Academic IELTS Writing Task-2 Tips for achieving Sentence Variety

Friday, January 12, 2018

How to Write IELTS Task-2 Essay with Sentence Variety

Let me start by getting the obvious out of the way:

Sentence Variety matter.

I`m not even try to convince you why it`s matter.

Rather, I`ll put some excerpts from the official band descriptor from the British Council.

Here`s what it says about achieving band 9 in the IELTS writing task-2:

And this is for achieving band 9,8 and 7 in the IELTS writing task-2:

Here`s is the bottom line:

A focus on structural variety of sentences in academic IELTS task-2 essay can almost guaranty your top band score.

Notice, I say “almost’.

Because, if you`re targeting high band score like 8 or 9, you need to focus on other 3 areas of your writing as well as lexical, task response and organization.

Most of you, though, can understand those 3 areas. 

By the way, after a long research and trying many methods with my students for the last 10 years, I finally got simple IELTS Writing preparation method that really works to get over band 7.<

I demonstrate these methods in a step by step guide to make your preparation as easy as possible.

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But, perhaps, you`ve little clue about what it means by sentence variety or using wide range of structures. 

In fact, academic IELTS  writing task-2 tips for achieving sentence variety is a no-where to find blog tutorial in the internet.

Think about it:

Most of the time, you write your essay without sparingly select sentence structures.

And you`re not alone. Sample candidate writing scripts and examiner comments from official IELTS sources reveal that majority of candidate do not provide structural variety in answers.

Insider Tips For Varying Sentence Structures in Academic IELTS Task-2 Essays

Of course, many of you seldom stumble upon instructions like using a mix of simple, complex and compound sentences can ensure using “a wide range of structures”.

Sure, it`s one way of doing this, But, is the best way of doing this?

That`s the question I intend to answer for you.

I intend to answer by explaining that, changing word orders, joining ideas and using sentence types and length are better strategy than the alternative.

Do you get my point?

This is not one of articles teaches you how to write complex sentences in your IELTS essay to ensure structural variety with flexibility.

In fact, here I am going to show you four smart ways to differ sentence style and structure in your academic IELTS task-2 answer.

(1) Sentence Variety at the Beginning

Since the subject-verb-object pattern is the simplest sentence structure, we are prone to overuse this formation. 

Read this paragraph:

“Sustainable energy is the future. Renewable power is taking the place of fossil fuel steadily. This picture reveals us the changing global scenario of energy production.”

In this extract from an essay covering the following task:

Some people think that renewable energy sources can help the world to maintain its energy security. Others, however, claim that this function can hardly exist.

Discuss both views and give your opinion.

Here, the writer uses three simple sentences.

This writer may mistakenly believe that this technique makes the text more clear for the reader. But in fact, it seems choppy with too many short sentences in a row.

This also results in producing unsophisticated paragraph where the writing is a little bit redundant.

So, what to do with this problem?

One technique you can use so as to avoid starting a sentence with the subject is to use an adverb.

  • Using Adverb at the Beginning of Sentences

Examples of adverbs include rapidly, softly, quietly, obviously, and simultaneously. 

Read the following sentence:

"Renewable power is taking the place of fossil fuel steadily."

You can write is as:

“Steadily, renewable power is taking the place of fossil fuel.”

Here, the adverb steadily is placed at the beginning of the sentence.

If you read this sentence again, you can realize that moving the adverb “steadily” at the beginning, built some tension in the rhythm of this sentence.

This is an effective technique in story-telling- in fictional writing – in Travis McGee . Nevertheless to say, It`s also effective in your IELTS writing test.

Note that an adverb used at the beginning of a sentence is usually followed by a comma (,). A comma indicates that the reader should pause briefly, which creates a useful rhetorical device.

Now, just take a minute and think about this sentence:

“Steadily, renewable power is taking the place of fossil fuel, reveals us the changing global scenario of energy production.”

Sounds more enticing! 


But, does it sound familiar?

If you are having trouble figuring out why this sentences sounds similar, read the second and third sentence of our example again:

“Renewable power is taking the place of fossil fuel steadily. This picture reveals us the changing global scenario of energy production.”

You will notice that subject “picture” of the second sentence is totally omitted and then this sentence is joined by a comma ( , ) before the rest of the sentence. 

Before joining:

Renewable power is taking the place of fossil fuel steadily. This picture reveals us the changing global scenario of energy production.

After joining:

Steadily, renewable power is taking the place of fossil fuel, reveals us the changing global scenario of energy production. 

So, you can join two sentences by moving an adverb to the beginning of a sentence to change the rhythm of a paragraph and increase sentence variety.

But, it would not be very compelling to know just one technique to join simple sentences.

Here`s more…..

(2) Sentence Variety by Joining Sentences

Don`t get me wrong. Simple sentences are great. You need to use simple structures in your IELTS essay.

However, sometimes, joining simple sentences would allow your writing to become more sophisticated and help you show some of the connections between ideas.

And as long as combining sentences is concern, there are four important techniques you can leverage in your IELTS writing right away:

  • Joining Sentences using the Rule of Three

The number “3” has some magical spell on human mind.

Concepts or ideas presented in three are more memorable and more satisfying to readers than any other number.

You may be heard of Abraham Lincoln`s famous quote in Gettysburg Address:

“…that government of the people, by the people, for the people,( shall not perish from the earth).”

Notice how Lincoln uses three prepositions namely of, by and for before “the people” to make this sentence- one of the most memorable quote of the world history. 

Like Lincoln, effective IELTS writers often implement the “rule of three,” which is basically the thought that things that contain three elements. Read the following example: 

Burning fossil fuels emit hazardous toxic gases. It also increases the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. Thus, it has negative impact on Human health and global temperature rising.

In this example the writer uses short, simple sentences of a similar length and style.

Now read the revised one:

Burning fossil fuels increase toxic and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that adversely affect human health and global warming.

In the revised version, the writer combines three choppy sentences into one longer sentence, which adds rhythm and interest to the text.

  • Joining Sentences Using an –ing Modifier

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? 

It`s the age-old question.

You can put the egg first and the chicken second or vice versa.

But no logic will be 100% convincing, right?

The debate of this causality dilemma could be finally answered if both occurred at the same time:

Laying an egg, the chicken appears on earth.

Sorry for this modest attempt to make our discussion little entertaining.

But, the above sentence can give you a sheer clue about using –ing verb form to combine two sentences:

- The chicken lays an egg.
- The chicken appears on earth.

Here`s is the rule:

To connect two sentences using an –ing form, add –ing to one of the verbs in the sentences (lying) and delete the subject (The chicken). Use a comma to separate the modifier from the subject of the sentence.

Let`s apply this technique in writing sentences for our “renewable energy” IELTS essay: 

Original sentences: Fossil fuel burning release greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. The net effect causes global warming.

Revised sentence: Releasing greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, burning fossil fuel causes global warming. 

In the above example, an –ing modifier indicates that two actions are occurring at the same time:

You can also add an –ing modifier to the beginning or the end of a sentence, depending on which fits best.

  • Joining Sentences Using an –ed Modifier

Sometimes sentences can be combined using an –ed verb form as delayed, finished, increased. To use this method, one of the sentences must contain a –ed verb form. 

Take a look at the following example:

Original sentences: The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased at record high last year. It continued to drive global temperatures up.

Revised sentence: Increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a record high last year, continued to drive global temperatures up.

In this way, using–ed modifiers can make you essay more efficient by drawing obvious connections between two ideas. 

Look at another example:

Original Sentence: Global warming is threatening us. Our lives on earth become more vulnerable. 

Revised sentence: Threatened by global warming, our existences on earth become more vulnerable. 

  • Joining Sentences Using a Relative Clause

Another technique to diversify sentence structure is to join sentences using relative clause.

Relative clauses begin with a relative pronoun, such as who, which, where, why, that or when – to tell more about people and things. 

Following example can remind what you learn about relative pronoun back in high school days: 
Newton, who was a great scientist, discovered the law of motion.

In this example, the word “who” is referring to the person called Newton and tell more about his person later-as he is a great scientist and invents the law of motion. 

Now that I guess this example refresh your memory about relative pronoun, look at this sentence:

Original sentences: The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was at record high last year. This phenomenon could aggravate global warming.

Revised One: The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which was at record high last year, could aggravate  global warming.

Original sentences: The modern civilization is fueled by petroleum economy. That is why we could not expect to lessen global warming soon. 

Revised One: The modern civilization that is fueled by petroleum economy could not expect to lessen global warming soon.

After you see these examples, there should be no doubt that using a relative clause can present your view more logically in one sentence. 

In the meantime, you`ll achieve variation of sentence structure in your IELTS essay.

(3) Sentence Types

Expert IELTS writer also use different types of sentences to reduce repetition of structures.

Saying that, there are five sentence types in English Language:

  • Assertive or declarative sentence (a statement)
  • Imperative sentence (a command)
  • Interrogative sentence (a question)
  • Exclamatory sentence (an exclamation)
Our writing is dominated by declarative sentences- it seems we like  to make a statement about our ideas.

But there are other ways to covey ideas…

Why catastrophic effects of global warming are inevitable? The modern civilization that is fueled by petroleum economy could not expect to lessen global warming soon.

Notice how introducing a short interrogative sentence (a question) at the beginning of a paragraph can change the rhythm of the essay. 

In this paragraph we highlight an idea that global warming is unavoidable because modern civilization cannot exist itself without polluting the air by burning petroleum. And this idea is precisely communicated by introducing a short rhetorical question (Interrogative sentence).

How about using exclamatory sentences in our IELTS essay? Look at this sentence:

“Civilization is on the edge of mass extinction for global warming, knocking our consensus to reverse this situation right now!”

I think you’ll find the emotion, level of excitement, and punch in this “Exclamatory sentence”- which is more engaging and varied enough to interest your readers.

However, it is not sometimes wise to play with various sentence types in your IELTS essay. Improper placing can end up with a mess. But, if you can do it rightly, it`s worth of a try. 

Because, I have seen many band 9 sample essays often use rhetorical question in Cambridge IELTS student books.   

(4) Short and Long Sentences

As I say earlier your writing can sing with a bunch of short simple sentences.

But the short sentences spread though all over your essay, can become boring, repetitive and monotonous which can frustrates the examiner. 

Think for a second.

You can write five simple sentences, one after another, to express an idea in your essay.

Alternatively you can squeeze those ideas in a single sentence to make it more communicative- to help your reader understand connections between different points. 

The later technique depends on your ability to convey a bunch of ideas in a single long sentence forms.

While short sentences are usually easier to write, long sentences demand greater effort from readers because they must keep on track without losing the main idea. 

Look at this example:

The burning of fossil fuels is increasing global warming by releasing greenhouse gas that traps the heat of the sun in the earth`s atmosphere, and our civilization is on the edge of mass extinction for ever increasing catastrophic impact of global warming as cyclone, drought and rising sea level.  

Can you catch the meaning while you read this long……sentence?

Here is the main idea of the paragraph: Burning fossil fuels begets global warming that in turn put our existence in danger. And these connective ideas are successfully expressed in this long sentence.

However, do not overuse long sentences in your IELTS task-2 answer. Your writing should have a mix of short, medium, and long sentences-balance works best.

Wrapping It Up…

I hope by now you have a clear picture of what it takes to make your academic IELTS task-2 essay writing more effective with sentence level diversity.

It may seem overwhelming at first, but it really is as simple as choosing one or more of these techniques and taking the band score to a higher level.

And if you want to take all of the information about how to score higher like band 7,8, or 9 with better IELTS task-2 writing , you can also read this post where I’ll show you every simple tricks to help you uplift your score.


  1. I really like the way you have explained the meaning of a good sentence structure that can bring a good band score

    Thank you for such a great help and effort

  2. thanks for sharing wonderful ideas

  3. Thank you for amazing information ...i like ur way examples also make it easier for me to understand well

  4. I appreciate your efforts ....

  5. Your efforts are really appreciatable. Things are really difficult to find in one place. For english language test, people can also look practice test geeks for standard question patterns. They are really good a managing their question patterns.

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