Now you have seen some IELTS Academic Writing tasks, and you understand how IELTS examiners assess writing. So how can you improve your own writing?
Of course, the answer to this question is different for each learner. But here are three pieces of advice that we think are very important. These are things that you can keep in mind as you study and prepare for the test.
Understand your own strengths and weaknesses
In this course we show you how your skills are assessed in the IELTS test. We hope you will use this information to help you understand your own strengths and weaknesses, and how you can improve.
This week we have seen the assessment criteria that are used in IELTS Academic Writing. Try to use these to check and improve your own writing. Ask yourself questions like:
You can find more questions like this in this pdf. If you want to go into more detail, use these IELTS band descriptors. You may want to ask your teacher to help you with this. Which descriptors do you think match your writing? Look at the band you are aiming for – what do you need to do to get there?
Understand what you need to write
This is important advice for writing in general as well as in IELTS. To prepare for the test, make sure you understand exactly what you will need to do. We talked about this in Step 1.4, and you can find out more on the IELTS website. When you’re taking a test, make sure you read the question carefully and understand exactly what you’re being asked.
When you’re writing in the ‘real world’ and not in a test, you need to make sure you understand who you’re writing for and the purpose of your writing.
And you also need to be aware of the style of your writing. The style of English for an email to a friend is very different to an academic essay. Later this week, we will learn more about academic English and how people use written English at university.
Think of writing as a processWhen you write, you need to do several different things, including the following:
And if you do some writing for homework, think of your first complete draft as the start of the process, not the end. Read your writing, think how you can improve it, ask other learners and your teacher for advice, then try to make your writing better.
Improving your writing is not quick or easy, but we think you will be more successful if you can take charge of the process, and be aware of your own learning.
Task 2On the whole this response answers the question well. The main ideas are relevant but some ideas could be further expanded with examples. Sometimes the writer’s view is not clear.
In the introduction to the essay the topic is presented effectively in the writer’s own words. The writer goes on to present three advantages of studying abroad. In each case the idea is developed well with a supporting sentence. Then the writer presents the disadvantages. The reference to lack of family support is relevant, and is developed effectively. However, the writer’s position on using a foreign language is less clear. It is presented in a positive way under advantages, and in a negative way under disadvantages. The conclusion is very brief. It could be more fully developed, for example, by highlighting the fact that students will face the issues relating to studying abroad in different ways. The response is written in an appropriate essay format and is just within the word count.
The ideas are well organised so that the writing is easy to follow. Each of the four paragraphs has a clear function (introduction; advantages of studying abroad; disadvantages; and conclusion). The writer moves from point to point in a logical way. Within each paragraph the sentences are linked together well. The writer uses linking words effectively, for example, to present contrasting ideas (‘on the one hand’; ‘on the other hand’); to sequence (‘firstly’; ‘secondly’; ‘thirdly’; (‘in conclusion’); and to rephrase (‘in other words’). However, sometimes the linking between ideas is not so clear. For example, one sentence reads ‘In the job market where the competition is very high it could be a good point for the first employment’. In this sentence the reader is not sure what the pronoun ‘it’ refers to.
The writer has a good range of vocabulary and expresses ideas clearly. The writer shows knowledge of the way that words combine together in phrases: for example ’family network’; ‘self-sufficient’; ‘demanding process’; ‘critical problem’; and ‘a sense of isolation and frustration’. However, sometimes the words do not go together appropriately, eg ‘jobs opportunities’, ‘drawbacks occ[o]ur’, ‘ability of communication’, ‘their study’s preferences’.
When writing about the disadvantages of studying abroad the writer shows an ability to use words and phrases which have similar meaning, ie ‘some disadvantages’ … ‘one critical problem’ … ‘another obstacle[s]’. This adds variety to the writing and helps the writer to express exact meanings. Spelling is generally accurate with one or two minor mistakes.
The writer shows a good control of sentence structure and an ability to produce complex sentences accurately. There are occasionally minor mistakes with errors relating to the use of articles, eg ‘to learn second language’ when it should be ‘a second language’. There is also a problem with prepositions, eg ‘out of [a] protected environment’ (should be ‘away from’). The word ‘another’ is followed by a plural word when it should be singular: ‘another obstacle[s]’. In general the writer shows a good control of grammar and there are few errors.
Overall band score: 7
Examiner commentsThe writer has made a good effort to answer the question and describe the main points in the charts. The statements are generally accurate but not full enough to give all the key points. There is a brief introductory sentence which could be further expanded. The writer does not use the figures from the charts to support the statements. This means that some important details are missing.
The candidate’s response to the question is not long enough. For Task 1 candidates must write at least 150 words but this answer is below that number. The writing is presented in a satisfactory format. Full sentences are used. The points made in the answer are relevant to the question but could be developed. There is no clear overview. The final sentence only refers to female students and therefore does not provide a full summary of the information.
The writing is quite difficult for the reader to follow. The writer attempts to describe the main differences between male and female students in education. However, the information is not always presented in a clear way. For example, in the second sentence the writer moves from male students studying part-time in 1970; part-time and full-time in 1980; and studying full-time in 1990 and 1970. The sentence is not easy to read as the points are arranged in a confusing way. The writer uses the linking phrase ’on the other hand’ correctly. However, more linking words and phrases could be used in the answer.
The writer uses a limited range of vocabulary to present the information. Many words and phrases which the writer uses have already been given in the task and these are repeated in the answer. There is some use of words to describe trends such as ‘increase’ and ‘decrease’. In addition, the writer uses the language of comparison, for example ‘compare’ and ‘twice as many’. However, the writer’s use of such words and phrases is limited.
The writer shows some awareness of sentence structure. However, there are frequent grammatical errors throughout the answer. These include problems of word order: ‘men were studying more than women full-time or part-time’; and problems with subject verb agreement: ‘women has’ instead of ‘women have’. The word ‘it’ is often misused and can lead to difficulties in understanding the message. Although the writer uses long sentences, the ideas are linked by words such as ‘but’ and ‘and’ rather than by relative pronouns such as ‘who’ and ‘which’. Present, and past tenses are generally used accurately. The writer has some knowledge of the passive voice but this is used incorrectly with the verbs ‘increase’ and ‘decrease’. In addition there are some punctuation mistakes.
In conclusion, this answer does not fully address the task. Some key points are missing, and the overall conclusion is not clear.
Overall band score: 5
You have seen what you need to do in the Academic Writing test, and how it is assessed. Now we will look at some examples.
In this step you can see and try a sample Writing task, then in the next step you will read a sample answer and some examiner’s comments. We hope this will help you understand how the assessment criteria are used and how you can improve your own writing.
Here is a sample IELTS Academic Writing Task 1.
How would you answer it? You don’t need to write a full answer, but write some notes in the comments below.
You can download a pdf of the task by clicking on the link below.
1. First of all, I would like you to identify how many types of English assessment test are provided in your country?
2. Are you familiar with these language assessment tests such as IELTS, TOEFL, PTE?
3. Could you explain what are these IELTS, TOEFL, PTE for?
4. How are you trying to improve your writing?
This week, we will be focusing on the Academic Writing test. We chose to put Academic Writing first because this is what we get the most questions about. We’ll look at the tasks you will need to do in the test, and how you will be assessed, so that you can understand the test better and improve your own writing.
First, let’s talk about how you feel about writing now. Think about these questions:
Answer all the questions above in the following comment box given below (by clicked on the word comment) and please write down your name and student number.
Here are materials of writing assessment for IELTS