We took an interview of some of our best IELTS scorers and asked them about a section that made them nervous. The most votes went to the writing and the speaking sections. It’s not a surprising revelation, we were expecting these as our top two nerve-wracking sections. Why?
Because they’re both subjective. Neither of them has a set solution and its hard to score yourself without professional help.
“You don’t know if you’re doing it right” said an IELTS 8 Band scorer.
Apart from the basics of writing, below are some tips we gathered through interviews to help you boost your writing section score.
1. Read to write better
This may sound whacky but reading to write better is as essential as listening to speak better. A much-ignored strategy is to analyse different writing styles while reading. A careful analysis of sentence construction, use of words, grammar, etc, while reading will provide you with more framework options when writing. Noting how different authors present their ideas, the vocabulary used and transitioning between paragraphs should be noted in particular
“Reading academic and analytical style of writing from BBC news and The Economist helped me get used to the kind of articles one is expected to write in the IELTS” said one of our top scorers.
2. Practice writing with a pen
Unless you’re an active student, writing must have become a distant memory like it was for me. Holding a pen and writing can feel like riding a bicycle after ages. Don’t make the mistake of doing everything in your head and feeling confident about execution without ample practice because:
You need speed
You get 60 minutes to write two well thought out, legible and grammatically correct essays on topics you may have never hear of. There is so much time you can lose in creating the perfect flow. Don’t lose more time for the lack of practice. Pick a pen and go for it!
Your handwriting makes a difference
“I have the habit of rushing while writing because my thoughts are just running at the speed of light in my head” said Roopa. She feels she lost a band in the IELTS only because the examiner couldn’t read what she had written. The IELTS is not a handwriting test but what you write needs to be legible to be marked.
Practice writing concisely
Here’s a formula that most writers use to keep an idea brief concise and easy to read. A sentence shouldn’t be more than 25 words and a paragraph should be 4 sentences long. That makes a paragraph 100 words at the most. This is mostly done for academic style of writing, which is what the IELTS will test you for. Being concise saves you precious time while setting a good pace for the reader.
3. Learn to form an entire letter or essay from just an idea
Here is a question to get you going–Some people believe that children should participate in sports to inspire a competitive feeling in them. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
What is running through your head this instant?
Is it a complete idea or a broken chain of thoughts going back and forth to your childhood, trying to agree or disagree?
Well, take a look at the question again. It says explicitly to what extent do you agree or disagree. So technically you could agree as well as disagree while sharing valid reasons for both.
That’s not what ran through your head in all probability. Analysing a question before answering is essential to get your thoughts on the right track before putting down an entire essay or idea.
4. Learn to create a flowchart or mental map
Once you have a crystal-clear idea of what is being asked of you, create a flowchart or a mental map. A flowchart for a question like above should include – an Introduction, the main body with supporting ideas and second paragraph to present the other set of views with examples, a strong conclusion.
This is what an ideal essay should look like:
- Introduction – 2/3 sentences, 40 to 50 words
- Main Idea with supporting evidence – 4/5 sentences, 80 to 90 words
- A secondary idea or continuation of the main idea with examples – 4/5 sentences, 80 to 90 words
- Conclusion – 2 sentences, 20 to 30 words.
5. Learn the vocabulary for transitioning between paragraphs
Here is a list of vocabulary needed to transition between paragraphs:
- In my opinion
- My first argument
- To embark on
- It is commonly believed
- First of all
- In the first place
- To begin with
- To start with
- On the contrary
- In contrast
- Second of all
- The second reason being
- To drive this point
- In support of the previous argument
- On the flip side
- In continuation
- In addition to
- On the other hand
- Apart from
- After that
6. Learn what to exclude when writing
You’re appearing for a formal English test, make sure you sound academic. Keeping it simple and formal is key in the writing tasks. When you present an idea or argument use only formal writing language. Avoid using:
- Idioms -Over the moon, See the light
- Proverbs – A bad workman always blames his tools or A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
- Quotes – Where there is love there is life. Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
- Informal language– Went to London for the weekend, lots to tell.
- Overused phrases – “to this day” or “next thing I knew”
Learn to visually count words without actually counting them
“I kind of realized towards the end that I had no time to count and that left me tensed post examination”. Let’s try to make your life easier here.Look at what 250 words look like in your handwriting, memorise it. Once you finish writing, you can visually check if it’s close to the image you have in your head. This will help you feel at ease at the end of the paper. Make sure you don’t miss a very important marking aspect.
Learn how to write a quick conclusion
It is essential to conclude your writing task. Write one or two sentences that tell the examiner the note that you would like to end on. Summarizing what you have written in the whole essay could also serve as a conclusion. Use this opportunity to close strong and well. Here is some vocabulary to help you
- In conclusion
- I would like to conclude by saying
- I would like to close this argument by
- To summarize
- To sum up
- I would personally conclude by saying
Keep yourself updated about the latest IELTS writing topics
Connect with people who have recently given the IELTS. You could find a professional school which can help connect with its students. Talk to these people to stay updated with the latest topics. This will help you read and write content that is relevant today.
Practice writing timed tests with professional help
Online professional tutors are probably your best shot at making a fair analysis of your own writing skills. Use them to
- Know different styles of writing for each question type
- Know your weaknesses and strengths
- Keeping a tab on your progress
You can connect with us at here, to get an analysis of your writing.