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Stuck at 6.5? Here’s How to Move Your IELTS Writing to 7

 

Does this sound like you?

Help! I understand spoken English completely, comprehend everything I read and can easily get my message across when I speak. I scored 8s in the Listening and Reading sections of the IELTS exam and 7 in the Speaking. So, why am I stuck at 6.5 in writing?

If you can relate, keep on reading and don’t be discouraged. You have the skills to get that 7. Below are three key questions that just might help you understand what went wrong.

Of the two writing tasks, the longer composition/Task 2, will have more weight than the short Task 1 report (academic) or letter (general training), so let’s start there.

Do you really know what’s expected?

To begin, are you aware that your writing is being rated using 4 different criteria? These are:

task response

coherence and cohesion

lexical resource

grammar - range and accuracy

Each of these areas is rated from 0 – 9 and equally weighted when combined for your overall score.

Achieving below 7 in any area can have an impact.

Look carefully at the Task 2 IELTS Scoring Guide descriptions for levels 6 and 7 under task response:

  • address all parts of the task
  • presents a clear position throughout the response
  • be a tendency to over-generalize and/or supporting ideas may lack focus

 


 

6  
  • addresses all parts of the task although some parts may be more fully covered than others
  • presents a relevant position although the conclusions may become unclear or repetitive
  • presents relevant main ideas but some may be inadequately developed/unclear

 

Are you using the correct format to get your ideas across?

To achieve 7, it’s important to:

  1. present a clear position from beginning to end
  2. present points related to your position
  3. explain and support those points with examples
  4. finalize with some conclusions.

To fulfil these requirements, you should use an essay format.

BIG MISTAKE ALERT #1: if you didn’t use essay formatting – for example, you wrote a letter, or in a newspaper style, wrote in point form or used bullets anywhere in your response – you probably scored less than six here.

You're probably familiar with what an essay looks like, so let’s review a basic structure to see how it effectively works to satisfy these higher-level expectations.

One Possible 4/5 Paragraph Essay Structure

Introduction:

The first sentence introduces the subject of the essay (this can be a restatement of the prompt you're given). The second sentence states your opinion or possibly two opposing opinions (depending on the task). The third sentence summarizes the main ideas you will develop in the essay (like a map).

Body Paragraph One:

The first sentence states the main idea of the paragraph. A point related to this main idea is given, then supported with further explanation and some evidence. Another point related to the main idea may also be presented with further explanation and evidence as well.

Body Paragraph Two:

The first sentence states the main idea of the paragraph. A point related to this main idea is given, then supported with further explanation and some evidence. Another point related to the main idea may also be presented with further explanation and evidence as well.

Conclusion:

The main points are summarized, the central idea/s restated, and a final say is made. You might have some advice or a prediction to close.

To clearly illustrate how the essay sets you up for success, here is an example of a body paragraph in action.

Today more and more people are vaping instead of smoking.

Is this a positive or negative trend?

Central idea: It’s mostly negative.

Outline for one body paragraph:

     The first sentence states the main idea of the paragraph. A point related to this main idea is given, then supported with further explanation and some evidence. Another point related to the main idea may also be presented with further explanation and evidence as well.

Sample Writing

     Although vaping was supposed to help stop people from smoking, it has created some serious issues. Most alarming is that vaping is damaging people’s lungs. More and more users are ending up in the hospital with pneumonia and other serious breathing problems caused by vaping. In one Toronto hospital alone, there were over 200 reported emergency room visits relating to issues caused by e-cigarettes last month. Another very grave development is that young people are picking up this unhealthy habit. The Juul pen, which offers candy flavouring, is very popular with high school students. A recent study showed that 65% of new Juul users are under the age of 18, which is very concerning considering the health risks.

The ideas in the above paragraph are clear and believable - right? If you use an essay structure, you're well on your way to showing that you're capable of developing and defending an argument in English with some clarity. Without this structure, you're at risk of being unclear and repetitive or failing to cover the task fully, which will lower your score.

Are you correctly analyzing and understanding the task before you write?

BIG MISTAKE ALERT #2: You only cover part of the task, or you misunderstand it and write about something that is not related at all. This is a completely different problem and has been addressed in more detail in my blog that shows you how to make sure you understand exactly what to write before you write. Please follow the link to learn how to extract key questions out of the prompts so you can cover all aspects of the task completely.

If you're sure, you didn’t make either of these big mistakes. Check back again for what can go wrong in the other areas of assessment.

It won’t be long before this exam is behind you and you're on your way. Keep your chin up, you’re almost there.

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