International English Language Testing System (IELTS) has since become a new normal for individuals ready to practice their careers in the overseas, especially the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, USA inter alia English speaking nations.
It is hugely paramount to note that writing is part of the skills taught and evaluated in IELTS exam and that it is divided into two i.e. Writing Task 1 and 2.
Despite the dominant fact that most of the learners preparing for the exam in reference are non-native speakers of the English language but have an exposure to it as a second language in their native countries, when accorded little attention ,less is tapped from this English exam which has 9.0 as the highest band.
By and large, the task in reference tests one's competence in writing. Being the 'bigger brother' to writing task 1,its score is twice higher than the ‘younger brother’s’ (task 1) besides requiring a great deal of writing process(at least 250 words).Suffice to say, task 2 in writing speaks on behalf of the student unlike speaking, another skill tested in IELTS where the test-taker speaks for him/herself.
Why most Test-takers fail in Task 2
Poor performance in writing task 2 can be seen as anything below band 6.0.However,this does not have an insinuation that 6.0 should be a band to settle on since different countries have varied minimum scores for writing (here an average of task 1 and 2 ) skills. A random survey will definitely hint to you that it is not band 9.0 but something below this. Nonetheless, here are some of the mistakes oftentimes committed by the candidates.
- Failure to crack the question and its demands
Question type and its demand seems to be the strongest catalyzer of poor scores in Task 2.A student in such a snare evades the question or partly meets the demand of the question.
2. Writing without having organized the ideas
Most of the learners tend to embark on the writing process without having decided on the ideas to talk about. This in any normal situation, not guided by the famous ‘benefit of doubt’ statement, makes the candidate to fumble with the ideas.
3. Structure misappropriation
An IELTS learner either self-taught or tutored should appreciate the undeniable fact that there are five question types yet essays responding to such questions demand different but appropriate structure; something that most of the test takers fail to meet.
4. Shaky command of the English language.
Having a relatively good command of the queen's language attracts at least a band 8.0.Yet, most of the learners do not take into consideration that grammar plays a rather pivotal role in essay communication. A good write-up should communicate at a first glance. This implies that all grammatical aspects should be in check in the entire writing process.
5. Poor or lack of vocabulary use
IELTS trainers for instance at the KenyanNurse will admit to having constantly reminded candidates to check on lexical resource in a bid to ensure learners fashion out superb essays. It is apparent that some students end up with a conglomeration of vocabularies making the essay difficult to communicate due to lack of simplicity. As a matter of fact, test-takers tend to commit grammatical homicide by misusing the lexicons or to some extent overuse them. Free advice to the learners is that no examiner who would want to look up every word in the dictionary so as understand its semantics and pragmatics, yet students subject them to this ordeal.
6. Lack of coherence and fluency in the essays
Coherence and fluency are some other parameters that most IELTS learners do put into consideration during the entire writing process. The two (coherence and fluency) combined can be seen as a safety belt to the passenger (the essay).Ideas in any piece of writing have to be fasted together and flow from one paragraph to another. Again, the ideas in any given paragraph structure should show a great deal of coherence. However, most of the test takers seemingly do not have this while writing the essays.
General Tips for Moving from Band 6.0 to 9.0
As mentioned earlier, band 9.0 is the highest maximum score but a meticulous survey, summarized below shows 6.0 as the minimum band for writing in USA, with other overseas countries especially Canada, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand requiring a band 7.0. This has a quick and precise implication that to be on a better side, a candidate should find a way of moving from band 6.0 to 9.0.
In no particular order here some of the tips that when taken into consideration a candidate will certainly score highly in Task 2 hence boost the band for writing and the average.
1. Crack the question as per its demands
This implies that a candidate should be in a position to place the question in its exact typology. Apparently, there are five question types in IELTS i.e. opinion, discussion, problem-solving, two-part and advantages vs. disadvantages question. However much the notion that opinion and discussion question types are more often examined, a student should demonstrate writing competence by comfortably responding to all the question types.
Interaction with the question typologies will hint to any student preparing for the exam that there are key words to lead you in dissecting the question. Opinion questions seek for the extent of agreement or disagreement, discussion ones call for opposing views towards the topic in question, problem-solving questions as the name suggests demand for a remedy to a problem posited in the question, two-part questions on the other extreme have two or sometimes three questions under one umbrella question and finally advantages vs. disadvantages invite a student to assess the merits and demerits of the topic in question.
Upon dissection of the question in terms of its nature, the test taker should look at other demands like opinions and singularity and plurality demands. The former (opinion demands) should always be a statement in the introductory paragraph and later restated in the conclusion. The latter demand seems to be a hard nut to crack but for unseen candidates. Nouns (reasons, merits, demerits, causes, problems etc.) mostly associated with the writing Task 2 questions have a plural implication thus signaling that the essay should have answers in plural and not in singular form. To say this in other words, if a question asks for benefits then give two or more and not one benefit.
2. Have the appropriate structure.
Unlike other forms of writing which are kind of non-restrictive in terms of essay and paragraph structures, Writing Task 2 essays boldly restrict candidates to a certain structure. Any non-adherence to the structures attracts poor scores.
Conventionally, the essays in reference exhibit what can be referred as a four-paragraph structure essay i.e. the introduction (paragraph 1), body 1 (paragraph 2), body 2(paragraph 3) and conclusion (paragraph 4). Anything less or more than this leads structure misappropriation hence dismal score. Thus, a superb essay should have a four-paragraph structure.
Paragraph structure especially for Body 1 and 2 is one other element that test-takers should factor in while fashioning out their essays. All the question types, save for advantages vs. disadvantages essays call for what can be referred to a five-sentence paragraph structure. It is a five-sentence paragraph structure in the sense that the paragraph is made of five sentences in a respective order which whenever defied, it attracts some penalties.
The structure question is as follows:
Topic sentence -sentence 1
Explanation sentence 1-sentence 2
Explanation sentence 2-sentence 3
Example sentence-sentence 4
Clincher sentence-sentence 5
Advantages vs. disadvantages essays have somewhat different structures that also depend on the subtype of the main question. This is suffice to say that such questions exist in three different forms. For a candidate to score highly here the appropriate structure should be employed. Generally, the paragraphs in advantages vs. disadvantage essays are usually made up of what can be termed as a seven-sentence paragraph structure for body 1 but somehow a different structure in body 2, either a seven-sentence one or preferably a strong five-sentence paragraph structure as the one above.
Here's a seven-sentence paragraph structure:
Sentence 1-1st merit/demerit
Sentence 2-explanation of sentence 1
Sentence 4-2nd merit/demerit
Sentence 5-explanation of sentence 4
Sentence 7-clincher sentence.
It's worth to note that introduction and conclusion paragraphs in all the questions types depend on the question in reference. However, due their brevity and precision required, they should have at most 3 sentences.
3. Be within the English grammar
Many students learning English as a second language in any capacity cite grammar as a rather difficult concept. However, this can be demystified especially to learners preparing for IELTS evaluation. The grammatical aspects in check include but not limited to subject-verb agreement, spelling, tense such as past and present, punctuation marks such as period, hyphen,colon,comma etc. and word classes like verbs, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, nouns etc..
A candidate should be able to appreciate simple rules such as a plural subject agreeing with a plural verb and vice versa, adhering to the tense of the question in that if the question is in simple present tense then the essay should affirm the same, proper use of the mostly used punctuation marks such the comma and the period and the right orthography.
4. Create a coherence and fluency
As opposed to fluency which is realized from one paragraph to another, coherence is manifested within a paragraph. From the array of the connectors available in the English language, one should be able to employ some in a bid to fasten the paragraph together. This must be done appropriately. Thereafter, there should be a close connection between paragraphs. This again should be done by carefully using transition word available English.
5. Vocabulary use and avoidance of redundancy
Avoidance of repetition and redundancy aims at making an essay interesting. As an IELTS learner, this should begin as early as in paragraph 1(introduction). The introduction paraphrases the question and in doing so, it ensures the exact words in the question are not replicated. To thrive well in this, use of synonymous words of the content words is highly encouraged.
Appropriate use of vocabulary on the hand, depends on one's level of lexical resource. As elsewhere herein, most of candidates tend to overuse vocabularies hence making the essay fail to communicate at a glance. Vocabularies should be fairly used and the meaning intended should be appropriate. Anything far from this, impairs communication hence losing marks.
6. Appealing handwriting
This tip restricts itself to learners' preparing for paper-based exams. Handwriting as an aspect of writing that many somewhat tend to completely forget about its existence and even upon self-reevaluation why you failed to hit a band 9.0 one will still not factor it in.Truth be said, a poor handwriting creates a bad impression about the test-taker hence a huge possibility of earning a lesser band. To reverse this, have a legible handwriting that appeals to the reader of your write-up.
7. Proper Timing
You may have all the other tips at your disposal yet time denies the time to have a complete essay. Conventionally, tasks in writing task 2 boldly demand you to spend forty minutes. The trick here is to spend the first 5 minutes to crack the question's demands and highlighting the main ideas and the supporting ideas (if possible). Thirty of the remaining forty should be reserved for writing a complete essay and the remaining 5 for proofreading. Proofreading is of essence since it gives your essay a final touch before presentation for marking.
For computer-based exam, your speeding should lie on the typing as opposed to the writing speed. All other aspects remain constant as for the paper-based exam.
In a nutshell, navigating from band 6.0 to 9.0 is a voyage guided by the aforementioned tips such structure appropriation, relatively good command of the English language, perfect idea organization to enhance coherence and fluency inter alia the writing clues mentioned herein.
By Wamalwa Timothy
Wamalwa Timothy holds an undergraduate degree in English and Literature and currently works with the Kenyan Nurse in the capacity of IELTS trainer.
Posted |2 months ago| by KenyanNurse
This is great and will help in tackling my IELTS test.
Hi nice review...can I have a sample of past exams done following the above structure please will really appreciate have a good day.
I like it
I like it