohesion Commands More Band Score

Words together make a sentence and sentences together make an essay.

Words join together to make a sentence by following grammatical rules.

But, sentences perfectly join together to make an essay by the rules of cohesion and coherence.

IELTS examiners look for this perfection. In other words, they would appreciate it if there were verbal road signs that your ideas is continuing in the same direction or that it`s now going to turn. 

Proper use of cohesive devices ensure these road signs in an essay.

Our observation shows, in high band answers, the writer employs an impressively wide range of cohesive devices and organizational structures flexibly to build coherence and cohesion and create a fluent style in the essay.

Conversely, there is little connection of ideas across sentences in low band answers. The reader needs to reformulate meaning in order to understand several part of the composition. 

In other words, very low graded answers, generally relies on mechanical use of linking device. Limitations in cohesive range make connections between sentences choppy. The reader need to struggle derive the whole meaning from the essay, although error-free sentences are plenty.

Key Insight: Laying down cohesive markers is a good practice for getting a top writing band score.

Grammatical Accuracy Positively Correlates with Higher Band Achievements

In early days of writing composition in high school, students like you relied heavily on grammar for English sentence making.

For example, use of structures like not only..but also, use of WH words to make complex sentences etc.

Today, you can "rely" on same grammatical rules to write in IELTS exam.

Nothing has changed.

Bad grammar did not bring you good results in high school. The same is true for the IELTS writing test. 

We found a strong correlation between grammar rich responses and grading:

  • Band 6: Grammatical error seldom prevents meaning from coming through.
  • Band 7: Well controlled grammar with some inaccuracy.
  • Band 8: Minor error in grammar
  • Band 9: Very rare grammatical error.
Key Learning: Popular Suggestions like “Just forget about grammar when you deal with English” does not work in the IELTS test. Your answers have to have correct grammar.

Conclusion

Now I’d like to hear from you:

Do you have a question?

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