How to Improve Your IELTS Writing Task-2 (From 5.5 to 7)

Monday, January 01, 2018


Ever noticed why everyone wants to touch the benchmark of band 7?

Why most people aim to improve in IELTS writing task-2?

Well, lots of people pretend to know but they really don't.

Let's see if you can figure it out for yourself after I give you a bunch of facts:

  • English Language registration standard for Australian Nurses, Midwives, Doctors, Medical Staff and Allied Health professionals is an IELTS overall minimum score of 7 in each of the four components.
  • Language requirements for overseas teachers registration in New Zealand is an overall minimum score of 7 in each of the four components of the academic version of the IELTS test. 
  • The minimum accepted IELTS scores as evidence of knowledge of English when registering doctors to work in the UK is a score of at least 7.0 in each of the four areas tested (speaking, listening, reading and writing) and an overall score of at least 7.5.
And this:

Pay Attention! 

Can you guess what these facts imply?

Well, first of all, you can see: the greater the degree of English language proficiency a person has, the more likely that he is ready to be employed in an overseas profession. And second of all, a very few 17 % professional IELTS test takers could ever touch that required band score.

You can say, on an average, a staggering 83 percent professional fail to score band 7 in each module.

And who knows…. that 83% could be in trouble with their current job. May be, they are dreaming to get out of the rut and work in a country that is offering better payment, security and amenities.

No matter what could be the reason, all they want is to improve their living.

And the only obstacle stay between them and their dream is a band 7.

I don`t know…every year…how many dream just drained away like this…how many father and mother are suffocating with their job for earning bread for their family …for poor scoring in the IELTS  test over and over.

The thing is :

The odds are stacked against us

…but I believe we all have the opportunity to, as I call it, be in the 17% exception.

Because, like most caring teachers, I am emotional about my "students." I love it when they succeed. I love it when morning sun (on their way to work) on their shoulders makes them happy.

Once I understood how much (how very much) a band 7 score was worth to them, I burn with desire to be a really great teacher!

You know. I have been teaching students IELTS for a decade. During this journey I came up with great ideas...ideas that may solve a major problem for them.

The good news is, after working for years, I decide to share all these life changing ideas with you. 

I guess, you`ve already subscribed to my blog. Sweetly, I`m going to share these breakthrough information with you  in your inbox .

If you do not subscribe yet, just click here for signing up.

Now, let`s get back into the subject of becoming “a band 7” IELTS candidate.

Before I go through, I would like to share with you another hardcore fact:

  •  The average global writing band score in Academic IELTS is only 5.5 while this average is 6.0 for all other sections like reading, speaking and listening. 
That said:

People suffer most in the writing section.

So, let`s focus on some issues that separate a band 5.5 writing from band 7.

A band 5.5 scorer as being a ‘modest user’ has partial command of the language and likely to make many mistakes.

On the other hand, an IELTS candidate who achieves a score of 7.0 is described as being a ‘good user’ of English, someone who has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings in some situations. 

Whereas, with 8.0 in all components; in other words, the candidate should be ‘a very good user’ of English.

Saying that means a band 7 test taker makes occasional writing mistakes. By the way, I need you to have a very clear understanding of these things: you need to make a transition from “modest to good” to:

Shift from Writing Band 5.5 to 7.

I did not ask you to become “very good” in English…you can make seldom mistakes …and that`s completely alright for getting a band 7.

As you know, IELTS Academic writing test involves with two tasks. In Task 1, test candidates are required to write at least 150 words about data that may be in the form of a graph, table, diagram or map. In IELTS Academic writing Task 2, students are required to write an essay of at least 250 words.

And Task 2 carries almost 70% of total scoring…that means people who fail to score high, actually fail to write a task 2 essay.

That brings us to the question: 

How To Write A Top Notch Essay In A Sea Of Mediocrity?

And there ARE some people figuring out the puzzle: what makes their essay so dumb. Someone even ask me question is writing band  9 a myth.

Well, fortunately, band 9 answers are not something unfathomable…although it`s a rare to find. I`ll shed more light on this topic later on, not today.

For today, the good news is that you can get a band 7 with some specific short term improvements.

Spoiler Alert: There is no option for guesswork to point out those specific areas.

In fact, several IELTS research report suggests some key areas where candidate are generally makes mistakes …. And  what contribute most to is:

How to Improve IELTS Writing Task-2 

And these are some intriguing things you can do to improve your IELTS essay writing, hence improve your band score up to band 7.

Here’s a bunch to get you started:

Numero #1: Begin the Essay with Specific Examples Rather than General Overview

Remember the old saying “Your first impression is the last impression”?

In case you answer the IELTS writing task -2, your first impression in the introduction or opening of your essay. Your opening paragraph makes an immediate impression on the examiner.

When you write it in a wrong way, then you lose that impression and it will last till she read the end of your essay. So, it`s important that your essay beginning should be clear, well constructed and appropriate to give it a band seven look or impression.

Now, let`s see how most rookies go wrong here. I am talking about those candidate who often complain about how on earth they could not get (at least) band 7 with those wonderful writings.

The truth is: despite their ability to write almost grammatically correct sentence with rich vocabulary, they end up with a band score between 5.0 to 6.0.

Because, most of them start their essay like this:

Now a day, children spend too much time watching television. 

What are the advantages and disadvantages for children of watching television?

Introduction:

Children can learn violence on television, like in the USA a school boy killed several of his classmates after watching the film. Again, many children damage their eyes by watching TV too closely for a long time. However, there are some beneficial sides of TV that I will discuss next

You see: What they have done here?

They answer the task in the introduction. (And think they`ve done a great job).

They couldn`t but wait to start immediately by divulging their point of views.

Bad, yeah?

In your opening paragraph, you first task is to introduce the topic for a non-expert reader. In other words, the opening paragraph serves as an orientation for readers of your essay, giving them the perspective they need to understand the detailed information coming in later sections.

Now, please remember this: the perfect introduction of an IELTS essay is divided into three parts.

  • In part 1, you need to establish a context to help readers understand how the task topic fits into a wider field of study.
  • In second part, you write a more specific statement about the aspects of the topic.
  • In part 3, you will need to give a clear indication of your general response to the topic. 
Now we're going to go over these parts piece by piece and I'm going to allow you to see into my mind and what I was thinking as I wrote every part of the introduction.

Part-1

Since television become widely available in the 1950s, it has grown popularity steadily in almost every families of the society.  

(Here I focus on the widespread use of TV in almost every single family of the society…giving the impression that anything that goes right or wrong with watching TV can influence a wider part of the society)

Part-2

Many people believe that television has a negative impact on children, but like any other medium, it can have a positive and powerful impact as well.  

(Here I write straight about the topic of the task that is – “advantages and disadvantages for children of watching television”)

Part-3

In this essay, I intend to give the main arguments behind these conflicting views about watching television.  

(Here I am giving my reader a clue about the detail information coming in later sections of my essay.)

By the bay, you should write the last part of your introduction in different way when you have to discuss and give your opinion or to agree/disagree on a given topic. A simple example:

Many modern children spend a great deal of time sitting in front of a television or computer screen. This is extremely harmful to their development. Therefore, parents should strictly limit the time that children spend in this way.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

You see. I twist some words and make the earlier task 2 example to an agree/disagree essay. It used to be a direct question asks you to discuss the pros and cons of watching TV for children.

Now, for this twisted agree/disagree task-we need to write the last part of our introduction in different way. For instance we can write something like this:
In my view, like any other screen-based media, parents should restrict the television access for their children. In this essay, I intend to give the main arguments to support my claim.

This is an example of thesis-led approach of essay writing.In this approach you state your opinion very firmly at the beginning of the essay, and make sure that later statements support this opinion.

However, there is another type of essay approach you can choose: evidence-led approach .

Evidence-Led-Approach: In this approach, you have to outline the arguments before weighing them up by considering all the evidence and work towards reaching your own conclusion.

In this way you are not giving your overall viewpoint in the opening paragraph, but presenting your final viewpoint at the end based on all of the arguments and evidence. A simple example (in case of the above essay) could be writing something like:

In this essay, in intend to give a brief outline of the main arguments about the effect it can have on children and conclude my final viewpoint at the end.

Followed by a sentence in the conclusion as:

For all of the above reasons, I believe it is incredibly beneficial for parents to restrict the television access for their children.

Now, let me tell you something else: You just read this little guideline reveals to you the core secrets to write an IELTS essay introduction more than any other tutorial that exists. If you're at all serious about the IELTS test, you'll probably want to read this several times before you appear the test.

That`s all I have to say about writing a band 7 essay introduction. And you know what: 

I  Don't Want You To Get It Perfect; I Just Want You To Get It Right!

Numero #2: Fails to address the essay topic

I think you may know that the sub-scores for 4 aspects of writing contributed to the final band score.

For IELTS Writing, these sub-scores include Task Response or Achievement, Coherence and Cohesion, Lexical Resource, and Grammatical Range and Accuracy.

So, you can guess that getting better in those key areas guarantee significant improvement of the  band score.

That was rather boringly predictable, was it not?

Rather, you want to know a little something about another exiting information- the information that can make it easy to increase your band score.

I am taking about the single aspect in those 4 key areas where world-wide candidate suffer most.

If you could find that single area where most candidates score less than you can focus more in that particular area…while giving less attention to other aspects.

Let me give you more clarification on this matter. Suppose you are thinking about making improvement in lexical resource section. In that case, you need to expand your word stock or vocabulary. In this process, you need to memorize many difficult words and learn to know how to use them in your writing.

Can you guess the shared volume of work involve here?

I give you an analogy. 


Think about the big fat dictionary on your table and imagine how lengthy and difficult task it would be to go through every page of it to learn about every single English word.

I hope from this illustration you already get a picture how impossible it could be to improve all areas of your IELTS writing namely, once again, Task Response or Achievement, Coherence and Cohesion, Lexical Resource, and Grammatical Range and Accuracy.

How about eliminate 3 aspects and just focus on one key aspects because you know that this is where almost everyone go wrong. For example, if you know that low scores made low band score, most of all, because of making grammatical mistakes then you can focus on just improving your “Grammatical Range and Accuracy” to assure your high band score.

Unfortunately nobody will reveal this secret to you.

I tell you why…  

The University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, the British Council and IDP Education Australia, in short the IELTS SELT Consortium, collaboratively maintain the worldwide IELTS Test.

The consortium holds in their archive all scorings data of previous IELTS candidates.

This database is so powerful that it can immediately reveal you the few tiny key areas where everyone went wrong during the test. 

If you able to sneak on these key information, ever, you can make your fortune out of it like I explained you before.

But unfortunately, for the sake of confidentiality, they will never left out an explanation of the critical section where candidate made least improvement in Writing that hinders their quest for Band 7.0.

Well, since we'll never know...

I'll tell you a secret.


Since the consortium do not provide this confidential data to test candidates, but for the purpose of academic research they sometimes disclose the data to individual researcher. 

And do you want to have a look on those particular researches?

If you`re interested then visit this link.

But remember, Clutter is the disease of Academic Writing that makes it difficult to understand. That is why finding raw information from an academic report is like finding a needle in the haystack..

(You may already experience this in IELTS Reading section-those 3 long passages what I call Reading - Not For Pleasure…)

But, despite of those problems, I heartily recommend you do read IELTS research papers. 

It’s not easy; but it’s well worth it.

For example, right now, I am reading one of those report and try to figure out something valuable for you. You can read this as well from here.

If you can read it yourself then it is so far so good. But, if you want me do that laborious task for you then there is good news waiting for you. The good news is:

I`ve just discover something that can make your life easy.


The report says, among four key areas, the average score was actually lower on the criteria that had to do with answering the question – ‘Task Achievement’-for both Task 1 and Task 2.

The report also gives some explanation behind this case. It says most candidate are now aware of a standard essay format of introduction, body and conclusion which brings them higher score in coherence and cohesion.

Many candidates are also becoming increasingly careful about choosing right vocabulary and grammar that brings them high score in Lexical Resource and Grammatical Range and Accuracy. 

But, students are not doing so well in the Task Response part because they do not find the topic of the question familiar or which they had no idea before. 

For example, a student with business studies background found it difficult to write about a task2 topic on social psychology. 

At this point, I suspect you are getting bored.

No way. Listen, no matter how crazy it sounds, every single fact I'm revealing is related to improve your writing band score.

But the question is: did you get my point yet? 

I just reveal a secret that can jerk up your writing band score in a positive way:

Do Not Miss Out The Main Points Of The Question.

Well, after all, that`s all about what is means by Task Achievement.

For instance, suppose the question ask you to write about effects of TV on children. But, when your answer is focusing the effect of watching too much television on adults then you are moving away from the key point of the question…how can you expect a high band score?

You may also struggle with answering questions on a less familiar topic. Even you may have a hard time answering the brain storming questions. 

It may happen as you already know not having enough ideas to complete the essay is normally top of the list for most candidates.

One way to overcome this problem is to find a list of the most frequent essay topics that appear past in writing task 2 and practice developing ideas around them.

And, since I'm not inclined to give you much trouble... well... maybe I'd better give you the list right now.

Listen up: Technology, Health, Education and the Environment are the most common topics that are featured regularly in the IELTS test.

I give you some examples:

  • Technology: The internet has a bigger impact on people’s lives because it is more popular than television. Do you agree or disagree? Use specific reasons and examples to support you position.
  • Health:  Today more people are overweight than ever before. What in your opinion are the primary causes of this? What measures can be taken to overcome this epidemic?
  • Education: Online education is becoming more and more popular. Some people claim that e-learning has so many benefits that it will replace face-to-face education soon. Others say that traditional education is irreplaceable. Discuss both views and give your opinion.
  • Environment: Water pollution has been an increasing problem over the last few decades. What causes water pollution? How can we prevent this problem?
And so on…

You've got the list, now go for some brainstorming sessions with your friends and built some vocabulary around them. .

But right now, let's get to a few more interesting things which I have not discussed yet.

Before we go there, just for your eye relief,. please check out this info graphic focusing key points of this tutorial about improving IELTS writing task 2 response.

how to improve IELTS writing task 2 response


Numero #3: Not presenting a balanced view of the issue involved

I would not dishonor you by reminding you that the basic building block of an essay is: Introduction, Body and Conclusion.

Because, after all, who does not know that an essay has these 3 types of paragraph.

Now, I like to tell you another known thing:

When you are writing your essay, you use to introduce the essay topic in introduction section and summarize the whole discussion in conclusion part.

But, have you ever wonder what would be the obligation of your body paragraphs?

Well, in fact, in your essay, you are actually developing your point of view (thesis) through each body paragraph you write. I can tell you more about body paragraph later on.

But what I am going to do now is ask you to read a piece of body paragraph I finished for a student to show him:

How a band 7 body paragraph would look like. 

Here it is:

Some say that public health is important and there should be more sports facilities. Others say that they have small impact on individuals.

Discuss both views and give your opinion.

Increasing the number of sports facilities in the local community can help people to build a regular exercise habit, thereby improving their health condition. For instance, there is no doubt that taking regular physical exercise in gymnasium or playing soccer in local playground reduces the incidence of obesity and heart diseases to some extent. But, many people would disagree with the idea that everyone would benefit from it. This is because weak and sick people of the society are reluctant to go out and use these facilities. Despite the fact that providing more sports arenas is often criticized does not necessarily mean that all of it is bad. This means that the vast majorities of people do benefit from utilizing sports facilities and keep their fitness.
That piece of writing, more than any other writing you are likely to read, vividly illustrates one of the most important things you MUST do if you want to write a top scoring body paragraph. 

Can you guess what that thing is? Do you think you know the answer?

If so, you`re a top-notch genius.

Don't worry if you don't get it right. Try one more time.

Now, would you like for me to explain the secret?

You would?  

Ok, then, I'll tell you all about the secret this particular example so brilliantly demonstrates. I just need you to be a little patient.  You see, in the meantime, I would like to share with you, a debate of prestigious Oxford Union Society that I stumbled upon several years ago. 


In this video what I enjoyed most is that the contestant deliberately quoted and disproved the opposition claims in a row.

Well, I can say you that`s the real art of a debate- state the opposition`s claims and next prove it false.
Remember, you can state your point view, no matter how may times...support it with strong reasoning and examples..after all those of your attempts, people may deny it by asking you question like “what if…..”.  

So, the best idea is to tell the counter point of view by yourself before critics raise them and respond it in your own way. This single piece of act will weaken opposing viewpoints and strengthen your own.

It is true in debate and so it is true in academic essay.  

Try this act of refutation in your task-2 essay. Your IELTS examiner would love to see this. And..

That`s where low scorer makes A Big Mistake.

What they do is state their own point of view by not including any counter point of views.

Anyway, come back to the body paragraph example. Remember... what I said we are looking for a "top scoring element" here…the “stand out” reason that makes it identical from a low scoring essay.

Well, the stand out feature in this particular paragraph is very much the same to the stand out feature which made the Oxford Union debate marvelous.

And the REAL answer, the STAND OUT feature of my paragraph is...

A Rebutted Counter-Argument

For example, when I described-increasing sports facilities could be beneficial to public health, I did mention that not all people would be benefited from it which was the opposite argument. Next I refute this by saying it would not help every people but sport facilities would certainly serve a big portion of the society.  

You know, I've often regret about giving out valuable advice like this when few will follow.

In other words, if you use this advice in your writing you can move up your band score.

Ultimo Numero: Introduce a New Point in Conclusion

I show you exactly how to write a high band introduction and body paragraph.

Now, let’s zoom into the last part of your essay- the IELTS writing task 2 conclusion.

For your kind information, candidates generally make two types of mistakes here that kept them away from a 7 plus band score.

You see: While you write an IELTS essay, you generally put across your views in each body paragraph.   For example, in a "to what extent' type question, the key points you explain in your body paragraph indicate how much you agree or disagree with the topic.

And that`s a good thing.

But, I come across with many students who spark with new point of ideas while writing the essay conclusion. At that point, they think like this:

Oh! I didn`t write this point yet but it was the most important point I wanted to discuss.

This is exactly where they made the first mistake. They immediately write down that new idea in concluding paragraph.

You may wonder what`s wrong with this.

I`ll explain. But, before I explain it, let me ask for your attention in another matter. Here is this:

You must understand that writing an essay is an act of persuasion. We see the act of persuasion everyday in our life. 

Like a child is convincing father to buy her an ice-cream where the conversation between them would be something as:

“Father, I want an ice-cream.”
“You know, it`s a hot day and I`m thirsty.”
“ You see: So many children around the street are having fun with an ice-cream in hand.”
“ Why not me?”
“So, can you please buy me one?” 
The child is giving different reasons why she is craving for an ice-cream so that her father can buy her one. Believe it or not, you are doing the same thing in your IELTS essay.

You actually demonstrate the gentle art of excursing persuasion. For instance, look at this hypothetical essay:

Introduction

"I am going to discuss in this essay the reason behind traffic congestion in big cities."

Body -1

"Firstly, individual car ownership associated with externalities such as traffic congestions. For example, in recent years, many cities are suffering from 'one big traffic` jam in peak hours for booming private car ownership."

(Here you are perusing your reader why you think booming private car ownership is one of the big reasons behind traffic congestion-- This is your first persuasion).

Body -2

"Secondly, on-street parking is a significant cause of traffic congestion. For instance, illegal on-street parking habit in front of shopping centers narrow the street that lead to vehicles traffic congestion in the city "

(Here you are perusing your reader why you think on-street parking is one of the big reasons behind traffic congestion-- This is your second persuasion).

You see. The truth about any essay writing is that you are actually persuading the examiner that you are answering the question and you are doing it right.

In order to do this, you introduce your every single point of view in each body paragraph and thereby explain it further to make you claim stronger.

Remember this point where I said: You need to explain your every single point view with examples and further explanation.

Bearing this suggestion in your mind, read this concluding paragraph of our hypothetical essay:

Conclusion

"Overall, traffic is mainly caused by unauthorized car parking and growing people’s reliance on their own cars. On the other hand, faulty traffic signaling systems along with the efficiency of traffic police can make this situation even worse. It is to be expected that govt. implement appropriate measures to tackle these issues to reduce traffic on the street."

Can you spot anything wrong in this conclusion?

I bet you can. You do! 


Well, congratulation then.

You just made my day. After all, at last, someone can catch of the most important concept of writing conclusion that I am trying to reveal here.

In case you are still confused about the big mistake in this concluding paragraph, let me give you some supportive information.

You see: There is a link between the introductory and concluding paragraph. While the introduction rephrases the question, the conclusion contains the answer.

The perfect IELTS writing task 2 conclusions looks back at what has been said and makes some comments about future prospects about the main issue.

Having said that the examiner may look at the conclusion first to get a quick idea of the main arguments or points of your essay.

Enough of that information. Now, in your judgment, what I missed most in the above ending paragraph.

Well, I have summarized the main point by saying that-- Overall, traffic is mainly caused by unauthorized car parking and growing people’s reliance on their own cars. I also made some comment about future implication of the issue like where I said -- It is to be expected that govt. implement appropriate measures to tackle these issues to reduce traffic on the street.

However, even though I provide those invaluable must do things, you know what else I did?

I introduced a new point of view and that`s the single big mistake I was talking about…

You see, you can't just say,.” On the other hand, faulty traffic signaling systems along with the efficiency of traffic police can make this situation even worse.” Because, it demands some further explanation which I ignore.

But, ever if I didn`t write any explanation, can I did that in concluding paragraph?
The answer is no. As because, introducing a point of view and explaining it is the characteristics of body paragraph-not concluding paragraph.

Sounds horrible, doesn't it?

But wait. That's the good news. 

You still have a chance to talk about your new idea but remember to put this in a different body paragraph –not in conclusion.

For instance, I can write an extra paragraph with the topic— “faulty traffic signaling systems along with the efficiency of traffic police can make the congestion even worse “. And then explain it further like—“ For example, many cities in the world do  not have automatic traffic signaling system and specialized police who took that responsibility often lack of proper expertise to maintain it properly”

Are you still wondering about my point ? I tell you:

Do Not Place A New Argument In Your Essay Conclusion

I can assure you that students who have less than an IELTS of 7.0 seldom make mistakes like this.

In a nutshell, finding the crucial element of every essay paragraph is what separates mediocre candidate and great ones.

Anyway, that's it for now. I write this staggering 5000-word practical guide about how to improve IELTS writing task-2- becasue I wanted to make sure you understand my points - and feel what I say.

If you think, you clearly understand all these...please:

Comment below to let me know.

Buy the way, you'll be hearing from me again soon.

2 comments

  1. Thank u so much for e-mailing me this. It's longer than I thought, i started reading it today and hope that it will help improve my writing band score. My first impression about this is that it's really well organized and u wrote in details!. I see no comment here right now but i'm sure that so many other people are reading this, which means u r helping so many IELTS takers. Once again, thank u for your enthusiasm!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you very much for your complement. I wish the “AI” behind the Google SERP understand all your precious points and give a chance to its billions of users to find worthy web-pages...

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